Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’

Feb06

State Stops Timber Sales to Help Bird

The Associated Press by Jeff Barnard
February 6, 2013
 
The state Department of Forestry has agreed to cancel more than two dozen timber sales on state forests because they threaten the survival of the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in large, old trees.
 
The proposed settlement filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene comes in a lawsuit brought by three conservation groups, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Audubon Society of Portland.
 
It alleged that the department violated the Endangered Species Act prohibiting the harming, or take, of a protected species by failing to protect stands of trees on the Elliott and other state forests where threatened marbled murrelets build their nests.
 
The murrelet is a robin-size bird that lives on the ocean and flies as far as 50 miles inland to nest in old growth forests. The bird was declared a threatened species about two decades ago, making it a factor in the continuing court and political battles over logging in the Northwest.
 
The settlement comes as the state has been trying to increase logging on state forests to provide more funding for schools and counties and more logs for local mills.
 
The Elliott State Forest, where the bulk of the canceled sales are located, typically provides millions of dollars to the Common School Fund. But in 2013 it cost the fund $2.8 million because of reduced logging, according to the Department of State Lands. The rest of the canceled sales are on the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests.
 
State Department of Forestry spokesman Dan Postrel said the department began canceling timber sales in 2012 as it revised its protection policy for the murrelet, and that the settlement wraps up a total of 28 timber sales.
 
Postrel said the department is reviewing science related to the murrelet to “help inform the best long-term plans and strategies.”
 
The state managed the Elliott for years by protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species such as the murrelet but scrapped that approach after federal biologists refused to approve revisions that allowed more logging. Instead, the state adopted a policy used by private timberland owners that refrains from logging where protected species are actually living.
 
The lawsuit argued that rather than preserving a large area of trees around a murrelet nest, the department was leaving small patches and clear-cutting close around them, leaving the nests vulnerable to attacks by jays and ravens that eat the young.
 
The birds are difficult to spot when they fly swiftly into a stand of trees at dawn. The nests are difficult to spot, as well. The eggs are laid in a mossy depression on a large branch high in a tree. Laughlin said the department also has agreed, in a separate action, to stop its practice of sending its own observers to verify murrelet sightings by a contractor, which conservation groups feel violates the accepted scientific protocol.
 
“This was an incredibly arbitrary and reckless process that we believe, in the past, led to loss of occupied murrelet habitat,” Laughlin said.
 
Oregon Forest Industries Council President Kristina McNitt said in an email that the organization was worried that the state may not be able to meet its obligations to the Common School Fund and counties after withdrawing the sales.
 

Dec09

Suit Filed Over Logging Near Crater Lake

By Lee Juillerat, Klamath Falls Herald and News December 4, 2013 !cid_0BAFA484-1336-41EC-865D-6D83DF8F3EE6

Two conservation groups are challenging a U.S. Forest Service timber sale outside Crater Lake National Park in an area the groups want to see protected as wilderness.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene by the Cascadia Wild and Oregon Wild. The groups are asking a judge to stop the Loafer timber sale in an area northwest of Diamond Lake on the Umpqua National Forest.

More protection

The lawsuit claims the Forest Service should more fully examine the project’s potential harm to protected species like northern spotted owls and red tree voles. It says the logging requires building a road through two areas of virgin forest, which would make them ineligible for future wilderness designation.

A Forest Service spokesman told the Associated Press the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Contested sale

The Loafer sale, named after the Loafer Creek drainage, is proposed on the Umpqua’s Diamond Lake Ranger District and would affect a portion of the 2,000-acre plus Dread and Terror roadless area. The project would result in 30 million board-feet of tree fiber.

According to the Forest Service’s environmental assessment, the Loafer sale will restore natural ecosystem function and reduce fire fuels.

The Loafer environmental assessment was issued in March and the final record of decision was filed in May. The decision was appealed, but the appeal was denied by the Forest Service’s regional office in August.

