Monday, February 17, 2014

Missing Tim Lillebo


Hells Canyon Preservation Council recently lost a great friend when Tim Lillebo passed away.  Tim went out to shovel snow at his home in central Oregon on Saturday, February 8 and apparently died of a heart attack or another sudden critical health problem.  Along with Tim’s family and many friends, we are mourning his loss and celebrating the bright spirit of Tim Lillebo.

In many ways, Tim was a living symbol of the forests of eastern Oregon.  He was born and raised here and he devoted his career to protecting and restoring old growth forests, clean waters, and habitat for fish and wildlife.  Back in the 1970s, Tim was hired by the Oregon Wilderness Coalition which later became Oregon Wild.  He worked there continuously until his recent death.  Tim was a man with strong principles and a deep land ethic.  He also had a unique ability to connect with people and work through difficult issues with people who disagreed with him.  And somehow, he was able pull this off with a twinkle in his eye.

In the early days, Tim successfully worked to gain Wilderness protections for some of the last remaining wild and roadless National Forest lands in eastern Oregon.  He also fought logging projects that were cutting down some of the last remaining old growth trees left on public lands.  Here at the HCPC office, we have a photo of Tim walking around the base of a huge old ponderosa pine tree marked with blue paint, indicating that the tree was marked to be cut.  This pine tree looks to be over five feet across at the base and it would have been centuries old.  I don’t know if Tim was able to save this particular tree, but he loved big old pines with thick, yellow plated bark and he devoted much of his life to saving them.

During the past several years, Tim worked to protect and restore the forests by working with collaborative groups for the National Forests of eastern Oregon.  Membership in these groups includes timber industry, logging interests, and local county commissioners.  As you may imagine, there are significant differences of opinion within these groups, but Tim was exceptional in his ability to sit down and talk respectfully with people of many different viewpoints. 

Tim grew up in John Day and La Grande and his grandfather was a logger.  These experiences helped him relate to people in the collaboratives, but I think that more importantly he was a genuinely caring person.  He worked to find solutions that would truly benefit the forests as well as the people and communities nearby.  He made sure that projects described as forest restoration would in fact restore forest conditions and reverse the effects of past logging and fire-exclusion.  He stuck to his principles but he gave respect to others and he received it in kind.

I really got to know Tim over the past several years while we worked together as members of the collaborative groups for the Umatilla and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.  I’m really grateful for the many conversations that we shared, for the time that we spent together and for the work that we were able to accomplish together in partnership. 

When Tim and I would speak on the phone he would greet me by saying, “How ya doin’, rascal?”  Well, right now, the honest answer is that I miss Tim terribly and it feels like there’s a hole as big as Hells Canyon left behind where he used to be.  Tim had the courage of a bear, a heart the size of a mountain, and the brilliant flash of a red-tailed hawk.  He taught me a lot about conservation work.  He left behind a legacy of accomplishments to benefit the public lands, forests and people of the Blue Mountain region.  All of us here at HCPC will use this legacy as an inspiration to motivate our conservation work into the future.

Tim and I attended a collaborative meeting together on the day before he died.  As I left the meeting and walked across the snowy parking lot, I heard him call my name and I looked over to see him smiling and waving broadly over his head.  I waved back.  Good-bye, Tim.  Well miss you. 

- Brian Kelly, Restoration Director, Hells Canyon Preservation Council

Friday, February 7, 2014

Your Comments Needed NOW

Please help protect the Joseph Canyon area--an important part of your National Forest lands and waters. 

You can submit scoping comments on the Lower Joseph Creek Forest Restoration Project until Monday, February 10 at 5 PM.

Comments should be sent to John Laurence, Forest Supervisor, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, at comments-pacificnorthwest-wallowa-whitman@fs.fed.us with reference to Lower Joseph Creek Forest Restoration Project.

HCPC has been participating in collaborative groups to encourage the Forest Service to include important protections into the project design.

The Lower Joseph Creek Forest Restoration Project has the potential to align with sound forest management principals if important protections are included.

These protections include:

  • Protect all old trees, large trees, old growth forests, and previously un-logged forests from logging.
  • Protect all roadless areas and potential wilderness areas from logging.
  • No construction of new roads or temporary roads should be allowed.
  • Roads that are unneccessary or harmful to fish and wildlife habitat should be closed and restored.
  • Wildlife habitat should be protected and improved.
  • Aquatic restoration projects to improve fish habitat and water quality should be included in the project.
  • Two new Research Natural Areas should be created.

The Forest Service has been receiving comments from people who want to keep ALL of the roads open, want MORE logging, and want MORE roads.

This is your opportunity to comment on behalf of old growth forests and fish and wildlife habitat.

Here is a description of the proposed action
Click here for maps and more information.
 




