Protecting Large Trees in Eastern Oregon
Restoring protections to large trees in Eastern Oregon supports wildlife, climate, and clean water
Large Trees over 21” in diameter, like this tree in Ochoco National Forest, are proposed for logging as part of the Trump-era Forest Service decision to repeal the Eastside Screens 21″ rule. Photo Credit Jim Davis.
After a century of Eastern Oregon and Washington old-growth forests being heavily logged, in 1994 the U.S. Forest Service put in place the “Eastside Screens” rule to protect remaining habitat for old-growth dependent wildlife in six national forests east of the Cascades. This included a provision prohibiting the cutting of trees larger than 21 inches in diameter. But, in the last days of the Trump Administration, and without sufficient public input, the Forest Service eliminated the “21 inch rule,” opening up at least 11,000 square miles of national forest in Eastern Oregon and Southeast Washington to logging.
The Forest Service is using the new rule to propose logging large trees on thousands of acres of national forest across eastern Oregon, including on previously unlogged forests in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and right up to the edge of the Eagle Cap Wilderness. Other projects have been proposed or are in development on the Fremont-Winema, Ochoco, Umatilla, Malheur, Wallowa-Whitman, and other National Forests.
In June 2022 Crag filed a lawsuit on behalf of six conservation groups, challenging the Trump-era rule change that allows logging of mature and old growth trees larger than 21” in diameter. Crag filed the lawsuit on behalf of Greater Hells Canyon Council, Central Oregon LandWatch, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, and WildEarth Guardians. Together, our clients ask the current administration to restore protections for large trees in our national forests to support wildlife, clean water, and carbon storage on public lands.
What's at Stake
Support Wildlife and Endangered Species
Large trees provide critical habitat for wildlife, and support biodiversity, clean water, and native fish. Cutting down the remaining big trees harms salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, by removing shade and forest cover that keeps rivers and streams cool. Large, old trees are needed for nesting, roosting, foraging, denning, and more, for numerous animals and endangered species.
Big trees also keep water clean and cold, by filtering rain water through their root systems and absorbing nutrient pollution before it reaches our groundwater. These trees provide shade and regulate flows, helping keep streams cold and clear.
Combat the Climate Crisis
Large, old trees also provide irreplaceable benefits to society that are essential to mitigating the worst effects of climate change. The biggest and oldest trees protected by the Eastside Screens rule make up only 3% of regional forests in the Pacific Northwest yet store 42% of forest carbon. Conserving large trees and other nature-based solutions are critical and cost effective ways to sequester carbon to mitigate climate overheating by greenhouse gas emissions.
Crag filed this lawsuit on behalf of six conservation groups fighting to restore the Eastside Screens:
- Central Oregon LandWatch is an environmental watchdog and land use advocate that works to defend Central Oregon’s wateways, wildlife, farms, and forests.
- Greater Hells Canyon Council is a grassroots conservation organization whose mission is to connect, protect, and restore the wild lands, waters, native species and habitats of the Greater Hells Canyon Region.
- Great Old Broads for Wilderness is a national grassroots organization, led by women, that engages and inspires activism to preserve and protect wilderness and wild lands.
- Oregon Wild works to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife, and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
- Sierra Club is a national grassroots organization whose mission is to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth and to practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources
- WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.
Columbia Insight, “Government exploiting fire fears to bring back old growth logging, say conservationists,” June 21, 2022
OPB,“Lawsuit challenges rollback of large tree protections east of the Cascades,” June 14, 2022
Associated Press, “Conservation Groups Sue Feds to Protect Pacific Northwest Old-Growth Forests,” June 14, 2022