Sunday, October 31, 2010

From the Canyons: Fall Musings

I live on the breaks between the Grande Ronde and Minam-Wallowa rivers. From here, I watch the seasons roll by - September warm fall days to October's seemingly endless rain. When it's not raining, the dampness in the air settles into fog nestled along creeks and rivers.

In October our masonry stove gets dusted off, cleaned out, and fired up in the evenings to take the chill off. It's a time for laying in firewood on the front covered patio and stapling plastic on the wrap-around porch. Settling in and hunkering down before winter's cold.

Most of the migrating birds have left; no more meadowlarks or house wrens or bluebirds until next spring. Chickadees, pine siskins and nuthatches still raid the sunflower seeds, but I only need to fill the birdfeeder every week now instead of every day.

Deer are back now that hunting has diminished, and grouping together in larger herds. "Wild" turkeys have reappeared and increasingly large flocks sometimes block the road on our morning commute. I'm seeing and hearing more owls at night.

Fall is also the time for gatherings of people - cider pressings, annual meetings, and the HCPC fall Gala. The question raised by this year's speaker was what are we doing about the coming catastrophe of climate change. Good question to ask. The way I see it, everyone will have (and should have) a different answer - dependent on where and how we live, what our resources are, what resources we use. If we care for where we live, the exact places we see every day, that seems like a good place to start. Caring for our neighborhood, our watershed. Bringing resilience back to the lands we inhabit, whether pulling invasive weeds, planting native species, creating wildlife habitat, buying local foods, protecting local wild areas, or supporting those who do the same.

It seems that, as the Gala speaker pointed out, we must think globally and act politically. I believe we must also act locally. Inspired by the places we know and love, we can change where we live, and be a contributing part of a bigger watershed.

Hope to see you at the Ladd Creek restoration planting on Nov. 6th. And please don't forget to vote.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Litigation Update: Sled Springs OHV Lawsuit

Last winter HCPC filed suit to protect the Sled Springs area and the wildlife that inhabit it (particularly big game species like Rocky Mountain elk) from the damage and disturbance that will result if the proposed 38,000-acre section of the Wallowa Valley Ranger District becomes a designated OHV park. (See Blog posted on December 28, 2009).

This August, HCPC filed its opening argument (available at:

HCPC’s argument states the Forest Service failed to conduct the proper level of environmental analysis and adequately consider the environmental consequences of transforming the area from currently one of relatively low OHV use to an advertised and promoted destination riding area for OHV enthusiasts. Because the 2005 nationwide Travel Management Rule requires all national forests to prohibit unconfined cross-country OHV use, the Sled Springs area would already have to come under this new management direction in the very near future. Yet the Forest Service failed to consider the option of simply complying with this national direction—prohibiting current OHV users from traveling off designated routes—and identifying a modest level of OHV trail riding opportunities on currently open roads/trails. Instead, the agency only considered options that call for the construction of several miles of new OHV routes and the creation of a large-scale designated OHV trail system with formal staging areas. The final decision authorizes motorized use on 144 miles of roads and trails! HCPC argues that the establishment of such a colossal OHV trail network will inevitably give rise to increased motorized use—both legal and unauthorized.

Last Friday, the Forest Service filed its response argument, once again alleging its decision properly accounted for the negative effects to elk and other wildlife. The case is set for oral argument this December in Pendleton before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan.

Staff Attorney, Jennifer Schwartz

Photo credit: Gerald and Buff Corsi © California Academy of Sciences

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Bounties of Fall, Fishing and Gala

Fall has arrived with cool nights and amber-lit days. This has always been my favorite time of the year, memories of rolling in piles of leaves, searching for chanterelles, carving pumpkins and fishing for steelhead. This year I have another fun activity to add to my Fall favorites, HCPC’s Gala! Now that Summer has faded, it’s time to get out and enjoy bountiful opportunities to enjoy this time of year.

