POLL: Oregonians Want More Protection for Western Forests

A recent poll by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that Oregonians want more land and water protections for forests in the southwestern part of the state. These forests, commonly known as O&C lands, were established in 1866 when Congress created a land-grant program for the Oregon & California Railroad Co. to spur completion of the rail line between Portland and San Francisco. The railroad was never built, and the lands are now managed by the BLM and Forest Service.

In recent years, these forests have served as a cash-register for rural counties in western Oregon that have funded their schools and other services with logging revenue from the lands. Policymakers and Obama Administration officials at all levels have discussed various options for managing these public lands, which include some of the nation’s oldest forests.

Last fall, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber convened a panel of conservation groups, timber representatives, and county commissioners to determine how to balance conservation and logging on the O&C lands. The panel’s recommendations will inform federal legislation to resolve this issue.

To bring the opinions of local communities into the conversation, Pew commissioned a bipartisan statewide poll of likely voters in western Oregon on the O&C lands issue. By wide margins both statewide and in the O&C counties, voters said their top priority for management of the O&C lands is “protecting old-growth forests, bodies of water, and the wildlife that live there.”

From an outdoor industry perspective, this polling data is significant because it shows that Oregonians would rather preserve forests and clean water than sacrifice those amenities to stabilize funding for local governments.

On a related subject, Headwaters Economics recently released a study, “West is Best”, which demonstrates that protected public lands are a key competitive advantage for rural counties in the West. According to the study, over the past 40 years, Western non-metro counties with more than 30 percent federal protected land increased jobs by 345 percent compared to 83 percent in counties with no protected land.

The Pew poll and the Headwaters study show, that the public and the economists agree that our public lands need more protection. It makes economic sense.

Take Action Tuesday: Save Bristol Bay

Bristol Bay, Alaska is host to one of the last great salmon fisheries on earth. It's our last chance to get it right the first time. We must protect this national treasure and its salmon fishery; incredible sport fishing and recreation; fishing jobs and economy; and a native way of life that's thousands of years old from the specter of the Pebble Mine, proposed as one of the largest open-pit mines on earth. Pebble will generate up to 10 billion tons of toxic mine waste that must be stored, treated and monitored "in perpetuity" in the heart of the watershed. EPA has the power to stop this dangerous project under the Clean Water Act and we need you to urge them to do so now.

With the goal of collecting 200,000 signatures by May 31st, The Conservation Alliance and Trout Unlimited Alaska are asking for your help.  

Encourage the EPA to initiate use of the Clean Water Act to restrict inappropriate development activities such as the proposed Pebble Mine.

Outstanding Partnership Stories: Mountain Equipment Co-op Has Grown To Become Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Most Important Corporate Partner

Over the course of the last 20 years, Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has grown to become Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s (CPAWS) most important corporate partner. The relationship began with MEC donating to CPAWS conservation campaigns and has blossomed into a long-term partnership.  

In 2002, the relationship took a big step forward when MEC partnered with CPAWS in the “Boreal Rendezvous” project, a public relations effort aimed at raising awareness of the importance of protecting Canada’s Boreal forest.  CPAWS organized 10 canoe trips down beautiful rivers in Canada’s Boreal forest, involving, notable Canadians, artists, writers and conservationists. MEC contributed gear, marketing expertise and space in their stores across the country to promote the project. With MEC’s help, and a major media campaign,, Boreal Rendezvous  successfully raised the profile of Canada’s Boreal forest over the course of just one summer.

Since the Boreal Rendezvous project, a long-term partnership has grown between MEC and CPAWS, involving such elements as generous annual capacity grants; year-round advertising space in the MEC stores to promote CPAWS conservation campaigns; and most notably, a joint social marketing venture called “The Big Wild”.

The Big Wild” included pioneering web and social media efforts to engage MEC’s members in CPAWS’ wilderness conservation campaigns.  Since its inception, The Big Wild has helped to inspire more than 100,000 actions in support of wilderness conservation.  The website will wind up this year, but as a legacy project, MEC is now the title sponsor of a peer-to-peer fundraising project called The Big Wild Challenge  launching this season, intended as an annual campaign to engage Canadians in raising money for wilderness conservation, linked to their outdoor activities.

