Wild and Free Bulletin

of the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition

Number 3        June 30, 2003

In this Issue

Mt. Hood Meadows Latest Deception?

"In a compromise to appease critics, Mt. Hood Meadows is reconsidering plans to develop a destination resort on 620 acres of land it acquired in a trade with Hood River County,"   the lead-in to a June 19 story in the Oregonian.

Is Meadows coming to its senses and gaining a new respect for the environment, wilderness visitors, and the wishes of Hood River County residents?  Or is this the latest deception designed to lull casual observers into a false sense of security?

Plans to develop a resort at Cooper Spur are alive and well.  According to the article, the new site for the condos, homes, hotel, and other amenities is the 160 acre parcel which Mt. Hood Meadows purchased from a private owner.  This is immediately adjacent to the former County forest land, and still centrally located in the Crystal Springs watershed that supplies drinking water to thousands of Hood River County residents.

As for the 620 acres of former public land, Mt. Hood Meadows suggested three options in a meeting on June 17: selling the land back to the county, trading it with the U.S. Forest Service for 350 nearby acres, or creating a conservation area.

But Dave Riley, General Manager of Mt. Hood Meadows, clearly favors a land swap with the Forest Service.  The result would be a potential destination resort site even higher on the flank of Mt. Hood and outside the three-mile buffer from high value farm land that is required under Oregon's land use laws.  Obtaining land outside of this buffer would overcome one of the greatest hurdles the developer faces.

The disclosure of a particular acre size of public land to be exchanged hints at the extent of discussions that have taken place between Mt. Hood Meadows and the Forest Service.  Hood River District Ranger Daina Bambe did not return phone calls requesting information on the possible land swap.

[Ed.  A larger review of the facts, summarized in this and previous editions of the Wild and Free Bulletin, reveals the profitability equation for Mt. Hood Meadows.  Meadows builds a destination resort and expands Cooper Spur Ski Area in the name of creating a new recreational resource, new jobs, and new tax revenue to the county.  But all this devastation to the environment is just a loss-leader designed to provide Meadows with a huge one-time profit that comes with the sale of vacation homes and condos built on former public land. This is mining a non-renewable natural resource, our own public forest land, for private profit.  The value of new jobs and tax revenue may be enough to compel public officials to support the project, but in reality is dwarfed by the potential loss of wilderness, water quality, and natural heritage.
 
Meadows' June 17 meeting will be repeated six times in July.  Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition members are urged to attend.  Reservations required.  http://cooperspur.org for information on how to obtain a reservation
 
Stand by for information on how to express your opinion about the land swap between Mt. Hood Meadows and the U.S. Forest Service;  an opportunity for activism may be approaching.]

Rock into the night at the Save the Spur Summer Fest, Saturday, July 26

A night of music and entertainment benefiting the Cooper Spur Wild & Free Coalition

Featuring music by acclaimed activist musician Alice DiMicele

Alice Di Micele, a prolific singer songwriter from Eugene, Oregon, fills her new recording "Demons & Angels" with an 11 song personal journey. With the strength of a five octave vocal range Alice shares her experience with soul, humor and plenty of heart. Along with a variety of musical styles - including blues, rock, bluegrass and jazz - and a journey of universal experience to which most of us can relate, Alice's poetry is filled with a visual imagery rich in nature's sights and sounds. (The Sentient Times, March 1998, by Deborah Mokma)

Alice Di Micele's new CD "Alice Live" puts the full focus on voice and lyrics in stunning performances. A mix of new and old, this is a compelling album mixing reflective lyrics with potent blues. Alice's voice has unique character, ranging from earthy passion to gentle yearning. Drawing us into portraits and stories filled with wisdom and literate images, she transforms key phrases with soulful lilting one moment and striking power the next. (Richard Fox, DJ. "Crosstracks" on WCUW, Worcester, MA)

Also enjoy a puppet show by Penny and Harlan, bellydancing by Sister Caravan, bellydancing by Regina with music by Children of Paradise, and firedancers!

And, don't forget the raffle! There will be numerous drawings throughout the event for some really great stuff.

Cooper Spur Land Exchange Litigation

Background

In March, 2002 Hood River County exchanged 640 acres of county land with 785 acres of land owned by Mt. Hood Meadows. Before the Land Exchange was finalized, Meadows showed plans for a destination to both the county and the state. Those plans showed a golf course, houses and other amenities on the land Meadows received from the County.

The Hood River Valley Residents' Committee and Mike McCarthy, a nearby farm owner who would be harmed by the construction of a destination resort on Meadows' land, claimed that the Land Exchange was illegal. Legal action alleges that the land exchange violates Oregon statutes ORS 275.335 and 275.100.

