Conservation Column: Ideas—Good and Bad

“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas, and throw the bad ones away.” – Linus Pauling

We’ve all heard the expression “There’s no such thing as a bad idea,” but I think many would disagree. Unfortunately, on the environmental front, many bad ideas have recently been proposed. Thankfully, many of these ideas have not been implemented. I list a few below. 

1. Killing ravens to save sage grouse. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife proposed to kill hundreds of ravens in northeastern Oregon. This “solution” would have left hundreds of poison baited eggs in habitats, threatening non-target animals as well as causing the starvation of raven nestlings. The environmental assessment provided no evidence that ravens were actually harming sage grouse and no evidence that this strategy would work. The actual causes of sage grouse decline were not addressed. Thankfully, after receiving comments from bird allies, the agencies cancelled the proposal.

2. The Jordan Cove Energy Project and Pacific Connector fracked gas pipeline. This project would fragment habitat, pollute hundreds of waterways, threaten migratory birds, and create the largest source of climate pollution in Oregon. It would result in additional clear cuts in coastal and interior forests, impacting breeding habitat for endangered species like the Marbled Murrelet and Spotted Owl.  Even after multiple application extensions, Pembina, a Canadian energy corporation, failed to provide adequate information for a permit to be granted. Fortunately, they were told that another extension would not be approved, and the company withdrew their application on a key removal-fill permit. The permit would have allowed them to dredge Coos Bay harbor and create pipeline on state wetlands and waterways.

3. Selling off public forests for timber company profit. 

a.Selling off swaths of the publicly owned Elliott State Forest. Thankfully, a recent state Supreme Court ruling affirmed an Oregon Court of Appeals’ ruling, agreeing that selling 788 acres of Elliott State Forest to a private timber company in 2014 violated state law. 

b.Selling off BLM land close to residential property near Springfield. Thankfully, a recent court ruling found that the BLM’s environmental review failed to consider residential fire hazard due to logging and failed to buffer recreation trails from logging as required by BLM’s own rules. 

4. Allowing trapping of an animal that is threatened with extinction due to extremely low population numbers. Fortunately, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission recently voted 4-3 to protect Humboldt Martens from trapping. Fewer than 200 of the martens survive in the state’s coastal forests.

5. Weakening one of the most protective environmental laws, The Migratory Bird Act. Eliminating this Act would provide industries with a free pass for actions that result in bird deaths. Thankfully, a new bill has been introduced into congress to restore some protections, but we are far from seeing it implemented. In the past week, announcements have been made that would further weaken protections. So it’s a good idea to let your congressional representatives know that you stand with birds (plus other wildlife and humans). See National Audubon’s action alert “Urgent: Save Our Most Important Bird Law” at audubon.org.