“CHIIIRPPPP!” A river otter gives a clarion call like a bird from the glassy, free-flowing, icy waters of the West Fork of the Lostine River, flowing from the headwaters of the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon’s largest, here within the sacred homeland of the Nimiipuu (Nez Perce). Riveted, we watch the sleek otter fish below a log jam. Grace. Agility. Wildness.If this otter could vote, I know it would vote FOR a truly protected Wild & Scenic River Corridor, especially as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Right now, the Lostine River faces grave danger from clearcut-style logging.
Last week, I wrote a special funding appeal letter as president of the board of the Greater Hells Canyon Council to our members. I’m sharing it here to Blog readers. Thanks from the otters–and me:
I’m writing this special appeal as President of the Board of the Greater Hells Canyon Council, the grass-roots group dedicated to protecting our precious wildlands of Northeast Oregon and parts of Idaho and Washington. Can I count on you for an emergency donation to save our beloved Lostine River canyon from the massive logging slated to take place here on your national forest, the Wallowa-Whitman?
The Lostine River flows 31.4 miles from its headwaters in the Eagle Cap Wilderness to its confluence with the Wallowa River. Surrounded by wilderness, the narrow 11-mile corridor slated for logging is a popular access to wilderness lakes and a destination in itself, with its shady, riverside campgrounds. You may know this storied canyon well from family trips, camping, hiking, backpacking, horse packing, hunting, or fishing. If you want to see the forests of the Wild and Scenic Lostine River canyon, come now and say goodbye, or help us save them!
The Greater Hells Canyon Council faces a high stakes court battle to protect the Lostine River canyon from logging that would incise a scarring wound into the heart of the biggest wilderness in all of Oregon.
This travesty coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. Is nothing sacred? Commercial logging units start at the Two Pan Trailhead (the last stop on the road and gateway to the Eagle Caps’ Lakes Basin) and continue downstream 11 miles, all the way to the end of the national forest boundary.
The approved logging calls for 4 million board feet to be cut and hauled out from the Lostine canyon; think 11 miles of bumper-to-bumper, fully loaded logging trucks.
On a hot day in August, I walked with our staff and Board of Directors across the road from Williamson Campground and into one of the commercial logging units. I stepped lightly within a carpet of delicate plants and leaned back to gaze up at exceptionally tall firs and larches. We felt the shady coolness of a wild, intact and wet forest that is naturally resilient to wildfire. We listened to the nearby lull of the Lostine River.
If logged, heavy machinery would crush this tapestry of fairy slipper orchids, queen’s cup lilies, ferns and mosses. Logging would destroy the homes of pine marten, elk, bears, songbirds, owls, hawks, woodpecker, and even the rare wolverine (two individuals were caught on camera within the Lostine watershed in a 2011-2012 intensive survey).
Wind-driven fires would be able to rage through a dried out, churned up land with its slash piles and tattered remains of trees. The Lostine would not only be ugly, wounded, and ecologically damaged, it could well become a firetrap. We cannot let this happen!
HOW MUCH IS THE LOSTINE WORTH TO YOU? To us it’s priceless, but there is a cost to save it. We have set a goal of raising $30,000 to cover our legal fees, staff time, and a strong publicity campaign. DONATE TODAY!
Here’s the background: The Wallowa-Whitman National Forest devised a fast-track plan in 2016-2017 to log the Lostine River corridor, misnaming it as a public safety project. The agency misused a loophole in the Farm Bill to avoid environmental review.
GHCC gave comments on the proposal to the Forest Service, from the District level to the Regional level, asking for a full environmental analysis on the impacts of logging and road-building, opposing the large-scale commercial logging, and supporting common sense precautions in the case of a wildfire to protect human lives.
Our comments were ignored at every level, and cut out from the usual public objection process, our group had no choice but to go to court. We’re appealing our case to the Ninth Circuit Court; costly for our organization in both legal fees and staff time. There’s so much at stake—from rare moonwort plants (known to reside in the canyon, but not yet comprehensively surveyed), to the future of cold, clear waters for salmon and bull trout, and the pristine, wilderness qualities that so many of us have come to love.
Can we really let this place be logged? With your help we can continue our fight to save the Lostine from this outrageous abuse of the law and the intent of those who worked so hard to designate the Eagle Cap Wilderness.
We will stand for this forest. We will stand for all the wilderness defenders who came before us and counted on us to protect the wild Lostine. Will you stand with us?
Thank you! (Here’s an earlier blog I wrote on the Lostine as well). Please spread the word far and wide, and if on Twitter with #SaveTheLostine. Vote for the otters! And..vote on Tuesday, November 6th for the future of our planet and future generations. So much at stake.