November 28, 2012
By Camilla Mortenson, Eugene Weekly
Is a small, speedy potato-shaped seabird the new spotted owl? If it wasn’t already clear before: Clearcutting on hundreds of acres of coastal old-growth forests that are habitat for the threatened marbled murrelet is definitely at a standstill, this time thanks to a Nov. 19 ruling by federal Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene.
Conservation group Cascadia Wildlands had previously announced the voluntary cessation of logging in marbled murrelet habitat in the Elliott State Forest by the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) in response to the lawsuit Cascadia Wildlands and others had filed. One timber sale in the Tillamook State Forest had also been suspended, according to Kevin Weeks of ODF.
Weeks says ODF pulled a number of timber sales in June due to the lawsuit. In September, a memo in regard to the Coos operations plan, which determines the sales in the Elliott, later pulled 15 more projects planned for 2013 because, according to Weeks, they “have the same issues present as those identified in the lawsuit.”
ODF argued that issuing an injunction on the logging was moot because the agency had already voluntarily suspended logging on the timber sales in the lawsuit, but Aiken ruled that because ODF had “retained the right to simply resume logging operations after giving notice, a possibility of the recurrence of the allegedly illegal logging activity exists.”
Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands points out that Aiken’s preliminary injunction not only prevents logging on the 11 timber sales named in the suit, it also broadens the suspension to “any further logging activities in known occupied marbled murrelet sites in the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott state forests.”
The ruling is critical for marbled murrelets and makes the clearcutting suspension official, Laughlin says. He says that now the ball is in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s court in regard to suspending what Laughlin calls “aggressive clearcutting plans on our public forests.” Kitzhaber along with Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler make up the State Land Board that governs Oregon’s publicly owned state forests.
ODF has announced a 46-day public comment period began Nov. 26 on six additional timber sales in the Elliott State Forest that are not impacted by issues raised in the lawsuit, these sales “are anticipated to provide 9.8 million board-feet of timber for the current fiscal year, and an estimated $2.48 million in net revenue for schools and county services in Oregon,” according to the ODF announcement.