Bureau of Land Management Archive
This page contains projects that are completed, inactive, cancelled, or were changed or stopped through our involvement. Information on these projects is retained to facilitate continued monitoring of the impact of the projects over time, or to provide a reference when new projects are proposed in the same vicinity. Currently active and planned projects can be found in the Take Action section on the BLM page.
Oregon BLM Herbicide Use Plan
The Oregon Bureau of Land Management is currently proposing to increase toxic herbicide use on BLM public lands in Oregon from about 17,000 acres of herbicide spraying a year to control invasive plants to almost three times as much—45,000 acres a year, and to increase the number of herbicides used from four (two of which the Forest Service has stopped using due to high toxicity risks to the public, workers, and ground water) to 12 herbicides on the west-side of the Cascades and 16 on the east-side, claiming that there is higher public acceptance of herbicide risks east of the Cascades.
Most of the herbicides proposed for use are highly toxic to native, non-target plants, including rare plants, federally listed plants, medicinal, and edible plants, and may limit the abundance of and contaminate edible mushrooms; several pose serious human health risks (eg. cancer, reproductive impairment, endocrine disruption, liver failure) to recreationists, forest workers, Native American subsistence gatherers, mushroom pickers, etc. Several of the herbicides proposed for use are known ground-water contaminants, some have high likelihood of damaging food or ornamental crops if aerially sprayed (aerial spraying is planned), some are toxic to fish, and some pose higher risks to wildlife—especially bees, birds, amphibians, and grazing mammals such as deer, elk, pronghorn, and wild horses, as well as to small mammals and scavengers. Using a large number of herbicides, while touted as more effective for controlling invasive plants and often cheaper than using manual control methods, still means that in most cases they are redundant with each other for use on particular invasive plants, making most of them unnecessary. Below are highlights of some of the reasons to be concerned about the BLM’s proposal and information on which are the most toxic herbicides. The BLM could be asked to consider a potential compromise alternative using a smaller selection of only the least toxic herbicides only on exotic invasive plants, along with more emphasis on preventing the introduction and spread of invasives and using non-herbicide control methods more effectively and wherever possible.
The BLM admits that there would be less adverse effects to the public with only using non-herbicide methods and that they are already using non-herbicide control methods (weed-pulling, mowing, burning, grazing, etc.) for invasive plants over 716 acres and for native plants (eg. poison oak) over 400 acres. Yet the BLM plans to increase use of herbicides in recreational sites (campgrounds, rafting put-ins, viewpoints, Wilderness Areas, etc.) and thereby increase the potential for accidental exposure of recreationists and herbicide applicator workers to toxic chemicals. Popular berry-picking areas, commercial and recreational mushroom gathering areas, and Native cultural plant gathering areas could also be sprayed with toxic herbicides.
Comments were due to the BLM on December 1, 2009. An Action Alert was sent out in November by Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project which describes the specific herbicides proposed by the BLM and contains an analysis of their toxic properties. This alert is linked here for background information: Herbicide Action Plan Alert. Comments on this DEIS were submitted by numerous organization on January 4, 2010. These comments can be read at http://gaiavisions.org/deiSHerb/CommentsSubmittedOnJanuary4th/. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is available on the BLM web site: Vegetation Treatments Using Herbicides on BLM Lands in Oregon. (1-08-10)
Prineville District Office
Newberry Geothermal Exploration Project
Sierra Club Files New Appeal
In the fall of 2007, the BLM approved geothermal exploration test drilling across three 5-acre sites just outside the boundaries of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument on Deschutes National Forest lands. Due to the failure of the agency to fully and accurately disclose and address environmental impacts, respond to public opposition, inform and involve affected public communities, and address opposition by the Klamath Tribe, we appealed the agency's decision (see Newberry Geothermal Appeal, November 2007). Years later, our appeal is still pending while we continue to assess legal options to rescind and/or modify the agency's decision and halt ongoing exploration activities.