  1. According to the law, the land exchange must be in the best interests of the county and must exchange properties of equal value, appraised according to their "highest and best use."  The land in question was appraised by the county at $325 per acre, exclusive of timber value, and ignoring the potential value as destination resort home sites, which could be conservatively estimated at $160,000 per acre.  The county also paid over $1M to Mt. Hood Meadows as part of the exchange to equalize a difference in Timber value; such a payment is not authorized by ORS 275.335 and cannot be considered to be in the best interests of the county.
  2. According to the law, the county must make a report on the valuation of the land to be exchanged, and afterward hold a hearing for public comments on the valuations.  There was a public hearing regarding the land exchange, but it took place 16 days before the county's chief appraiser assigned a value to the land.  The public was never given the opportunity to comment on the valuation in a public hearing.
  3. According to the law, the county must enter a resolution regarding the land exchange and after at least six weeks hold a public hearing to hear objections.  No such chronology of events took place, and there was no hearing to hear objections.  Mike McCarthy and the HRVRC did submit objections and a declaration by a qualified, independent appraiser before the land exchange was executed, but these submissions were never formally acknowledged by the county.
Legal Action
The Judge's Opinion

Honorable Donald W. Hull, Circuit Court Judge, ruled in favor of the defendants motion for Summary Judgment, effectively denying Mike McCarthy and the HRVRC from a full hearing of their claims.  The grounds of his judgment were that ORS 275.335 gave "broad discretion to the county" to determine land values, and that the county did not err in its approach.  He said there is nothing the the statute requiring using "potential development value as the yardstick for the appraisal.:  He did not comment on how the words "highest and best use" should be interpreted.  The judge ruled that ORS 275.100 does not apply at all to forest land exchanges. 

In a seemingly contradictory point, Judge Hull said that Mike McCarthy established that he would  be harmed by a destination resort near his land.    "This substantial step (to create a destination resort) in acquiring the land via the exchange is not too remote nor too speculative to prohibit McCarthy from having standing."   The Judge made no attempt to reconcile his own acknowledgement of the plans to build a destination resort with his acceptance of the county's valuation of the land at $325 per acre.  

In the final paragraphs of the opinion, the Judge remarked that he could have also ruled in favor of the defendants for Summary Judgment by the doctrine of claim preclusion, since the same claims were rejected when filed as a Petition for Writ of Review, even though the Petition was rejected on procedural grounds without consideration of the claims.  

Next Steps

"Because the plaintiffs believe the Court misapprehended state law and the plaintiffs’ arguments, the plaintiffs have decided to seek a thorough analysis of the merits of the case in the Oregon Court of Appeals."  Press release on May 13, 2003.

The appeal of the Petition for Writ of Review is also pending in the Oregon Court of Appeals.

 

Forest Focus - it's all part of the same backyard

Polallie-Cooper and Clear Timber Sales threaten Cooper Spur 

The Polallie-Cooper timber sale proposes to harvest 9.8 million boardfeet from 875 acres, with 4.1 miles of new road construction. It comprises extremely steep slopes east of highway 35, mature Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine forests, and watersheds that are home to native bull trout. The Forest Service claims that anticipated management will reduce fire risk, yet GIS analysis and review by an expert forest ecologist have revealed that, through removal of large-diameter trees, fire risk will actually increase[1].  Harvesting mature trees and constructing roads is simply fueling further deficit spending to subsidize lumber companies in removing valuable wilderness habitat from our national lands; taxpayers lost $1 billion or more per year in timber sale program spending from 1997-1999[2]. 

True restoration alternatives are possible, can benefit the local economy, and have precedence in Oregon and around the country. Fire risk reduction has been shown to be effective when undertaken within 200 feet of homes and communities. It consists of thinning small diameter “ladder” fuels, eliminating brush piles, and cleaning rooftops. Prescribed burning, an integral part of native “management” until the 20th century, is also a valuable way of making our forests “fire-safe.” Some communities have declared a maximum tree diameter harvestable (i.e. 8 inches in the Winema National Forest), and some have drafted entire plans that include thinning, brush-removal, and prescribed burning. 

In addition, Polallie-Cooper purports to protect a wildland-urban interface where the urban area is a regenerating clearcut. The urban interface is actually drawn on the Cooper/Polallie Planning Area map, right around the boundary of land owned by Mt. Hood Meadows, currently undeveloped.  If this “urban“ area represents a possible Meadows destination resort, current environmental law requires that cumulative impacts be addressed. 

Besides the negative impacts on the forest itself, the timber sales will increase fragmentation of a key migration corridor for deer and elk.  “The [Polallie-Cooper] Planning area is located in a crucial position on the landscape for the connectivity of late successional associated species around the north side of Mt. Hood. This is the only link for small home range, mature forest wildlife species around the north side of Mt. Hood.” (Forest Service Environmental Assessment, p. 36).

The Clear timber sale is in the same wildlife connectivity corridor and consists of 459 acres and 5.2 miles of road construction, some in a currently roadless areas.  Unit #15 of the Clear planning area is adjacent to Crystal Springs creek, part of the watershed that serves a quarter of Hood River County residents, and is proposed to be cut using a "mosaic thinning" methodology that has no specific requirement on how many trees to leave uncut.

When the two timber sales are considered together with the proposed destination resort and ski area expansion, the cumulative effect is a blueprint for ecological fragmentation and devastation.  

