Author Archive

Geos Institute submits testimony to the Senate to protect globally important Southwest Oregon watersheds

The U.S. Senate held a hearing on Sept. 22 in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee that included legislation introduced by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to permanently protect some of the nation’s most outstanding landscapes and rivers from destructive mining. Geos Institute’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, submitted testimony in support of this much needed legislation.

Read the full testimony here

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Geos Institute publishes new report on an All Lands and All Waters Conservation Approach for the incoming administration

Executive Summary

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Scientific integrity—the use of quality science in decision making—is the hallmark of credible, effective policies for the conservation of biological diversity. This document includes big picture ideas for strengthening scientific, ecological, and economic underpinnings of federal lands and waters conservation as well as for engaging nonfederal owners in an all lands and waters conservation approach.

Fully one-third of the nation’s lands are held in the public trust as federally administered public lands. National parks, wilderness areas, national recreation areas, wild and scenic rivers, wildlife refuges, national forests, Bureau of Land Management lands, and national monuments are among the nation’s crown jewels. Together, public lands are wellsprings of biodiversity and support a burgeoning recreation and tourism economy, jobs in restoration and land stewardship, clean water, and climate regulation. The rest of the nation’s open spaces are administered by the states and private landowners and have important conservation values as well.

The United States also has 50,000 rivers totaling some 3.5 million river miles, 123,439 lakes, and 95,471 miles of coastline with additional ecosystem benefits. The Federal government is also responsible for how the oceans are utilized economically out to 200 hundred nautical miles and has greater regulatory authority over air space, waters and seabed out 12 miles.

America has an ever-increasing love affair with the great outdoors as record numbers turn out each year. Building on this support, the incoming administration has a unique opportunity to make conservation a top priority for all lands and waters conservation by:

  • Strengthening scientific integrity in federal agencies decisions by supporting agency scientists and appointing leaders with an established scientific pedigree.
  • Re-starting the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) with an infusion of youth employment in public lands restoration.
  • Making climate change mitigation and adaptation core public lands objectives, including keeping carbon in the ground and in ecosystems.
  • Strengthening implementation of and defending the Endangered Species Act from any Congressional rollbacks.
  • Adding at least 40 million acres of new protected areas to better represent conservation priorities.
  • Creating a national forest carbon trust where carbon is sequestered and stored long-term in some 33 million acres nationwide. A comparable carbon trust is needed for native grasslands as well.
  • Making freshwater conservation a priority for federal agencies broadly, including protection of intact watersheds for their extraordinary benefits to people and fish.
  • Enacting policies that result in large-landscape conservation by reconnecting habitat for migrating fish and wildlife.
  • Developing fiscally responsible and ecologically appropriate fire management policies.
  • Protecting at least 30% of the oceans by 2030.
  • Supporting and creating innovative incentives on nonfederal lands.

Download the full report: Low-resolution (7.39 MB) or Print quality (29.4 MB)


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Summer 2016 Newsletter

Campaign to Establish a Forest and Climate Legacy for President Obama Heating Up

In this summer edition of the Forest Legacies newsletter:

The Tongass as Alaska’s First Line of Climate Change Defense

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At nearly 17 million acres, the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska is the nation’s largest national forest and a carbon champion, absorbing some 8% of our annual carbon dioxide pollution in its productive old-growth rainforests. Unfortunately, the Forest Service proposes to clearcut 43,000 acres of this old growth, mostly in the next 16 years, releasing the equivalent emissions of some 4 million vehicles annually. The agency’s logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama’s global leadership on climate change and contradicts his visit to Alaska last September when he announced, while in route to the Paris Climate Change Summit, that the state is the nation’s “sign post” on climate change.

For the past three years, Geos Institute, and our partners, Natural Resources Defense Council, Mater Engineering (board member), and retired Deputy Forest Service Chief Jim Furnish (board member), have been conducting ground-breaking research on the amount of young forests available to shift timber production out of controversial old-growth logging. Thousands of acres of young plantation forests originally logged in the 1950s have since regrown and will soon (by 2020) be ready offset the need to log old growth.

fl enews 201608 tongass2We also teamed with a local Alaska mill to propose a study that would determine the feasibility of processing young trees from the Tongass, using new milling technologies that get more material from small logs with much less wood waste. Collectively, this work is uniquely solving for economic uncertainties of a rapid transition. And while we have demonstrated to the Forest Service how transition can swiftly occur, they remain dug in on clearcutting vast areas of old-growth rainforests, the only national forest that is still doing this on a large scale.

