Big Game Migration Corridor:
Mt. Hood’s Only Forested Migration Path
In 2002, Mt. Hood Meadows made plans to build a four-season destination resort and expand the Cooper Spur Ski Area right in the middle of a key deer and elk migration corridor.
- Deer and elk have only one safe place to cross the Hood River Valley during their spring and fall migrations: the 1 1/2 to 4 mile wide corridor of winter range habitat at lower Cooper Spur. If the deer and elk have to cross higher up the mountain, they face starvation, exposure to storms, and impassibly deep snow. If they cross lower down in the valley, they face fences, orchard operations, housing subdivisions, and high-speed traffic. In the forested corridor, the deer and elk find adequate food, thermal and hiding cover, and traversable terrain. Every year, deer and elk use this corridor to move off their summer ranges on Mt. Hood, traveling to winter ranges as far away as the White River Wildlife Area or the edge of the Columbia River. Black bear and cougar follow the deer and elk routes.
- Calving grounds and summer range in the upper Cooper Spur and adjacent areas are important for deer and elk population stability. They also form part of a narrow strip connecting large habitat areas to the east and west of Mt. Hood. For both deer and elk, this link allows genetic exchange between separate subspecies on opposite sides of the Cascades.
- The Cooper Spur Ski Permit Area cuts through almost 3/4 of this habitat strip of summer range. Ski development will hurt deer and elk by increasing human encounters, compacting vegetation, and delaying spring greenup.
- “You’d lose habitat in an area four to ten times the size of whatever they put in…a large resort at that site would change migration patterns” – Jim Torland, District Wildlife Biologist, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Dalles.
Old Growth Connectivity Corridor
- A Cooper Spur resort would interrupt a migration and genetic connectivity corridor for old-growth animal species, including spotted owl, marten, wolverine, and flying squirrel.
- The lower Cooper Spur area contains the only remaining east-west corridor of low elevation, large tree, closed-canopy forest on the north side of Mt. Hood. This connection allows genetic exchange between old-growth populations in the widely separated Surveyor’s Ridge and Bull Run Late Successional Reserves.
- Logging has already damaged the corridor; another impact could sever it completely. The ski permit and proposed resort areas bite into the fragile corridor from above and below. A East Fork Hood River & Middle Fork Hood River Watershed Analyses conducted by Mt. Hood National Forest, Hood River Ranger District notes “The primary area of concern is the east/west connection at low elevations. This link is currently quite tenuous.”
Stream Habitat for Threatened, Endangered and Sensitive Fish and Birds
- Forests in the proposed development areas act as a filter for the East Fork Hood River and several of its tributaries, catching rain and allowing clear, clean, cold water to seep slowly into the streams. If Cooper Spur’s forests are logged over and developed, this continuous trickle will be replaced by periods of drought, punctuated by sudden floods of warm, polluted, muddy runoff from buildings, parking lots, and bare, broken soil.
- Cooper Spur’s waterways provide spawning grounds for fall- and spring-run Chinook salmon, a federally listed Threatened species; summer- and winter-run steelhead trout, federally listed Threatened; Coho salmon, listed Endangered in Oregon; and both resident and sea-running cutthroat trout, a listed Sensitive species in Oregon.
- Harlequin Ducks, a listed Sensitive Species in Oregon and a federal Species of Concern, fly in from the Pacific coast to breed on the Cooper Spur area’s cold, fast-flowing streams. Harlequins are abundant in the upper East Fork and its tributaries, relatively rare at most other locations in the Mt. Hood National Forest, and unknown throughout much of Oregon.
- Raptors migrating on the Pacific Flyway travel south along the East Fork, follow a ridge complex through the Cooper Spur area, and cross Mt. Hood at Bonney Butte, where Oregon’s highest concentration of migrating raptors is recorded each fall. Some of these birds, especially the State Sensitive northern goshawk, use Cooper Spur area waterways and forests as resting and foraging habitat.
Cumulative Impacts from Adjacent Timber Sales
- The Polallie-Cooper timber sales, Clan, Kilt and Tartan, surround the proposed resort on three sides. These sales will remove the most commercially valuable large trees through clearcutting and thinning the forest that currently blocks human traffic between the Cooper Spur Ski Area and the resort land.