However, just when it appeared the economics and lack of water in the test wells drilled so far were about to scuttle Davenport's Newberry geothermal dreams, the new administration is stepping in with an $25 million dollar resuscitation plan. See the May 28 Bend Bulletin article "Area geothermal effort may gain with U.S. grant" for the details. This is being done absent there ever having been completed an adequate environmental impacts analysis of whether Newberry, despite whatever geothermal potential may exist, is an acceptable location for a large scale electrical generation plant. Where, and with what environmental impacts, will they import the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per minute needed to run such an industrial plant in this drier forest and high desert region?
This latest exploration activity has been announced by publication of an Newberry Geothermal Exploratory Wells Environmental Assessment (EA) issued on March 16, 2010 by the BLM. The Sierra Club reviewed and commented on this EA. We find, as noted in our previous unanswered appeal, that the objective requirements for NEPA have not been met. However, these comments were not incorporated in a revised EA. On April 29, 2010, the BLM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact/Record of Decision. On May 26, 2010, the Oregon Sierra Club, in collaboration with Blue Moutains Biodiversity Project and Cascadia Wildlands, appealed this Record of Decision. Our appeal is based on the following concerns:
- Public "Economic Stimulus" funds were awarded by the Department of Energy (DOE) without a public Environmental Analysis process
- The segmentation of foundation water, aquifer, seismic, and contaminant issues does not analyze the full impact of well drilling, water importation from other area sources, and the geological response to water injection
- Piecemeal Environmental Analysis violates the requirements of NEPA
- The cumulative impacts of past, present, and reasonably foreseeable future actions are not addressed
- The need for a full Environmental Impact Statement is not recognized
- The full range of impacts to human health and safety, natural ecosystems, tourism, agricultural operations, aquatic and wildlife species, water systems, sub-surface aquifers, air quality, and a host of interrelated social and resource issues are not addressed
To read the full text of our appeal, go to Newberry Geothermal Wells Appeal.
In addition, the Forest Service Bend/Fort Rock Ranger District has issued a scoping letter to evaluate a request from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to grant consent to allow the BLM to lease several parcels adjacent to the Newberry Crater and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument that may be suitable for geothermal exploration and future development. The scoping letter and related maps can be found on the Forest Service web site at Geothermal Consent Lease Project. This project proposes to evaluate 29 parcels that currently are either not under existing leases or have existing leases that may terminate and revert back to Forest Service management responsibility in the next two years. This project would evaluate each parcel and determine if the parcel should be leased or withdrawn from further consideration for leasing and subsequent development. If selected for leasing, it would also identify site specific stipulations that would guide any potential future exploration or development activities. If a parcel is identified as suitable for leasing, the BLM would be responsible for any subsequent environmental analyses and lease decisions. The Sierra Club has reviewed this Scoping Letter and commented to the Forest Service recommending that many lease units should be dropped from the proposal as inappropriate to an area adjacent to a National Monument, roadless areas, sensitive species habitat areas, or impacting on established recreation areas. The text of our comments can be read at Newberry Geothermal Lease Comments, July 30, 2010.
While renewable energy sources are enthusiastically supported by the Sierra Club, there is much more to question about locating one just outside a National Monument that is geologically active. Yellowstone similarly has incredible geothermal energy potential, yet by virtue of its natural qualities and National Monument status, it is considered sacrosanct, protecting it from energy development profit schemes. Why the inconsistency with Newberry?
The Newberry Monument is the largest shield volcano in North America, with a 500 square mile caldera, two interior lakes, hot springs, ancient forests, abundant wildlife and fish, waterfalls, and considerable public recreational popularity. The two drill sites referenced in the Bulletin article are visible from viewpoints and trails within the Monument, and the prevailing wind direction would bring any toxic pollutants from geothermal brine steam directly into the Monument. Similar geothermal toxic emissions elsewhere have resulted in forest and vegetation die off, and debilitated human health and community quality of life. Hot springs have dried up, and swarms of low-Richter scale seismic quakes have resulted from geothermal production, with associated damage. Plants which utilize highly flammable secondary fluids such as isobutane have had mishaps and fires. Is this what the greater region's community, and we as a nation, want to encourage and fund at the very edge of our treasured National Monuments?
