Posts Tagged ‘lawsuit’


Lawsuit Launched to Protect Northwest Prairie Bird Species

For Immediate Release, August 5, 2015
Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463,
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495,
Lawsuit Launched to Gain Stronger Protections for Northwest Bird
Gaping Loophole in Federal Protection Exempts Farming, Spraying, Airport Activities Harmful to Streaked Horned Larks in Oregon, Washington
Photo courtesy of US Fish and WildlifePORTLAND, Ore.— Four conservation groups filed a formal notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today seeking to strengthen protections for the streaked horned lark, which has lost 98 percent its grassland habitat. The lawsuit will challenge an October 2013 decision by the agency to protect the lark as “threatened” rather than the more protective “endangered” status and to exempt all agriculture, chemical spraying, and airport activities from the prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act regardless of whether they harm the lark.  
“Protecting the streaked horned lark under the Endangered Species Act means nothing if all of its threats are exempted from protection,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The lark exemption creates a loophole big enough for a combine or a 747. It seriously threatens the survival of these handsome, horned songbirds.”
Formerly a common nesting species in prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from southern British Columbia through Washington and Oregon, the lark was so abundant around Puget Sound that it was considered a nuisance by turn-of-the-century golfers. The widespread destruction of its grassland habitats, however, caused cataclysmic population declines. It has been extirpated from the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, Oregon’s Rogue Valley and Canada. In Washington it currently breeds at only 10 sites, including Grays Harbor, Fort Lewis, the Olympia airport and islands in the Lower Columbia River. In Oregon it breeds in the lower Columbia River and Willamette Valley, including at the Portland, Salem, Corvallis, McMinnville and Eugene airports.
“The streaked horned lark is already gone from many of the places it used to call home and is continuing to decline,” said Andrew Hawley. “If the lark is going to have any chance at survival, it needs the full protections of the Endangered Species Act.”
The streaked horned lark is a small, ground-dwelling songbird with conspicuous feather tufts, or “horns,” on its head. Its back is heavily streaked with black, contrasting sharply with its ruddy nape and yellow underparts. They are part of a growing list of species that are imperiled by loss of prairies in the Willamette Valley and Puget Trough to urban and agricultural sprawl, including the Fender's blue butterfly, Taylor's checkerspot butterfly, Willamette daisy, Kincaid's lupine and others.  
“Many people don't even know that prairies were once a common feature in both the Willamette Valley and Puget Sound,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director with Cascadia Wildlands. “If we save the lark, we are protecting an important part of the Northwest's natural heritage.”
The groups on the lawsuit are the Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Northwest Environmental Defense Center, and Oregon Wild.  
Find a copy of the Notice of Intent here.



Wolf Tracks

Willamette Week by Aaron Mesh
May 27, 2015
Nick Cady is thrilled to see the return of gray wolves to Oregon’s Cascade Range. He celebrated when the wolf dubbed OR-7 was spotted south of Crater Lake in 2011, more than 60 years after hunters wiped out the species from the state.
But even as wolves return to Oregon’s southwestern mountains, Cady fears the U.S. Forest Service will authorize logging and road building that could cut off the wolves’ range.
“Federal agencies are supposed to lay out how projects will impact species,” Cady says. “What we’ve seen with wolves is they say, ‘Oh, it won’t impact them at all.’ I don’t think that is true.”
This spring, Cady’s environmental nonprofit, Cascadia Wildlands, filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking all Forest Service plans for protecting wolves while selling off timber and building roads in Oregon and Washington’s national forests. Two months later, the agency hasn’t given him a single document.
So Cady’s group has gone to court, suing the Forest Service in U.S. District Court on May 20 for its failure to respond to Cascadia Wildlands’ records request.
Lawsuits accusing government agencies of violating the FOIA have become a reliable tool for environmental groups trying to watchdog public officials.
Cascadia Wildlands’ suit is the 10th lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for Oregon in the past decade by an environmental group seeking to force the release of public records. It’s the second in less than a month. On April 29, the Northwest Environmental Defense Center in Portland sued to see water-quality records from the Columbia Generating Station in Hanford, Wash.
Cascadia Wildlands says it filed the records request March 12, seeking communications between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The suit says Cascadia Wildlands then wrote letters in April and May offering to let the Forest Service release the documents gradually.
The Forest Service responded in May by saying it needed more time to review the request, because it had 20 other records requests ahead of Wildlands’.
Glen Sachet, a spokesman for the Forest Service’s Portland office, declined comment to WW on pending litigation.
Oregon officials estimate 77 wolves live in the state, but just seven of them are in the western half of the state. The largest Cascade Range wolf pack, called the Rogue Pack, includes OR-7, his mate and three pups.
Cady fears that commercial logging could disrupt the wolves’ range, expose them to cars and change the behavior of deer and elk, making it harder for wolves to find food. The group also says building new timber roads makes it easier for hunters to get deep into the wilderness and set wolf traps.
He says his group wants assurances from the Forest Service that the agency’s plans take into account protections for the Rogue Pack and the next generation of Oregon wolves.
“We just hope they’re taking a hard look at the science before proceeding with irretrievable resource damage and road construction,” Cady says. “They might have taken a good, hard look at this. But I don’t think that’s the case. We’ll find out.”
A copy of the complaint can be found here.