MEC and CPAWS have also launched new ways to promote conservation. They are currently in their second year of annual co-branded marketing campaigns to promote a specific CPAWS’ conservation priority.

Last year the focus was on marine protection. Through the “Dare to be Deep: Protect Canada’s Oceans” campaign, MEC donated marketing expertise, space in stores and online for promotion, and affixed hang tags on dry bags, informing members that MEC would donate $1 towards CPAWS’ ocean conservation efforts for every dry bag purchased. Through this effort, more than 12,000 new signatures were gathered and a $40,000 financial contribution from MEC through the dry bag sales was donated to CPAWS in support of their efforts to establish new marine conservation areas.

In 2013, MEC is supporting CPAWS’ new “I love Canada’s parks” campaign, aimed at engaging citizens in defending Canada’s parks from spending cuts and other threats. Through “I love Canada’s Parks”, MEC will again be donating social marketing expertise, prizes, and promotions through online and in-store channels. MEC will affix hang tags on day-packs informing members they will donating $1 from every pack sold, up to $20,000, to CPAWS for park conservation.

The value of MEC’s contribution to CPAWS over the past 20 years now exceeds $1 million. CPAWS also benefits tremendously from MEC staff’s generous sharing of marketing and customer relations expertise.

It takes years to gain the Canadian conservation victories that CPAWS strives for, and MEC has demonstrated through their continued partnership that they are in it for the long haul.  

Take Action Tuesday: Save the Thompson Divide

In central Colorado, there is a place you don't see on many postcards. It hides in the shadows of more famous tourist destinations like the Maroon Bells.  The Thompson Divide area may be less known, but it is classic Colorado high-country and as important as any of its neighboring postcard destinations.

The Conservation Alliance has funded the Thompson Divide Coalition for efforts to protect the Thompson Divide, 220,000 acres of pristine backcountry in the White River National Forest, from future oil and gas leasing, and to resolve existing leases through expiration or purchase.

The Divide lies directly in the path of advancing oil and gas development. The area is beloved in its natural state – as a recreational playground, a renowned hunting area, summer range for some 35 different ranching operations, and the source of the region's agricultural and drinking water – and there is essentially unanimous community support for keeping it drill-rig-free.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has joined the effort to protect this untouched landscape, and has introduced legislation to permanently protect the Thompson Divide from future oil and gas leasing.

Please sign the letter thanking Senator Bennet for introducing The Thompson Divide Withdrawal and Protection Act and sign on as a citizen co-sponsor today.

Click here to sign on.

Click here to learn more at the Thompson Divide.

Click here to watch Peter McBride's film, A Divide United.


Take Action Tuesday: Save the Los Padres Forest!

Ask the Forest Service to Protect the Los Padres National Forest From Development!
Comments Accepted Until May 16

The Los Padres National Forest is one of the gems of America's national forest system. Extending more than 200 miles along California's central coast, the area features breathtaking scenery, rare wildlife, free-flowing rivers, and hundreds of miles of trails through chaparral, conifer forests, sub-alpine meadows, and desert sagebrush.

The U.S. Forest Service recently proposed long-awaited changes to the management plan for this area. While some of the proposed changes are a step in the right direction, forest officials failed to recommend a single acre for formal designation as Wilderness. As a result, 16 of the forest's Inventoried Roadless Areas totaling more than 400,000 acres remain vulnerable to development.

Recommending areas for wilderness designation is the first step towards securing permanent protection for these lands under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The Wilderness Act is America's strongest land conservation tool – wilderness lands are forever protected from development. Camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and hunting are all allowed in wilderness.