The Newberry area is geologically active and still tectonically "young". Deep hot spring vents feed its lakes and surface along a lakeshore. Geothermal production can alter subsurface geothermal fluid flows, and research concludes it can induce seismic activity, including "swarms of small earth quakes". This proposal represents a substantial alteration and degradation of the greater area's environment. It also represents a considerable financial expenditure of resources that could not be reasonably recouped without the eventual approval, construction, and decades long operation of a large industrial-scale geothermal electrical energy production plant in this ecologically significant and inappropriate area.
Exploration sites are visible from Monument viewpoints and ridge trails. Newberry Monument is world renowned as a volcanic geologic treasure. The 500 square mile Newberry volcano is one of the largest shield volcanoes in North America. Recreationally popular Paulina and East Lakes are located in the caldera, with an 80 foot waterfall downstream as wild and scenic Paulina Creek drops into a canyon. The area's large deep lakes and beautiful old growth forests provide habitat for nesting bald eagles, osprey, black bears, pine marten, ducks, geese and tundra swans. See the Newberry Caldera article for additional details. Volunteer efforts monitoring ongoing exploration work, and helping with legal research and community outreach are ongoing - please join in. (8-03-10)
Rudio Highlands Project
The BLM is proposing a project to promote healthier forests and wildlife and to reduce the risk of high-intensity wildfires. The project area is located approximately 10 miles north of Dayville, OR, and about 5 miles east of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, and encompasses a number of creeks that feed the John Day River, including Franks Creek, Rudio Creek, Cougar Creek, and Stockdale Creek. The agency proposes to conduct some degree of mechanical thinning and road building, though the extent is not well defined in the documents available. The Sierra Club comments on this project can be read at Rudio Highlands Comments. Project documents have not been posted on the BLM web site. (02-16-10)
Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan
The Cline Buttes Recreation Area lies between Redmond and Sisters, and extends from just north of Highway 20 to north of Highway 126. It surrounds portions of the Thornburgh and Eagle Crest resorts, as well as several private properties. The Plan determines the designation of open roads and trails, decommissioning of undesignated routes, access controls, granting of ROW roads for property access, identification of future ROW corridors, and the use of an adaptive management approach for vegetation management. The Environmental Assessment for the Plan was issued for public comment in September 2009. The Plan and Environmental Assessment (EA), including maps, can be accessed on the BLM web site at Cline Buttes Recreation Area Plan. The Juniper Group Sierra Club and Oregon Wild have jointly reviewed the EA and submitted comments. The review found that it does not adequately restrict Off Road Vehicle (ORV) use to prevent soil disturbance, erosion, proliferation of invasive plants, respect wildlife corridors, and maintain sound separation from residents and other activities. It also proposes fencing that it adverse to the free travel of wildlife. The full text of the comments can be read at Clines Buttes Recreation Area Plan EA Comments. (12-07-09)
John Day Resource Management Plan -
An update to the John Day Resource Management Plan was begun in 2006. A summary of this plan can be read on the BLM website at John Day Basin Resource Management Plan. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement was issued for comment in October 2008. Joint comments from the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA), Sierra Club, Oregon Wild, and Western Watersheds Project were submitted to BLM in January 2009. These comments requested significant modifications to the plan to bring it into compliance with several laws and the NEPA process. To read the comments, open the link John Day RMP Comments. The final Environmental Impact Statement has not been issued by the BLM. (12-16-09)
La Pine HFRA
Another fuels reduction project, this was changed through volunteer efforts, bringing the agency's originally proposed 27,000 acres of logging down to approximately 3,500 acres near residences. The agency agreed to a maximum 16" diameter cutting limit throughout, with trees above 12" diameter cut being mostly lodge pole pine. The agency also imposed three gradated bands of cutting levels, with increased retention farther from residences, and with 30% of unit areas left unthinned for wildlife. Again, volunteers participated in meetings, field trips, and environmental analysis review and comments. Follow-up volunteer involvement is needed to assess project impacts and effectiveness.