For 30 years environmentalists have been working to protect the Devils Staircase area, a 30,000-acre old-growth ecosystem in Oregon's Central Coast Range. The area is incredibly remote, has no trails through it, and provides habitat for spotted owls and coho salmon. In its midst is the Devils Staircase waterfall. Many once considered its existence a myth, and even today few people have seen the falls given its remoteness. With its designation as wilderness in bills before Congress, there is an improved chance this may be one of Oregon's newest wilderness areas in the near future.
Whitebark pine thrives at high elevations, and roughly 80 percent of the trees growing on the West Coast are found in areas designated as wilderness. The tree species is threatened by blister rust caused by rising temperatures. The Wilderness Act, meant to protect areas from the effects of human manipulation, is causing challenges to preserve the species. Disease resistant saplings have been developed by the Forest Service, but planting them in wilderness areas isn't permitted under the rules of the Wilderness Act.
According to satellite data compiled by researchers at Global Forest Watch, Canada has seen more virgin forest destruction than any other country since 2000. The main cause of deforestation is wildfires, logging and energy development. The report also discovered that the global pace of deforestation is accelerating, with more than 104 million hectares (about 8.1 percent of global undisturbed forests) lost from 2000 to 2013.
The final part of EarthFix's three part series on the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act explores why passing legislation for new wilderness areas is a challenge in today's political climate. The efforts to create the 2.1-million-acre wilderness in Malheur County, Oregon come up against local skepticism regarding claims that grazing rights will be maintained as well as gridlock in the U.S. Congress.
District Court Judge Carl Barbier ruled that BP's "gross negligence" and "willful misconduct" caused the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The ruling means the government can fine BP up to $17 billion, much higher than the $3.5 billion BP has currently set aside for fines. The ruling also found that Transocean and Halliburton shared the blame, but to a lesser extent.