References:

[1] Morrison, P. H.  (2002).  Declaration of Peter H. Morrison, MS Forest Ecology.  (former Forest Service employee)

[2] Ending Logging on National Forests: The Facts in the Year 2000" by Chad Hanson, John Muir Project.

Letter writing is needed now!

The Clear timber sale is still early in the planning process; letters from concerned citizens are needed and will make a difference.  Part of the Polallie-Cooper timber sale has been sold to High Cascade but the auctions surrounding the rest have been postponed and no logging can occur pending resolution of the Polallie-Cooper lawsuit - on which Bark is the lead plaintiff. 

Right now is the perfect time to write to the Forest Service.  If you have never written a letter to a public official, this is a good opportunity.  It just takes a few minutes and will leave you with the satisfaction of having done a good deed. Write from your own personal experience and from your heart.  If you like you can send the same letter to all the contacts listed below.

For more information and talking points, refer to the Polallie Cooper and Clear Timber Sales Fact Sheet.

Forest Service Contacts:
Daina Bambe 
Hood River District Ranger 
6780 Highway 35, Mt. Hood/Parkdale, OR 97041 
Phone: (541) 352-6002 
 
Gary Larsen 
Mt. Hood Forest Supervisor 
16400 Champion Way 
Sandy, OR 97055
 
Linda Goodman
Regional Forester 
Region 6 Headquarters
PO Box 3623
Portland, OR 97208
 

Prevent further dismantling of environmental safeguards…

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

The U.S. House of Representatives approved the “Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003,” (HR 1904) on Tuesday, May 20, 2003. The bill, which passed on a 256-170 vote, restricts the application of the National Environmental Policy Act, disrupts the independent judiciary, allows 1,000 acre insect projects anywhere to be categorically excluded from environmental review, and provides $125 million in additional subsides to the biomass industry.

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 is not a forest restoration bill. There are no provisions in the bill that seek to undo decades of mismanagement by removing roads, upgrading culverts, restoring fish habitat, or thinning overstocked young plantations. There are no protections for mature and old growth forests, or roadless areas. In addition, homes in wildland-urban interface communities would not be protected from the threat of wildfire under this bill. In contrast, the Democratic substitute bill that was offered by Congressmen Miller and DeFazio would efficiently address all of these issues. This substitute bill was rejected by the house.

Letter writing is needed now!

This is another critical opportunity to write letters.  Because the McInnis bill will not benefit the forest or the public that uses it, urge your senators to vote “no” on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 if it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)
516 Hart Senate Office Building 
Washington, DC 20510-3703 
Phone: (202) 224-5244 
Fax: (202) 228-2717
 
Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR)
404 Russell Senate Office Building 
Washington, DC. 20510-3704 
Phone: (202) 224-3753 
Fax: (202) 228-3997
 

Regular Features

Homework
  1. You have already completed the most important part of your homework by staying informed about Cooper Spur.  Thank you for your interest.
  2. Forward this Bulletin and encourage friends and colleagues to subscribe.  See Subscription Information below.
  3. Take a few minutes and write letters on the Polallie-Cooper and Clear timbers sales and on the Healthy Forests Act of 2003.  Refer to the articles above for addresses and more information.
  4. Attend a Mt. Hood Meadows Presentation re the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort Expansion.  Presentations are planned for the evenings of July 8, 9, and 10 (Tuesday-Thursday), and July 15, 16, and 17 (Tuesday-Thursday).  Reservations required.  http://cooperspur.org for information on how to obtain a reservation.
  5. Join the Portland or Hood River Volunteer Teams. Contact info@cooperspur.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Calendar

July 8, 9, and 10 (Tuesday-Thursday), and July 15, 16, and 17 (Tuesday-Thursday). Mt. Hood Meadows Presentation re the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort Expansion. Reservations required.  http://cooperspur.org for information on how to obtain a reservation.

Saturday, July 26.  Save the Spur Summer Fest.  A night of music and entertainment benefiting the Cooper Spur Wild & Free Coalition.  Features music by acclaimed activist musician Alice DiMicele.  See the article above for full description

 

Cooper Spur Index

Value of the US Government subsidy to the logging industry from 1992-1997, according to a General Accounting Office (GAO) report

$2 Billion

Percentage of the wildfire fuel reduction effort that is required to take place adjacent to communities-at-risk in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

0 %

Percentage of Forest Service and BLM land that is made available for logging with reduced public participation, environmental review and appeals protection under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

virtually 100 %

Status of the statutory right of citizens to appeal Forest Service logging projects under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003

eliminated

Number of bills introduced in the 108th congress to expedite logging across National Forest and BLM lands in the name of 'fire risk reduction', in addition to the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.

5

Number of these bills that contain provisions to limit citizen participation, exempt projects from environmental laws, or shorten the appeals process

4

 
Contacts

Wild and Free Bulletin editor, bulletin-editor@cooperspur.org.

For questions, more information, or to volunteer, please contact the Cooper Spur Wild and Free Coalition at info@cooperspur.org.

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