October is the time to hunt for delicious edibles, including the elusive steelhead. As the rain returns to the NW the rivers begin to cool, raise, and the water levels invite the steelhead and salmon to return to their native waters. Not only does this time of year encourage the steelhead to migrate, but it also calls to my family who follows and heads to Troy on the Grande Ronde river for camping, fishing and story-time around the campfire. Troy sits at the confluence of the Wenaha and Grande Ronde rivers and offers great fishing drifts and opportunities to catch yourself a big ol’ steelhead. When I get tired of fishing and not catching, I take off on the Wenaha Trail that heads up the Wenaha River for some great scenery and wildlife spotting. Turkeys, elk, bear and now wolves can all be spotted in this area, along with numerous other species.

October als
o brings HCPC’s Fall Gala on Saturday, October 23, 2010, from 5:00PM-9:00PM at Lady of the Valley Catholic Church Parish Hall. As the new Development Outreach Coordinator, I am excited to throw a party that has been in the planning over the last 6 months. The Gala Committee, including Jen Schemm, Juanette Cremin and Katie Perez have outdone themselves in putting together a great event with local foods, Kupenga Marimba band, Terminal Gravity beer, wine and a silent auction filled with incredible items! This would be a great place to pick up some xmas gifts while supporting HCPC! Being new to HCPC I am looking forward to meeting more of our members, my favorite part of this job is getting to know all of you!

The guest speaker for this year’s Gala is Jim Martin a 30 year veteran of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
and a Conservation Director for the Berkley Conservation Institute, a branch of Pure Fishing. During his career with ODFW, Jim spent six years as Chief of Fisheries and three years as Salmon Advisor to Governor John Kitzhaber. Jim led the team that developed the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds, a state conservation plan to address Endangered Species and Clean Water issues in Oregon. Now, Jim is Chairman of the Board of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. He is also a science advisor for the Doris Duke Foundation and the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Assn. In 2005, Jim was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. Jim’s presentation is called “A Great Wave Rising: The Coming Crisis in Conservation in the Pacific Northwest.”

In November, I get to share the Grande Ronde river with Jim and Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman of The Orvis Company, as a thank you for speaking at our Fall Gala. It will be fun to introduce both of these river conservationists to one of the best fisheries in the Pacific NW and to the work HCPC does to preserve it. From mountaintops to river bottom, HCPC is there to guard over the Hells Canyon-Wallowa-Whitman and Blue Mountain ecosystems.

This Fall is sure to be a bounty of fun, fishing, spending time in a favorite wild place and celebrating HCPC and our members at Fall Gala!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Treetop Perpective

By Brian Kelly, Restoration Coordinator

Last week, I got to see the world from the top of an old growth Douglas-fir. It was a spectacular view from up there, as you might expect, with vistas of forests, mountains and ocean spreading out toward the horizon. The view up close was more unique, however, because it’s a rare experience to leave the ground and ascend two hundred feet in the air right next to a four-hundred-fifty year old tree. I got a bird’s eye view of the canopy of an old growth forest.

I should explain that I did not actually climb this tree. A collection of ropes, pulleys, and devices to protect both me and the tree made the ascent possible. After strapping on a climbing harness, I was attached to the rope that lifted me airborne with the assistance of several experienced, professional arborists. These professionals are completely dedicated to a “leave no trace” approach and they take great care to protect every branch, the bark, and all living organisms associated with the tree. An arborist ascended the tree on a separate rope a few feet away from me and acted as a guide as we rose up into the canopy. The guided ascent of the tree was offered as part of a conference entitled “Life in the Trees”.

Big, old trees are awe-inspiring, impressive, living things. Beyond their power to impress us, however, they also are home to birds, mammals, amphibians, mosses, lichens, fungi and vascular plants. Researchers have discovered sizeable hemlock trees growing out of the broken tops of ancient redwoods. We are learning that there are airborne ecosystems in tree canopies. We are learning that there is a lot going on in the treetops that we do not know very much about. To me, that speaks clearly toward the need to protect the remaining giants of the forests.

I loved climbing trees when I was a child. Thinking about it now, I remember pulling myself up through the branches and challenging myself to make it higher up in the canopy. I remember the rustling of leaves, the smell of the bark on my palms, shafts of light through the branches and the thrill of seeing the ground from new heights. Most of all, I think that I just loved being up there in a special, secret world near the top of a tree. I’m here to report that it’s still a wonderful place to be.