“Since then we have been pursuing the avenue of litigation,” said Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild wilderness coordinator. He said the project would log within the proposed wilderness near the North Umpqua River north and slightly west of the park.

“This area is a key corridor for wildlife species migrating from the high elevations along the crest down to lower elevations,” he said. “The North Umpqua also is known as a world class salmon fishery and we’re concerned that this project would have a negative impact on water quality and salmon.”

Further opposition

Oregon Wild also opposes the Bybee timber sale on the west side of Crater Lake National Park.

The proposed 50,000 acre Crater Lake Wilderness would, according to Fernandez, “protect the park’s backcountry and corridors leading in and out of the park, creating a 90-mile habitat conservation corridor along the crest of the Southern Cascades.” The proposed wilderness would not affect any of the existing park roads or developed areas, including Rim Village and the Crater Lake Lodge.

As proposed, the Bybee would log 1,300 acres of potential wilderness on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lands, also near Crater Lake National Park. The Forest Service has made changes in the proposed sale but, according to Fernandez, “The changes have simply moved the project from terrible to bad” because it would imperil and weaken the park’s ecosystems and would be near the headwaters of the Rogue River.

link to full article

May24

Press Release: Settlement Reached in Wolf Legal Fight

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2013
 
Contact:
Rob Klavins, Wildlife Advocate, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 210, rk@oregonwild.org
Steve Pedery, Conservation Director, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212, sp@oregonwild.org
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182 jlaughlin@cascwild.org
 
Salem, Oregon  – After seventeen months of grueling negotiations, conservationists, Governor John Kitzhaber, the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW), and the livestock industry have reached a compromise settlement agreement that resolves a long-running legal battle over wolf conservation in Oregon.
 
“Oregonians treasure our state’s wildlife and want to see it protected,” said Dan Kruse, an attorney for Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands. “This settlement will put in place, for the first time, clear standards and public accountability for what must happen before ODFW or livestock interests can kill an endangered wolf, and measures that should reduce conflict between wolves and livestock. I applaud all the parties for coming to this agreement, and in the coming months we will be watching closely to ensure it is faithfully implemented.”
 
On October 5, 2011, a coalition of conservation organizations filed a legal challenge against the state’s aggressive killing program that targeted endangered gray wolves. The groups believed the state’s actions violated both the state’s Wolf Plan and Endangered Species Act. That same day an appellate commissioner with the Oregon Court of Appeals issued an injunction suspending the state’s ability to kill wolves on behalf of the livestock industry.
 
The settlement agreement resolves this legal conflict by establishing a new management framework which more clearly outlines steps that must be taken before the state can again consider killing endangered wolves. The agreement emphasizes the employment of responsible livestock husbandry practices and requires thorough use of proactive, non-lethal techniques to preempt conflict between wolves and livestock.
 
“We went to court because ODFW was breaking its own rules and state endangered species laws,” said Rob Klavins, Oregon Wild’s Wildlife Advocate. “This settlement is far from perfect, but it requires more transparency from the state and responsibility from the livestock industry. Now it’s up to the agency to honor the terms of the agreement and ensure wildlife management lives up to Oregon’s proud conservation values.”
 
Wolves began returning to Oregon in the late 1990s, after being hunted, trapped and poisoned to extinction in the first half of the twentieth century. In 2005, after wolves begin to return to Oregon the state and stakeholders created a wolf plan that prioritized conservation and non-lethal steps to prevent conflict with livestock as the species recovered in our state. When the plan was followed in 2009, conservationists did not oppose lethal action against wolves in Baker County. However, facing increasingly intense pressure from livestock interests, the state initiated a series of aggressive lethal actions against endangered gray wolves in Oregon. Conservationists believed this effort violated both the spirit and the letter of the Oregon Wolf Plan.
 