In the coming months, we will be making a compelling case to the Obama Administration to direct the Forest Service to speed up its transition by taking advantage of this new opportunity we have demonstrated, and help save Alaska’s rainforests and climate. Only with bold direction from the President can we save the Tongass from rampant old-growth and climate-dirty logging.

Read more about what we are doing to protect one of the world’s last relatively intact temperate rainforests.

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Race to Save the South Kalmiopsis and Oregon Redwoods in Full Gear

fl enews 201608 kalmiopsisEmerald green rivers, rare carnivorous plants, and massive Oregon redwoods make up a landscape unmatched in biodiversity across the American West. For the past 4 years, Geos Institute has partnered with local and national conservation groups to seek protection from mining of these waterways and for Oregon’s redwoods. Legislation has been introduced in Congress by Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley and Reps. Peter DeFazio (OR) and Jared Huffman (CA) to protect at-risk watersheds that, although has yet to receive a hearing in the Republican-controlled Congress, did trigger a temporary withdrawal of new mining claims until Congress can act. Geos Institute is pushing for permanent protections of this area in the coming months that we hope to achieve before President Obama leaves office in January.

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Defending the Northwest Forest Plan: A Global Example of Large-Landscape Conservation

fl enews 201608 nwfpThe Northwest Forest Plan is a global model for ecosystem management and biodiversity conservation on over 24 million acres of federal lands from California to Washington. This landmark plan is scheduled for renewal in 2017 under the incoming Administration. The Forest Service is currently conducting a science synthesis in its preparation for future plan revisions. Geos Institute has been instrumental in providing sound science to the agency. Recently, we published a peer-reviewed paper on the 20-year anniversary of the 100-year Northwest Forest Plan in the journal Forests. That paper, along with hundreds of related publications by scientists, was sent to the agency in support of increased protections for Northwest forests.

This June, 13 leading scientists called on the Forest Service to expand protections afforded for forests and imperiled species as a means of preparing for unprecedented climate impacts and ongoing land-use disturbances mainly on nonfederal lands. We intend to brief the incoming Administration on the importance of building on the Northwest Forest Plan’s two decades of accomplishments.

Read the full comments here.

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The Wildfire Conundrum

Chief Scientist, Dr. Dominick DellaSala, was recently interviewed in a Jefferson Journal article, “The Wildfire Conundrum,” based on a three-part radio series on the Jefferson Public Radio.

“If fuels were contributing to more forest fires and more severe fires, that’s what we would be seeing in the West.” Instead, [DellaSala] says, “We are actually in a deficit of fire severity and fire acres in most of the West compared to historical times.”

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Geos Institute continues to be a national leader on advocating for the biodiversity importance of wildland fires and ways to co-exist with them without logging in the backcountry. Check out our book – “The ecological importance of mixed-severity fires: nature’s phoenix (link to the book goes here). In the coming months, we will be meeting with decision makers in Washington D.C. to make our case to Congress that responsible fire management can be achieved by first and foremost protecting homes and fire fighters so that more fires can burn safely in the backcountry performing a vital ecological role.

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Looking Ahead

fl enews 201608 whitehouseConservation always involves anticipation. And despite uncertainties in who the next president will be in November, Geos Institute is already preparing to brief the incoming Administration. We are in the process of working on a bold conservation vision for public lands that we hope to present to the incoming Administration during its first 100 days – stay tuned as we wrap up existing campaigns and keep our periscope up for emerging opportunities.

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Geos Institute asks Forest Service to speed up its transition by filing an objection to its logging plans

Objections to Tongass Forest Plan amendment start rolling in

by Aaron Bolton, (originally published in KSTK News)
August 3, 2016 6:00 am

The U.S. Forest Service announced its plan for a 16-year transition toward young-growth Tongass timber harvests in late June. In the midst of the 60-day comment period, industry and environmental groups are starting to submit their objections.

Both the industry and environmental groups on either side of the Tongass Land Management Plan amendment can agree on one thing: the Forest Service needs to complete a full inventory of young-growth Tongass timber.

But their reasons are fundamentally different.

Geos Institute objects to Forest Service plan to log primary rainforest on the Tongass

The Tongass is one of the world’s last great temperate rainforests and is under threat of clearcut logging that will eliminate over 43,000 acres of old growth, mostly in the next 16 years. The logging plan is an embarrassment to President Obama’s climate change policies as it would lead to emissions equivalent of nearly 4 million vehicles annually. There is a better way to transition logging to previously logged and regrown forests that will help save Alaska’s rapidly changing climate and create sustainable timber jobs but only if President Obama steps in to direct the Forest Service’s rogue logging plan.