Friday, January 17, 2014

Wildlife Watchers Field Report for 2013

From HCPC Restoration Director Brian Kelly:

We were hoping that by the middle of last June that we’d be able to drive up to Dunns Bluff.  The bluff is an impressive rock outcrop near the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness.  But as we climbed higher and higher on the rough Forest Service road, we found ourselves busting through deeper and deeper snowbanks.  The back of the four-wheel drive pickup truck was loaded with wildlife cameras, meat for bait, trapper’s lure for attracting wildlife, cables, locks, tools and an assortment of hardware.  All of this bounced around in the back of the pickup making enough racket to scare away just about any wild animal within a mile.  At the time, it seemed like a strange way to attract wildlife, but we knew that once things quieted down, we’d get some good wildlife photos.  Finally, we had to accept the fact that there was just too much snow for us to drive to our destination.  And it was too far to walk.  We turned the truck around and retreated for the day with a promise to return.

meat (bait) was placed inside metal cylinders  

Within a week, the weather turned hot and the sun made short work of those persistent snowbanks.  Soon the road was clear and we were able to drive near Dunns Bluff and then hike into the Castle Ridge Roadless Area.  Before too long, we had installed eleven motion-activated cameras in strategic locations in old growth forests of mountain hemlock, Engelmann spruce, sub-alpine fir, grand fir, lodgepole pine and western larch.

At Hells Canyon Preservation Council, we actively work to protect the important lands and waters of the greater Hells Canyon region.  Fragmentation of habitat from roads and logging can be a significant threat to the connectivity of important habitats such as old-growth forests.  During the past few years, we’ve advocated to protect the habitat of the Castle Ridge area and worked with the US Forest Service to achieve protections for habitat connectivity in this important landscape.  Castle Ridge is an 8,790 acre roadless area on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest located between the Eagle Cap Wilderness and the Grande Ronde Valley.  Through the Wildlife Watchers program, we collaborate with the US Forest Service to monitor wildlife in important habitats that are essential to the connectivity of the region.  Hells Canyon Preservation Council staff, volunteers from our membership, and Forest Service wildlife specialists work together to accomplish the many tasks that the Wildlife Watchers project entails. 

Volunteer Allan Gorthy sets up trail camera
The first order of business to start the field season was to review the available data and maps for likely habitat.  This was followed by field reconnaissance.  Then we hiked into the backcountry while packing in a variety of equipment and supplies.  When we found a good location for a camera point, we set up the camera, strapped it to a tree and locked it in place.  We set up bait in bear-proof cylinders and we applied lure to attract wildlife close to the cameras.  After installation, the cameras’ sensors snapped photos when wildlife came into view.  The cameras were programmed appropriately for each site and then they were revisited every two weeks for maintenance.  The memory cards were checked, the photos were viewed, stored and filed, and the wildlife species were identified.



The eleven cameras captured photos of northern flying squirrel, bobcat, mountain lion, black bear, mule deer, white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, Douglas squirrel, bushy-tailed wood rat and coyote.

 Three wildlife species of particular interest in the Castle Ridge area are the American marten, wolverine, and the wolf.  We were disappointed that we did not capture any photos of these species with our eleven trail cameras during the field season.  However, it’s important to note that the absence of photographs does not necessarily mean that these animals are not present or traveling through the area or utilizing the habitat during certain seasons.  

Wolverines were recently documented in the Eagle Cap Wilderness just to the east of the Castle Ridge Roadless Area.  DNA analysis of one of these wolverines showed a genetic relationship to the wolverines of Idaho and we assume that their travel corridor was through the connected habitat of the greater Hells Canyon region.  American martens were also photographed in the Eagle Caps during this recent wolverine research.  The American marten is considered to be a management indicator species because it is associated with old growth forests in northeast Oregon and so it has been a species of particular interest for the Wildlife Watchers program.  Wolves have entered Oregon from Idaho through the Hells Canyon region as well.  Since wolf recovery in Oregon is an important recent development, there is much interest in their whereabouts in the local landscape.

When wildlife travel into the Pacific northwest from the Rocky Mountain region, they often enter through the wild lands of northeast Oregon.  Moose, wolverines, and wolves have all come into Oregon this way over the past few years.  This is not surprising because the Wallowa Mountains, Blue Mountains, Hells Canyon and the Seven Devils are rich with interconnected lands and waters providing an amazing diversity of quality habitat.

The snow returned to Castle Ridge in October.  After hiking in through a few inches of fresh new snow, we removed the cameras for the season.  It had been a successful field season of collaboration with the Forest Service and volunteers.  We collected valuable wildlife information that will be used to inform future decisions that affect the land management of the area.  Through the Wildlife Watchers project, we are connecting people to the land while we work to protect the connections of important habitats across the landscape. 

Hells Canyon Preservation Council appreciates the efforts of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest and of the HCPC volunteers who make this program possible.  We would also like to thank our funding partners—Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Mazamas, and Patagonia.

If you are interested in becoming a Wildlife Watchers volunteer in 2014, please contact HCPC  Restoration Director Brian Kelly at brian@hellscanyon.org.