“This agreement gets us back to the wolf plan we thought we had in 2005,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director from Cascadia Wildlands. “Under this agreement killing wolves should be an option of last resort. Ranchers need to do their part to improve animal husbandry and coexist with native wildlife, and ODFW needs to live up to its mission to ensure abundant populations of native wildlife for all Oregonians.”
 
With support from the conservation community, in 2012 Oregon increased efforts to educate ranchers about the steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of conflict. Simple measures like burying dead cattle, keeping young calves and other vulnerable animals behind fences, and checking cattle more frequently have reduced conflict in Oregon, even as the number of wolves in the state has grown. In 2012, the state’s known wolf population grew from 29 to 46, and only four cows were lost to wolves.
 
“Oregon has a chance to learn from the mistakes of other states and become a model for how to balance conservation values with demands from the livestock industry,” said Steve Pedery, Conservation Director for Oregon Wild. “In the coming years, we look forward to working in Salem, at the federal level, and on the ground to advance wolf recovery and restore other important native species in our state.”
 
Wolf recovery remains popular in Oregon. When the state’s wolf plan was developed in 2005, a state poll showed that 70% of Oregonians supported wolf recovery. A public review of Wolf Plan in 2010 generated over 20,000 public comments. Over 90% were in favor of stronger protections for wolves.
 
While conflict surrounded wolf killing in 2011, other stories inspired hope for Oregon’s fragile recovery. A lone wolf left Northeast Oregon and gained international attention when he became the first wolf in Western Oregon since 1947, and then the first wolf in California in nearly a century. The wolf known to biologists as OR-7 and renamed Journey in an international naming contest is now back in Oregon, and has traveled over 3,000 miles in search of a mate.
 
“This agreement strengthens wolf protections throughout the state and sets in motion recovery across the rest of Oregon and the region,” said Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director for Cascadia Wildlands. “Wolves in the Pacific West are just beginning their historic recovery and will greatly benefit from this new management framework.”
 
The settling conservation organizations were represented by attorneys Nick Cady and Daniel Kruse.

Click here to read frequently asked questions about the settlement.
 
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Nov27

Judge blocks timber sales over sea bird nesting

November 27, 2013

by Jeff  Barnard, AP Environmental Writer
 
GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has put 11 state forest timber sales on hold while she considers a lawsuit contending they threaten the survival of the marbled murrelet, a protected seabird that nests in old-growth forests.
 
The preliminary injunction issued last week was a blow to the new endangered species conservation policy adopted by the state to produce more timber from state lands.
 
Besides the 11 timber sales, the order covers all stands occupied by murrelets on the Clatsop, Tillamook and Elliot state forests.
 
In issuing the order, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken in Eugene wrote that conservation groups have shown they are likely to win the lawsuit on its merits, and leaving the sales open to logging could cause irreparable harm.
 
At issue is whether the state's logging goals on the three forests violate the Endangered Species Act by destroying habitat for the marbled murrelet, a threatened species. The bird lives at sea, but it flies up to 50 miles inland to lay its eggs on the large, mossy branches of mature and old-growth trees.
 
"This ruling should send a signal to the leadership of Oregon that balanced forest plans are critically needed to truly protect the murrelet," Francis Eartherington, conservation director for Cascadia Wildlands, said in a statement. "The state of Oregon's forest practices are the most reckless in the Pacific Northwest and are pushing the marbled murrelet closer to extinction."
 
Earlier this year, the state Department of Forestry withdrew the sales pending the outcome of the lawsuit, and planned instead to offer a smaller number of alternative sales elsewhere.
 
The Oregon Department of Forestry estimated the withdrawal of the 10 sales on the Elliott would cost the Common School Fund $9.85 million in lost income next year. Unlike other state forests, the Elliott is controlled by the State Land Board, with logging proceeds going to the Common School Fund.
 
The 11th sale is on the Tillamook.
 