But the Forest Service's proposed changes fall far short of permanent protection. Instead of recommending these lands for wilderness designation, the Forest Service is proposing to classify them as Back County Non-Motorized (BCNM), leaving them vulnerable to development. Oil exploration and drilling, mining, construction of communication towers, "temporary" road construction, other energy development, and the disposal/sale of public land to private interests are all allowed on BCNM lands, but they are absolutely prohibited in areas recommended for wilderness designation.

The agency recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public review and comment. The DEIS selects a Preferred Alternative (referred to as "Alternative 2″) that does not recommend a single acre for wilderness protection in the Los Padres National Forest. In the same document, the Forest Service rejects an alternative approach that emphasizes wilderness protection, called the Recommended Wilderness Emphasis ("Alternative 3″).

A coalition of forest users, local business leaders, elected officials, scientists, and other stakeholders are working together to ask the Forest Service to reconsider its "no-new-wilderness" policy. We want the Forest Service to recommend permanent wilderness protections for thousands of acres of forest land in the Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo backcountry. Join us, and let your voice be heard!

Write a Letter

The Forest Service is accepting public comments on the DEIS and its Preferred Alternative until May 16, 2013. This is the last opportunity for the public to submit comments before the Forest Service makes its final decision later this year.

Click here to send a letter to Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez today, urging her to recommend certain lands for wilderness protection in the Los Padres National Forest. You can edit our sample letter and send it with the click of a button! Easy.

Click to send your letter by May 16
Click here to learn more about the places at stake.
Click here for background information and maps.

Outstanding Partnership Stories: Patagonia and Los Padres ForestWatch Work Together to Protect the Central California Coast

"Patagonia has been the most supportive and influential company in the development of our organization." Jeff Kuyper, Executive Director of Los Padres ForestWatch

They began as a small cluster of committed volunteer advocates, determined to improve the way the Los Padres National Forest was managed.  Devoted and unwavering, this group of individuals became Los Padres ForestWatch (LPFW) and applied to Patagonia for funding. This was the start of a strong and successful partnership between LPFW and Patagonia.

From the grassroots up, Los Padres ForestWatch is working to protect and restore the forests, chaparral, grasslands, rivers, wildlife and wilderness along California's Central Coast, specifically in the Los Padres National Forest and nearby public lands.

A partnership with Patagonia has been instrumental in the work, and success, of LPFW.  Over the past six years, Patagonia's annual Salmon Run, a 5k fun run through the streets of Ventura, California, has raised more than $35,000 for Los Padres ForestWatch.  LPFW has been the recipient of three Patagonia "Miracle Grants," unsolicited grants that are given to organizations identified by different departments within Patagonia.  When they arrive in the mail, they are "Miracles."  Patagonia has also contributed to LPFW through grants and in-kind product donations from Great Pacific Ironworks, their Ventura, CA retail store.  Patagonia employees working in the store have granted over $20,000 to Los Padres Forest Watch over the last 5 years.

LPFW has received financial sponsorship from Patagonia for the Cherry Creek Clean-Up, the Ojai Wild! Benefit event, and the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival.  Patagonia also nominated Los Padres ForestWatch for funding from The Conservation Alliance – resulting in a $30,000 grant for LPFW's work to protect Wilderness areas and Wild Rivers in the Los Padres National Forest. 

 "The best thing about Patagonia is that their commitment to our work goes far beyond financial support," proclaimed Kuyper.  "Patagonia doesn't hesitate to put their boots on the ground and they encourage their employees to do the same."

Patagonia employees have helped with barbed wire fence removal projects on the Carrizo Plain National Monument, micro-trash clean-ups in California condor habitat, and rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty for the Conservation Alliance's Backyard Collective Event, a one day service project that benefited the work of LPFW.

One Patagonia employee, who participated in a Middle Sespe Trailhead clean-up project, was so inspired that she organized her own department staff to get out for another clean-up project on "Designer's Day Out," a day when the Patagonia design team engages in volunteer work that is meaningful to them.

Patagonia's support has helped Los Padres ForestWatch grow into an organization with four full-time staff and a great list of accomplishments in the Los Padres Forest. 

