The Pacific Northwest has a rich history of public land use. Much of the land in the Oregon, Washington, and Alaska is owned by federal and state governments and is managed for all to provide a wide range of goods and services, like clean drinking water and unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities. Though the land provides so much for our people, the misuse of this public resource can be devastating to wildlife, the natural ecology and the way of life that so many in the region enjoy. The Crag Law Center launched its Public Lands Program in 2001 with a focus on representing conservation groups and local citizens who are working for sustainable land management. We work to protect the Cascade Mountains, the region’s forests and wildlife, and to develop practices to help cope with climate change. All too often, short term economic and corporate interests trump the long-term thinking needed to maintain our scenic views, pristine wildlife, clean air and water, and the continued economic diversity of our public lands. Below are just a few of the Public Lands cases on Crag’s agenda.
On behalf of Oregon Natural Desert Association, Crag attorney Ralph Bloemers filed a petition with the EPA to list Alkalli Lake Wast Dump on the National Priorities List in Central Oregon. The waste dump contains hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic byproducts created during the manufacturing process of Agent Orange, a chemical widely used during the Vietnam War. The material at this site is highly toxic, poisonous to life – and it is actively migrating off the site. There is no clean up planned. On behalf of local citizens and the Oregon Natural Desert Association, the Crag Law Center will continue to press the EPA and the DEQ to make the polluter, the multimillion dollar corporation Bayer Cropscience, pay for the toxic mess it left in the desert. Read more here.
Crag attorney Courtney Johnson is working on behalf of the Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition and Our Ocean Coalition to review and comment on a statewide plan to implement rules and regulations for the development of wave energy in Oregon waters. The group consists of various local, state and national officials aiming to provide procedural and legal context for both a testing area and future large-scale development. The plans aim to attract the new development of the sustainable resource in Oregon waters while ensuring the protection of current economic resources and the ocean environment. Working within Goal 19 of the Statewide Land Use Plans, Oregon aims to become a leader in the new technology and create “long-term ecological, economic, and social value and benefits to future generations.”
Crag recently launched a lawsuit against Oregon State officials for harming threatened sea birds called Marbled Murrelets. The small coastal bird is a threatened species and depends on mature and old-growth forest near the Oregon shore for nesting and raising its young. Lately the State of Oregon has increased the amount of logging in these ecologically valuable state-owned forests and is impacting marbled murrelets and their nesting habitat. Crag attorney Tanya Sanerib is part of a team of lawyers representing Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland in their efforts to save the murrelet from extinction under the Endangered Species Act. Efforts aim to halt logging in coastal forests in areas murrelets rely upon until an effective Habitat Conservation Plan is put into place; and the State has already agreed to halt several timber sales threatening marbled murrelets’ habitat. Read more here.
Crag is working to challenge a chromite mine on rural forestlands in Coos County on behalf of the Oregon Coast Alliance. Chromite mines extract the heavy metal ore from large pits in order to distill it to chromium which is used to make stainless steel and coat other metals. The mine would cause runoff and pollution from large scale digging and trucking, some of which is undocumented in its current form. With Crag’s help local citizens are fighting the mine in order to protect the land from damaging pollution and increased traffic that could seriously alter the character and environment of the area.
Mt. Hood National Forest
In 2002, Hood River County traded more than 600 acres of the Crystal Springs Watershed to Mt. Hood Meadows, paving the way for Meadows build a massive development in the Hood River County municipal watershed. Despite strong citizen objection and the lack of valuation reports from an appraiser, the Hood River County Commissioners approved the deal. The Crag Law Center worked with the Hood River Valley Residents Committee to bring a court case challenging the land trade and prevailed in the Court of Appeals. After over 14 months of negotiations with Hood River County and Mt. Hood Meadows, and were able to hammer out a settlement agreement to permanently protect the North side of Mt. Hood. The Crag Law Center helped HRVRC to carefully craft settlement language, including provisions that seek to permanently preserve the watershed, forests, and wildlife in this area. Crag continues to work to ensure this Congressionally-mandated land trade and Wilderness legislation are enacted. For more information please contact us or visit the Cooper Spur Wild & Free Coalition website.