The state managed the Elliott for years by protecting habitat for threatened and endangered species like the murrelet but scrapped that approach last year after federal biologists refused to approve revisions that allowed more logging. Instead, the state adopted a policy used by private timberland owners that refrains from logging where protected species are actually living.
 
Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Dan Postrel said the order was expected. He added that a separate order from the judge removing the state Board of Forestry and state Land Board as defendants in the lawsuit suggested that the endangered species conservation policy they adopted may not be held responsible.
 
Jim Geisinger, executive director of the Associated Oregon Loggers, said the loss of the timber was a big blow to nearby timber communities. He added he was disappointed that the judge would block the timber sales on state lands, when the murrelet's habitat needs were supposed to be satisfied entirely on federal lands.
 
Geisinger said the new policy should be preferable, because it prohibited any individuals of a protected species from being killed, while habitat conservation plans allowed some individuals to be killed incidentally.
 

Nov18

Lawsuit Blocks Elliott Logging

The World by Jessie Higgins
November 17, 2012

ELLIOTT STATE FOREST — The state has withdrawn more than 900 acres of planned Elliott State Forest timber sales, pending the outcome of an environmental lawsuit.

The Oregon Department of Forestry instead plans to open 465 acres of alternative logging sites not named in the lawsuit.

'It's certainly nowhere near what was proposed in the annual operating plan," said Kevin Weeks, a spokesman for the Forestry Department. As Elliott logging funds the Common School Fund, Weeks estimates the shift will cost the CSF $9.85 million in revenue in 2013.

The state had already suspended logging on about 800 acres of timberland slated to be clearcut in 2012, said Josh Laughlin, a spokesman for Cascadia Wildlands.

The environmental groups say deferred logging means another year of protection for the endangered marbled murrelet sea bird.

The lawsuit, filed in May by Cascadia Wildlands and several other environmental groups, alleges the state's logging practices violate the Endangered Species Act by killing the sea birds.

'All the current scientific information suggests the sea birds' population is continuing to plummet in this region," Laughlin said. 'Clear cutting of its nesting habitat is a factor. To us, that suggests that public agencies like the Department of Forestry should take stronger measures to ensure their survival."

The suit will be heard by a federal judge sometime next year, Laughlin said.

If the judge decides in favor of the environmental groups, the state would have to drastically adjust its forest management plan.

Cascadia Wildlands hopes the state will pursue a habitat conservation plan, which manages the forest as a whole, allowing logging in certain regions and preserving other regions as habitat for endangered species.

Such a plan must be approved by federal agencies, as it allows the state to log areas where endangered species live. The state managed the Elliott with a habitat conservation plan for years, but scrapped it in 2011 because the National Marine Fisheries Service would not approve the plan, saying it did not adequately protect Coho salmon.

Under the current forest management plan, all areas of the state forest are open to logging so long as no endangered species live in the immediate vicinity. Areas where murlets nest are protected from logging. The method is called 'take avoidance."

Cascadia Wildlands disapproves of this method because it fails to conserve uninterrupted habitat, instead creating a patchwork of logged and unlogged areas.

Reporter Jessie Higgins can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240, or jhiggins@theworldlink.com.

Jul09

Timber Firms Join Murrelet Lawsuit

July 9, 2012

The Eugene Register-Guard by Karen McCown 
 
A Eugene lumber company is among forest industry firms intervening in a lawsuit filed in federal court by environmental groups against Gov. John Kitz­haber and state land and forest management agencies.
 
U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken last week granted a request by Eugene-based Seneca Sawmill Co. and four other logging industry entities to join with state officials in defending the state’s plan to allow more logging in the Elliott, Tillamook and Clatsop state forests. All of the forests are in Oregon’s Coast Range.
 
The lawsuit by Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands and two other environmental groups alleges that additional logging would harm the habitat of the marbled murrelet, amounting to an illegal “taking” of the seabird in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
 
The seabird is federally listed as a threatened species. It lays its eggs on large, mossy branches of primarily old growth trees, according to the complaint filed by Eugene attorney Daniel Kruse and other lawyers.
 