Read the full objection here in a letter sent July 27, 2016 to the USDA Forest Service

Siuslaw forestry practices offer great example for Tongass

By Dominick DellaSala, Catherine Mater, and Jim Furnish

For The Register-Guard, July 16, 2016

The recent release of the U.S. Forest Service’s old growth logging plans for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest stalls urgent climate change protections and relies on old school forestry.

What happens in the Tongass is important to Oregonians, and the nation, because this national forest absorbs about 8 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide pollution annually — far more than any other forest. And what is happening in the Siuslaw National Forest can inform the Tongass.

The Tongass plan calls for continued old growth logging, mostly over the next 16 years, threatening 43,000 acres of Tongass rainforest. This long time frame will unnecessarily release the equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually over the next 100 years at a time when nations are looking to cut back on carbon pollution.

Siuslaw forestry practices offer great example for Tongass

By Dominick DellaSala, Catherine Mater, and Jim Furnish

For The Register-Guard, July 16, 2016

The recent release of the U.S. Forest Service’s old growth logging plans for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest stalls urgent climate change protections and relies on old school forestry.

What happens in the Tongass is important to Oregonians, and the nation, because this national forest absorbs about 8 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide pollution annually — far more than any other forest. And what is happening in the Siuslaw National Forest can inform the Tongass.

The Tongass plan calls for continued old growth logging, mostly over the next 16 years, threatening 43,000 acres of Tongass rainforest. This long time frame will unnecessarily release the equivalent emissions of 4 million vehicles annually over the next 100 years at a time when nations are looking to cut back on carbon pollution.

Scientific studies by Oregon-based organizations demonstrate that Tongass forests clearcut in the 1950s, which have since regrown as “second growth,” can meet timber demand while leaving old growth standing. In 2015, Mater Engineering Ltd. of Corvallis spearheaded the most intensive timber cruises ever conducted on the Tongass, focusing on 55-year-old second growth stands to meet timber targets of the Forest Service. The conclusion: By 2020, second growth levels reach wood supply levels not seen in southeast Alaska since the 1980s.

It makes dollars and sense to move quickly into second growth. The costs of carbon pollution from increased health and economic impacts would exceed timber revenues by a factor of at least 10 by mid-century. And second growth volume will come from low-controversy acres yielding much lower logging emissions than old growth logging while hastening logs to the mills.

This solution has been working in Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest since the 1990s, when spotted owl protections prompted a quick transition to second growth not needed by the owl but necessary for an industrial transition. The Siuslaw’s exemplary vision is what’s needed now in Alaska.

But the Tongass logging plan blatantly contradicts U.S.-led efforts on the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which promotes measures to protect carbon stored in forests to help head off dangerous global temperature increases.

On the heels of news that global carbon dioxide levels have rapidly increased to levels that have not occurred for thousands of years, Oregon forest experts from the Geos Institute and Mater Engineering charge the Forest Service with relying on old school forestry that violates the Paris agreement. Nations are now working to store more carbon in trees while the Tongass leads by example with industrial clearcuts.

And just this month, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a joint statement with Norway’s environment minister: “The science is clear: conserving, restoring and sustainably managing the world’s natural forests is critical to achieving a safe, secure, and sustainable world.”

Fortunately, there is still time for the Tongass to embrace a swift transition that will benefit the timber industry while protecting the region’s world-class rainforests. President Obama needs to direct the Forest Service to speed up the transition as part of his climate change legacy. The Tongass needs to get with the climate change program, as other national forests already have, by following the Siuslaw example.

Dominick DellaSala is chief scientist of the Ashland-based Geos Institute and editor of Temperate and Boreal Rainforests of the World: Ecology and Conservation. Catherine Mater is president of Mater Engineering Ltd. Jim Furnish is retired deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service and supervisor of the Siuslaw National Forest.

The Wildfire Conundrum

Geos Institute’s Dominick DelsaSala is interviewed in The Wildfire Conundrum, an article published in the Jefferson Journal based on a three-part radio series by JPR reporter Liam Moriarty.

“The wildfire conundrum is made up of a complex set of interrelated factors. But it boils down to three main parts: forests out of ecological balance from decades of fire suppression; sprawling development in the woods that requires expanded firefighting efforts; and the mounting impacts of climate change.” – Liam Moriarty

The Wildfire Conundrum

Geos Institute’s Dominick DelsaSala is interviewed in The Wildfire Conundrum, an article published in the Jefferson Journal based on a three-part radio series by JPR reporter Liam Moriarty.

“The wildfire conundrum is made up of a complex set of interrelated factors. But it boils down to three main parts: forests out of ecological balance from decades of fire suppression; sprawling development in the woods that requires expanded firefighting efforts; and the mounting impacts of climate change.” – Liam Moriarty

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