Noses in the duff: walking the route

Over 2018-19 we spent a lot of time with friends out in the woods hiking along the proposed Jordan Cove pipeline route. So far we’ve scouted most of the public route, from the high Cascades of Klamath and Jackson counties, across the Umpqua National Forest, and parts of the route in the Coast Range of Coos and western Douglas county. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and want to share a reportback of what we’ve seen out in woods with y’all.

Out of all this time on the ground comes ‘What’s at Stake: Mapping Jordan Cove & Pacific Connector‘, a StoryMap, which we’ve been working on for a while and really hope you will check out!

Through our countless day trips along the route, we’ve also been collecting ground-truthing data, taking pictures and documenting the places, plants and animals that are under threat from Jordan Cove. We’ve taken all this and put it into the form of a StoryMap, which takes you along the route and what’s at stake on the ground. The StoryMap uses pictures and on-the-ground data to help tell the story of the lands and ecosystems in the path of the Jordan Cove project.

Too many of us recognize how disastrous the project would be to our climate, waters, forests, salmon, etc–but haven’t spend hardly any time on the ground in the places that would come under the axe and dozer if Pembina gets their way. That’s part of what inspired us to get out onto the pipeline route and begin our scouting and ground-truthing work and to host hikes to bring others out to the magical and incredible places along the route. But still most people haven’t actually gotten out to the proposed route itself, and don’t know what it looks like, or what it feels like there–so we spent a (very) long time creating this StoryMap to “bring the land” to more people, knowing that not everyone is able to get out to the land.

We hope that this will be a resource useful to others resisting Jordan Cove. Please help us by sharing it on social media and forwarding this email to your friends! Check out the What’s at Stake: Mapping Jordan Cove StoryMap and continue reading below for the reportback from our scouting hikes.

Even while stalled out in the permitting process, Pembina has kept pushing on-the-ground preparation for the project. In spring 2019, we ran into several timber cruisers working for Jordan Cove while we were scouting outside of Shady Cove. They were out measuring and calculating the value of the timber that would be clear cut to build the pipeline.
We know that an intact forest, full of life, is more valuable than the board feet it contains. The two workers we met were nice enough; they didn’t seem particularly invested in Jordan Cove and for them, it’s just another job. But that’s also how bad, harmful, destructive, unjust ideas become reality–by people just doing their jobs.

In the areas that we’ve examined, most of the route has been surveyed and marked out by Jordan Cove. Pink, orange, blue and white flagging shows where the pipeline will be built and where construction equipment and felled trees will be stored.

In many places, it’s been easy to retrace the exact path the company’s surveyors walked, following the trail of cut & hacked brush they left behind. There have been surveys for Red Tree Voles, a species of vole that lives in old growth douglas fir trees and is a key food source for the endangered Northern Spotted Owl, and many of these surveys have found evidence of red tree voles and even active nests within the pipeline right of way.

Still, much work remains to be done before the company can break ground for the pipeline itself. Because of all the heavy equipment and large trucks to transport segments of pipe, there’s a lot of road improvements and new road construction to be done, and we haven’t seen many signs of surveying for that. Also, it seems like there are still portions of the public land that haven’t had timber cruises yet–in some national forests (including much of the Umpqua NF and the Fremont-Winema NF) all the trees to be cut to make room for the pipeline have been marked, but on other public lands this hasn’t happened yet. Of course, we’ve also seen so much beauty out there along the route; meadows bursting with wildflowers and birdsong, huge groves of old growth trees with entire worlds of animals and plants living in their bark and limbs, rocky windswept ridges with stunning vistas, cool shady streams filled with frogs and small fish, and so much more. We’re also not alone in loving these lands, as the mushroom hunters eagerly filling sacks with tasty morels we’ve run into while hiking the proposed route can attest. Or the hunters whose platforms and blinds (likely well guarded secret spots) we’ve stumbled upon. Or the bikers who’s trails we’ve encountered and explored crisscrossing the route.

Check out the STORYMAP to get a more in depth look at the proposed route of the pipeline and the impacts it would have on the land. The more of the land we get to know, the more certain we are that this project can’t be allowed to come to fruition. We’ve witnessed firsthand forests recovering from wildfires that bring much needed cleansing renewal, like the ridge top in the Umpqua National Forest we first visited last year (first picture below), and then again this year after it was burned through by the Snow Shoe wildfire last summer (second & third pictures below). Seeing the chaotic mosaic of fire’s work on the landscape, from fire-scarred-but-still-standing giant pines to new wildflowers bringing stunning color to the newly opened forest floor is a stark reminder that these lands aren’t static, but are filled with dynamic, constantly changing and adapting life.

But as anyone who’s spent time in the forests and mountains of Southern Oregon knows, a lot of damage has already been done (and continues to be done) to these places. Clearcuts that leave whole mountainsides muddied wastelands butt up against old growth forest groves, a stark reminder of how easily these magical places can be destroyed. More than one hundred years of extractive industry and the profit imperative of capitalism have turned countless acres of our forests into monocrops of single-aged timber stands, with diseased trees packed densely together in hot, dry, tinderbox conditions

Now, mature old growth trees only remain mostly in small patchwork stands that have managed to survive without being logged, slipping through the cracks of extractive forest policy. These small groves, surrounded by plantations and young regrowth, are all the more important for the ecological diversity and refuge they provide. It’s amazing how many of these small wonderlands Jordan Cove has managed to route their pipeline through, from the the Pacific Crest Trail to the headwaters of East Fork Cow Creek to riparian zones in the Coast Range.

We have loved getting to know these lands and also taking others out to get their feet on the ground in the places physically threatened by Jordan Cove, and seeing how the lands and these specific places change through the seasons. We’ll continue hiking, scouting, and monitoring the route this fall and through the winter to keep and eye on what’s happening and whether the company is making moves to start work on the ground along the route. Come out with us and fall in love with the forests, rivers, mountains and wildflowers!