State officials have said they have a “vigorous” forest management plan to protect the murrelet but voluntarily suspended logging on 10 timber sales in the coastal forests until Aiken rules on the environmentalists’ motion for an injunction against logging while the case is being argued.
 
The state protection plan for the birds includes designated buffer zones of protected forest ranging in size from 20 to several hundred acres where murrelet activity is detected. The plan also requires curtailed logging schedules during the birds’ April to September nesting period.
 
The industry groups are expected to help defend the state’s forest policy.
 
Besides Seneca, they include the Oregon Forest Industries Council, Douglas Timber Operators, Scott Timber Co. Inc. of Coquille and Hampton Tree Farms Inc. of Salem. The council represents more than 50 logging and wood products companies, including Seneca and Scott. Other area members of the group include Eugene-based Guistina Land and Timber Co., the Murphy Co. and Eagle’s View Management Co. Inc; Springfield-based Rosboro and Timber Products companies; Starfire Lumber Co. of Cottage Grove; Davidson Industries of Maple­ton; Hull-Oakes Lumber Co. of Monroe; Menasha Forest Products Corp. of North Bend; Plum Creek Timber Co. of Coos Bay and Elkton-­based Rocking C Ranch.
 
Seneca legal affairs director Dale Riddle said Friday that the company decided to intervene individually in the case because it bought one of the contracts that has now been halted, the Millicoma Lookout timber sale, from the Elliott State Forest in Coos County. Under its bid, the company will pay $372.75 per thousand board feet of Doublas fir logged within the 54-acre sale area.
 
A state Forestry Department bid notice described the tract as containing 102- to 145-year-old, second-growth Douglas fir, as well as some red alder and western hemlock. The agency’s biological survey report on the sale noted that it contains “potentially suitable habitat for marbled murrelets.” It also reported 54 sightings of the birds within the tract in 2008 and 41 sightings in 2009.
 
The intervenors have an interest in the case because they rely on timber sales from state and federal agencies and because the public lands case could set a precedent restricting their “use and management” of private lands for timber production, Roseburg attorney Dominic Carollo wrote in their motion to join the suit.
 
Seneca owns and manages about 165,000 acres of Oregon forestland, some located within 50 miles of the Oregon Coast and within the range of the marbled murrelet, Carollo wrote.

Jul02

State Suspends State Forest Timber Sales Subject to Federal Lawsuit   

July 2, 2012
KLCC by Rachael McDonald
 
The Oregon Department of Forestry has suspended operations on 10 timber sales. A lawsuit brought by conservation groups says the logging imperils a federally listed seabird.
 
Four conservation groups are suing Oregon to halt timber sales on the Elliot, Clatsop and Tillamook State Forests.
 
Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands says ODF's current methods are depleting habitat for the Marbled Murrelet, which nests in coastal forests.


 
Laughlin: "Their rampant clearcutting and chemical spraying program is continuing to push this species closer to the brink of extinction."
 

 
Laughlin says these methods are unlawful under the Endangered Species Act. He hopes Federal Judge Ann Aiken will agree. Laughlin says logging can be done in a more careful way so the murrelet's nesting sites are preserved.
 
Kevin Weeks is with ODF. He says the agency is preparing their defense of the lawsuit.
 

 
Weeks: "The Department of Forestry has adopted a rigorous set of wildlife management policies and procedures which include both extensive and intensive surveying for marbled murrelets and where we find those habitat areas extensive site protection measures."
 

 
Laughlin counters that the state leaves only postage-stamp size forest patches around the bird's habitat. The conservation groups have filed a preliminary injunction motion to keep the state from going forward with its logging plans. The hearing will take place in Portland Federal Court in the coming weeks.


 
To listen to the story, click here.
 

