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Battling “The Empire” of Gang Green Collaborators, Timber Industry, and Trump’s Forest Service in the North Cascades

Several pseudo environmental groups joined forces with the timber industry and the Forest Service against the Alliance for the Wild Rockies after it filed a lawsuit last year against the Mission Restoration Project on Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the Methow Valley west of Twisp, Washington.

This scenic, pristine, and remote rural area is sandwiched between the Pasayten Wilderness on the north, the Sawtooth Wilderness on the south, and the North Cascades National Park on the west.  It is Federally-Designated Critical Habitat for a number of threatened and endangered species from lynx to salmon. The project is on the eastern slope of the North Cascades mountain range and includes 1,853 acres of commercial logging and 10,219 acres of prescribed burning.

An attorney representing the federation of the timber industry, the Forest Service, and self-described “environmental” groups — including the Wilderness Society, the Nature Conservancy, Conservation Northwest and Trout Unlimited — recently informed the Alliance they are filing an amicus (friend of the court) brief to explain to the judge why they think Trump’s plans to log and burn 12,000 acres of the beautiful Methow Valley is a great idea.

The federation state their goal is to “accelerate landscape-scale forest restoration on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Chelan and Okanogan counties.”  But given the Trump administration’s lawless disregard for law, public participation, and the environment, the burning question is why any group claiming to protect the environment would want to accelerate logging in the North Cascades?

Logging and Bulldozing New Logging Roads are not Restoration

Despite the misleading ‘restoration” label, the project’s real goal is to turn the national forests owned by all Americans into tree farms for timber corporations.  Instead of restoring the natural forest and stream habitat vitally necessary to recover threatened native species it will be bulldozed to create logging roads that destroy habitat for many native species already in decline.

Endangered Species Habitat Destruction Project

Neither the Forest Service nor the collaborators tell the public that the Mission logging project will decimate habitat for the North Cascades Ecosystem grizzly bear, Canada Lynx, Columbia River Bull Trout, Upper Columbia River steelhead, and Upper Columbia River Spring-Run Chinook in violation of the Endangered Species Act.  As an example of just how deleterious the logging and burning is to the environment of threatened and endangered species

Destroys spawning streams for the threatened salmon and bull trout

As has been proven time and again across the West, sediment from logging roads inevitably winds up in streams and rivers where it fills in rocky streambeds and smothers both the eggs and newly-hatched trout and salmon.  It also fills in deep holes, reducing security for breeding age fish from predators.  Bull trout need very cold and clean water to survive – and if we can keep streams and rivers clean enough for bull trout, they’ll be clean enough for salmon.  But logging and road sediment will doom both.

Spotted Owls and Lynx

One of the touted ‘restoration’ benefits, repeated dozens of times in the Forest Service’s Environmental Assessment, is to increase the growth rate of the remaining trees by thinning the forest as if it were a garden. The remaining trees will be spaced 12 feet apart so they can theoretically grow taller and faster to increase logging profits.

But both Spotted Owls and lynx require thick old-growth forests, not neatly-spaced commercial tree farms.  The Methow Valley contains the habitat of the last known nesting pair of Northern Spotted Owls in Chelan County as well as their roosting, foraging, and dispersal habitat.  Yet the Forest Service failed to disclose that the most recent annual monitoring data admits the Northern Spotted Owl population is in significant decline over the last five years and the logging and burning will destroy even more habitat for this already imperiled species.

Lynx avoid thinned forests because their main prey is snowshoe hare. In a thinned forest laced with roads and no hiding cover, the hares become easy meals for other predators and lynx end up starving to death. The Mission timber sale and burning project would directly affect 2,132 acres of Canada lynx Critical Habitat.

Logging Roads Kill Grizzly Bears

Most grizzlies are killed within 500 meters of a road and have the greatest chance of survival in wilderness and unroaded, unlogged forests.  With high mortality rates and so few bears, the North Cascades grizzly population chronically fails all recovery goals and is threatened by inbreeding due to lack of connectivity to other grizzly bear populations. There is evidence that grizzly bears are using the forests very near the project area. Despite this, the Forest Service ignored the impacts of the project on grizzly bears.

Getting the Cut Out – the collaborator connection

The goal of the Forest Service, timber industry, and apparently now the collaborators is to maximize wood production to increase private profits from public resources.  The more the timber industry logs the more profits their billionaire owners make, which their tax-free foundations then pass out to phony environmental groups to “collaborate.” Since there is no profit or political pressure to maximize the number of grizzly bears, lynx, northern spotted owls, salmon, or bull trout, their habitat is needlessly destroyed to keep the money train flowing to timber barons and collaborator groups.

The North Cascades ecosystem needs your help

The next time you get a letter or an email asking for money from one of these giant so-called “environmental groups” pledging to protect threatened species like salmon, lynx, spotted owls and grizzly bears, you just might want to donate instead to the small, rebel Alliance that continually fights and regularly beats the Empire and to CounterPunch. You’re our only hope for the future.

Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

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