At Earthrise, we are passionate about using the law to protect and
restore the environment and the planet's natural resources, and about
training law students to become skilled environmental advocates.

Earthrise Protects Old Growth Trees Around Walton Lake (Again!)

The view looking across Walton Lake at a large stand of fir trees, many of which were targeted for logging by the project
On September 29th, after a 30 minute in-person oral argument (Earthrise’s second since the pandemic started), Tom Buchele and our co-counsel, Earthrise alum Jesse Buss, obtained a preliminary injunction against the commercial logging in the Ochoco National Forest. The logging project targets large trees (some four to five feet in diameter) that are likely hundreds of years old in the National Forest’s Walton Lake Recreation Area.
Earthrise and Jesse have been fighting this misguided project on behalf of our client, the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project, since 2016. The September injunction, issued by US District Court Judge Michael Mosman, is actually the second preliminary injunction we have won against this logging project over the last five years.
Earthrise can only bring successful legal challenges like this because we have such amazing students, legal fellows and alums to help us litigate cases. Countless students have worked on cases to fight the Forest Service’s logging proposals over the past five years and this year’s students, Claire Deuter, Chelsea Stewart-Fusek, and Colin Reynolds, alongside our legal fellows Bridget Buss and Alex Houston, continued to build on the hard work and dedication of their predecessors.
This case is not over. Our opponents are nothing if not persistent. But as of today, the trees are still standing and will be standing for at least another logging season.
Tom and his dogs at a site visit in 2016 next to some of the old growth trees that are at risk. 

Victory for the Rogue River Watershed

Earthrise recently achieved an important interim victory in our ongoing lawsuit, on behalf of Northwest Environmental Advocates (NWEA), aiming to reduce nutrient pollution in the Rogue River from the City of Medford’s regional water reclamation facility.
The suit alleges that Medford's discharges violate Oregon’s narrative “biocriteria” water quality standard. This provision requires all waters of the state to “be of sufficient quality to support aquatic species without detrimental changes in the resident biological communities.” The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) most commonly defines “detrimental changes” in terms of the loss of macroinvertebrate abundance and diversity as compared to an unimpaired location in the same watershed or region.
The suit has its origins in a series of studies dating back to 2012 that documented the adverse changes to the Rogue River ecosystem downstream from Medford’s treatment facility in Crown Point, Oregon. The first of these studies was prepared by aquatic biologist Rick Hafele, who is now our expert witness in the case. The study described the proliferation of nuisance algae and a significant decline in the native macroinvertebrate community below the Medford facility’s outfall. Later studies prepared by DEQ and consultants retained by Medford did not dispute these findings, and shortly following the close of discovery in the suit Medford agreed to stipulate that its discharges “cause or contribute to” in-stream violations of the biocriteria standard. Despite this admission Medford asserted several affirmative defenses, including a “permit shield” defense that was the subject of summary judgment briefing.
On September 30, 2021, Judge Michael J. McShane of the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon granted in part Earthrise’s motion for summary judgment, adopting an earlier ruling from Magistrate Judge Mark D. Clarke finding Medford liable under the Clean Water Act for contributing to in-stream violations of Oregon’s “biocriteria” water quality standard, and holding that Medford was not entitled to a permit shield defense. Two other claims were not resolved on summary judgment, nor was the remedy for Medford’s biocriteria violations.
The litigation against Medford has also finally stirred DEQ into action. The agency for years had declined to address Medford’s ongoing nutrient pollution problems, citing a purported “lack of information” about the causes of the biocriteria impairment in the Rogue River. But in August 2021 it reissued Medford’s NPDES Permit with first-ever effluent limitations for phosphorus and nitrogen. Still, Earthrise and NWEA believe the new permit is insufficient, and on October 10 filed a petition for reconsideration of the permit.
Regardless of whether the ultimate resolution to Medford’s nutrient pollution is found through the federal citizen suit or the state NPDES permitting process, the future is brighter for the Rogue River.
Earthrise attorneys Jamie Saul and Lia Comerford represent NWEA in this litigation.

In This Issue

  • Protecting Trees at Walton Lake
  • A New Clinic Year
  • Saving Salmon Before the Ninth Circuit
  • Reducing Nutrient Pollution in the Rogue River
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Hike or Bike with us in the Spring

Earthrise's 25 year hike or bike celebration will take place in May 2022, starting and ending at Sellwood Park. We hope that you can join us! Sign up to ride or hike here.

Until then, you can buy our limited-edition 25th anniversary shirt (pictured above), tote, and mug designs here. Or grab a water bottle to stay hydrated while you prepare for the event here. All purchases help fund our continuing work of advocacy and education, and are a fun and functional way to celebrate our 25th year!

Earthrise Protects Idaho's Waters

In September, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an excellent ruling in our favor in an important case about pollution from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or factory farms, in Idaho. The three-judge panel unanimously held that EPA’s CAFO permit for the State of Idaho unlawfully allowed factory farms to escape monitoring their pollution into waterways.
Teaming up with Food & Water Watch as co-counsel (including Earthrise alum Tarah Heinzen), we filed suit in the Ninth Circuit on behalf of Food & Water Watch and Snake River Waterkeeper. Our suit challenged EPA’s issuance of a general permit for CAFOs in Idaho. 
CAFOs are a significant source of water pollution in Idaho and across the country. They typically confine hundreds or thousands of animals and their waste. They store the animal waste in impoundments that tend to leach, and they ultimately dispose of the waste on fields where it runs off and enters waterways. Factory farm pollution includes nitrates, pathogens, and pharmaceuticals. We also know that factory farms have contributed to pollution impairments in waterways across Idaho.
The thrust of our argument in the Ninth Circuit was that the Idaho CAFO general permit fails to meet the Clean Water Act’s requirements that CAFOs sufficiently monitor their pollution. The court held that EPA’s permit was arbitrary and capricious and counter to the Clean Water Act, because it lacked the very monitoring requirements the statute requires. CAFOs in Idaho will now be required to comprehensively monitor and report on their waste discharge and water pollution for the first time. This case also has the potential to set precedent for how pollution from factory farms is regulated across the country.

Meet Our New Clinic Class!

Earthrise staff and students are masked and back in the classroom! Our 25 energetic and dedicated law students are working on cases that include protecting aquatic species from the harms of toxic pollutants, requiring more accountability from concentrated animal feeding operations, protecting the Rogue River from nutrient pollution, stopping old growth logging in Oregon, and protecting one of the quietest places in the lower 48 in Olympic National Park. We have already been able to virtually bring clients in to class, like Rob Smith of National Parks Conservation Association to talk about the clinic's work to protect Olympic National Park. Our students have also been able to see Earthrise in action in the courtroom (either via phone or in person) in some of our cases.
We are excited to have such a great group of students working with us this year!



Earthrise Law Center at Lewis & Clark Law School 10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd. | Portland, OR 97219 US
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