Jul02

Press Release: State of Oregon Suspends 10 State Forest Timber Sales in Marbled Murrelet Habitat

Marbled murrelet (USFWS)

For immediate release
July 2, 2012
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182      
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495      
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon Society, (503) 380-9728      
Tanya Sanerib, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2722      
 
State of Oregon Suspends 10 State Forest Timber Sales in Marbled Murrelet Habitat
Simultaneously, Conservation Groups File Injunction Request to Safeguard the Threatened Seabird During Lawsuit
 
PORTLAND, Ore.— The State of Oregon has suspended operations on 10 timber sales in marbled murrelet habitat one month after Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Audubon Society of Portland filed a lawsuit alleging the state’s logging practices in the Tillamook, Clatsop, and Elliott State Forests are illegally “taking” the imperiled seabird in violation of the Endangered Species Act.  To prevent additional murrelet habitat from being lost while the case works its way through the court system, the conservation groups filed an injunction request in federal court to halt sales and logging in the occupied murrelet habitat pending the outcome of the lawsuit.
      
The State agreed to suspend three timber sales and to hold off on auctioning three others to give the Court time to consider the preliminary injunction motion. Plaintiffs have also recognized the State has taken things a step further by removing at least four additional timber sales in murrelet habitat from the auction block that were scheduled to be sold in the near future.   
 
“We are pleased that the state has suspended clearcutting in murrelet habitat on its own accord while this portion of the case proceeds,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “We hope that Governor Kitzhaber will permanently abandon these illegal timber sales, prevent any others like them in the future, and begin acting within the law in managing our state forests.”
 
The Endangered Species Act prohibits actions that “take” threatened species. Take is broadly defined to include actions that kill, harm or injure protected species, including destruction of habitat. The injunction request presents evidence that logging in the three state forests is harming marbled murrelets by destroying their nesting habitat. The logging operations were either already underway or ready for auction.
 
“Oregon's irresponsible logging is driving the marbled murrelet to extinction,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director for the Center for Biological Diversity.  "We're asking the court to stop the worst of the state’s timber sales, and encouraging Governor Kitzhaber to initiate the development of scientifically-supported management plans for our coastal state forests.”
 
The injunction motion requests a halt to 11 timber sales, constituting 840 acres of proposed logging in the three forests as well as a halt to any future logging in occupied murrelet habitat pending the outcome of the case. The injunction is necessary because significant amounts of murrelet habitat could be lost while the case works its way through the court system.
 
“The suspension of the timber sales is an important interim measure while the litigation proceeds,” said Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Audubon Society of Portland. “However it is important for the public to realize that these and other sales in murrelet habitat are still at real risk of proceeding in the near future.”
 
The most recent status review of marbled murrelets by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the birds have been declining at a rate of approximately 4 percent per year and that this decline likely relates to continued loss of habitat, primarily on state and private lands.
 
 Oregon recently abandoned its decade-long attempt to develop habitat conservation plans (HCPs) for the three forests that would have given it a federal permit for limited impacts to marbled murrelets in exchange for habitat protection measures designed to enhance the bird's conservation. Rather than improving habitat protections, the state turned its back on murrelets and other listed species altogether by walking away from the HCP process. The lawsuit seeks to force the state to develop a plan that will protect murrelets and the mature forests on which the birds and other species depend.
 
The conservation organizations are represented by outside counsel Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib and Chris Winter of the Crag Law Center, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Scott Jerger of Field Jerger LLP, and Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.
 
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A copy of the preliminary injunction memo and motion can be found here, and more case background can be found here.

 

Jun14

Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director on TV Talking Wolf Pups

 

June 14, 2102
 
By Lauren Mickler KEZI
 
EUGENE, Ore. — The Cascadia Wildlands organization credits its lawsuit with helping Oregon's wolf population grow.
 
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had issued a kill order on this particular wolf pack after it attacked cattle. But Cascadia Wildlands filed a lawsuit to stop the killing of wolves here.
 
Now the pack has four new pups.
 