Los Padres ForestWatch wouldn't be where they are today without Patagonia's outstanding and ongoing support. 

"Our victories are their victories and we consider everyone at Patagonia among our closest supporters and friends."

Take Action Tuesday: The Boardman – A River Reborn

Brown Bridge Pond After Dam Removal
Brown Bridge Pond Before Dam Removal

We funded Conservation Resource Alliance's Boardman River Dams Project to remove three dams and restore 15 river miles resulting in a free flowing and reborn Boardman River, benefiting the fishery, the community and the efforts of other communities to remove similar dams.

Returning a cold-water, blue ribbon designated trout stream to a more natural state after over 100 years of man-made manipulation is no small task. The Conservation Resource Alliance, acting as contracted Project Manager, has successfully led the Boardman Dams Implementation Team through the complex process of removing Brown Bridge Dam on the Boardman River in northwest Michigan. Constructed in 1921, Brown Bridge Dam was the first of three historic hydro-electric dams on this northern Michigan gem slated for removal. Set in motion nearly a decade ago, this massive community driven project consumed a total of 21,270 man hours, equal to 14 people every day for 5 months, to complete the construction phase of this initiative.

After the successful removal of the Brown Bridge Dam, Conservation Resource Alliance restored 2.5 river miles and 12.2 acres of previously inundated floodplain. CRA now turns its attention to removing Boardman and Sabin dams.

Favorites on Friday: Many Voices Working Together to Protect Wildlands In Montana

Swan Range, Proposed Addtion to the Bob Marshall Wilderness. Photo: Zack Porter

Conservation Alliance grantee, Montana Wilderness Association, is working to protect nearly a million acres of Montana's wildest backcountry through the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act.  Jack Rich is one of many voices – including conservationists, recreationalists, outfitters, business owners, forest managers, and others – that have helped shape the collaborative legislation.  Support from the Conservation Alliance has helped the Montana Wilderness Association build strong community support for this grassroots, collaborative solution for the future of our public lands.

Since 1982, Jack Rich has been introducing people to Wilderness in a way that "speaks directly to the heart." That was the year he first began managing Rich Ranch Outfitting, located near Seeley Lake, MT, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, where Jack's family has been outfitting trips for several generations. The Bob Marshall Wilderness was created with the passage of the original Wilderness Act in 1964, which specifically allowed outfitting to continue because it was "consistent with the purpose of the act".

Jack believes that recreation is listed as the first purpose in the Wilderness Act not by chance, but because recreation is the pathway to preserving the quality of these lands. Without ample opportunity to experience Wilderness, he worries that people could lose interest in its value. "What makes the idea of wilderness tangible for people is the ability to experience wildness that touches the heart first hand," he says. "It's the outfitter's job to facilitate this experience."

Jack believes that experience leads to action, and he's lived a life that would seem to prove his theory. About ten years ago, he began working with the local snowmobile club, the local sawmill, members of the Montana Wilderness Association, and the Wilderness Society to establish a vision for the long term management of the legendary Blackfoot and Clearwater River Valleys, made famous by Norman Maclean's novel, "A River Runs Through It." That vision included improved snowmobile recreation, Wilderness protection for the headwaters of the Blackfoot and Clearwater rivers, and provisions for increasing forest stewardship and restoration.

"We laid out that vision, but we needed a legislative vehicle," Jack explains. "It was Senator Tester who came to us to ask if we were interested in getting this done. We saw Senator Tester as a person of integrity, so we stepped up to the plate." The Blackfoot Clearwater project was included in the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which was first introduced in 2009 and continues to be a top priority for Senators Tester and Baucus of Montana. In 2010, Jack received Montana Wilderness Association's Brass Lantern Award in 2010 for his work on the legislation, and for a lifetime spent sharing the Bob Marshall Wilderness with others.  

"We've been privileged," Jack says.  "These lands provide more than livelihoods and recreation. These lands provide passion for our lives. We want to prevent something from happening that would deprive our children of the same source of inspiration."

Learn more about the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act by clicking here.

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