"The kill order that the state had would have left the alpha female and just one pup to survive the winter together–and that was patchy at best. But because of our lawsuit, the pack was able to stay in tact, and they have four brand new wolf pups," said Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director Nick Cady.
 
Cascadia Wildlands is still waiting for a judgment on its lawsuit.
 
Visit here to watch video

 

 

Jun12

Cascadia Sues to Protect Seabird

For immediate release
May 31, 2012
 
Contact:
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182      
Noah Greenwald, Center Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495      
Bob Sallinger, Portland Audubon Society, (503) 380-9728      
Tanya Sanerib, Crag Law Center, (503) 525-2722      
 
Lawsuit Filed to Protect Threatened Marbled Murrelets from Clearcutting in Oregon State Forests
 
Conservationists Call on Gov. John Kitzhaber to Develop Long-term, Sustainable Plan for the Forests
 
PORTLAND, Ore.- Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland filed a lawsuit today in federal court charging that the State of Oregon's clearcutting practices illegally harm threatened marbled murrelets within the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott state forests in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The conservation organizations are calling on Gov. John Kitzhaber to develop a plan for state forests that will adequately protect the rare seabirds that spend most of their lives on the ocean but come inland to nest and breed in mature and old-growth forests.
 
“The state of Oregon is out of touch with the values of Oregonians by ignoring the dire needs of species teetering on the brink of extinction, like marbled murrelets,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director of Cascadia Wildlands. “Governor Kitzhaber has to step up and call for the development of a long-term, science-based plan for these forests that doesn't result in an ongoing decline of the imperiled seabird.”  
 
The Endangered Species Act prohibits actions that “take” threatened and endangered species. Take is broadly defined to include actions that kill, harm or injure protected species, including destruction of habitat. The lawsuit presents evidence that logging on the three state forests, which cover nearly 600,000 acres within the range of the rare seabirds, are harming murrelets by destroying and fragmenting their nesting habitat. Although the state does survey for murrelets and establishes “reserves” where they are found, these reserves often do not include all of the habitat needed by the species, and the state still allows logging in the “protected” reserves. The state also surrounds the reserves with clearcuts, further degrading the value of the reserves to murrelets by making the trees more vulnerable to blowdowns during high winds and enabling increased access by nest predators such as jays and crows.  
 
“Logging on Oregon state forests threatens the survival of marbled murrelets and numerous other wildlife species,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state needs to do more to ensure that logging is done in a way that protects murrelets and other endangered species.”  
 
The most recent status review of marbled murrelets by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the birds have been declining at a rate of approximately 4 percent per year and that this decline likely relates to continued loss of habitat primarily on state and private lands. 
 
"Murrelets have been listed under the Endangered Species Act for two decades and during this time the State of Oregon has completely failed to implement the protections required under the Act. Instead, Oregon continues to perpetuate the unsustainable logging practices of the last century,” said Bob Sallinger of Portland Audubon Society. “Our organizations have worked for years to move the state towards more responsible logging practices, but with murrelet populations plummeting and no forward progress at the Department of Forestry we were left with no recourse but the courtroom.” 
 
Oregon recently abandoned its decade-long attempt to develop habitat conservation plans (HCPs) for the three forests that would have given it a federal permit for limited impacts to marbled murrelets in exchange for habitat protection measures designed to enhance the bird's conservation. Rather than improving habitat protections, the state turned its back on murrelets and other listed species altogether by walking away from the HCP process. The lawsuit seeks to force the state to develop a plan that will truly protect murrelets and the mature forests on which the birds and other species depend.
 
Revenue from clearcutting forests supports state forest management overhead and programs, as well as county and state services. Conservation groups have long encouraged the state to pursue other options for funding county operations and schools, and to generate revenue on state forests through innovative programs.
 
The conservation organizations are represented by outside counsel Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib of the Crag Law Center, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Scott Jerger of Field Jerger LLP, and Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center.
 
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