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: The Abuse of “Ecological Forestry” on our Public Lands in Western Oregon

By Nick Cady, Legal Director
The conservation community in the Northwest was incredibly excited by Cascadia’s legal victory over the White Castle timber sale.  Not just because of the couple hundred acres of old growth forest that were saved from clearcutting, but because of the potentially important precedent the case set concerning logging old forest to create so-called early seral habitat.
A little background.  Early seral habitat is the agency name for habitat that is mostly brush and shrubs, ideal habitat for deer, elk and some bird species, and ideally is created after fires have burn through forested areas.  True early-seral habitat is somewhat lacking on the landscape because the feds for decades have suppressed fires, and even when there is a fire, the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will “salvage log”  the areas and replant conifer trees, quickly taking away any early-seral habitat value.
Given this pattern of post-fire salvage logging, folks at Cascadia were initially surprised and suspicious to hear about Forest Service and BLM plans to create early-seral habitat through commercial logging.  The agency plan was to create this early-seral habitat by logging middle-aged plantations. 

Typical Young Conifer Plantation

These conifer plantations are 40 to 80 year old forests created from previous clearcutting, pesticide spraying, and dense replanting.  The logging would essentially create large meadow-like openings between clumps of reserved forests.  These reserves would contain the biggest trees in the stand, and areas with unique composition, for example a pocket of western red cedar or large hardwoods.  30% of the project area would be reserved from harvest in these clumps, and there would also be large, green trees, 12 to 18 per acre, distributed across the openings to provide connectivity for wildlife.  The logging concept was called ecological forestry or variable retention harvest (VRH).
Folks at Cascadia were skeptical, but not overly concerned because this prescription seemed genuinely aimed at restoring diversity back into these plantations.  Left alone, these middle aged plantations currently provide little to no habitat value for the Northwest’s struggling older forest species, and posed a severe fire risk given the density of these young conifer trees.
buck rising white castle

BLM’s Version of VRH Implemented in the Buck Rising Sale

However, when the timber industry and Bureau of Land Management got a hold of this idea to create early-seral habitat it quickly morphed into an “ecological” excuse to clearcut older forest.  We began seeing dozens of proposed timber sales aimed at converting older mature forest, not young plantations, into early-seral habitat.  The proposed reserves quickly were replaced by already existing buffers in place for imperiled species and around waterways, and the dispersed green tree retention across the logged areas was eliminated.  It was readily apparent that this novel approach had been high-jacked; it had become an ecological justification for clearcutting.  This was a very dangerous idea, because it could arguably be used in existing protected areas and owl habitat.
The White Castle timber sale, located in the South Umpqua watershed on the Roseburg BLM district, was the worst of the worst of these early-seral creation projects we had seen.  The sale targeted a one hundred year old-plus forests that had never before been logged. It was also designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl and hosted a healthy population of the red tree vole, a food source of the northern spotted owl.  Forest activists with Cascadia Forest Defenders had occupied the stand to prevent the clearcutting, and Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild readied a legal challenge.  We were cautiously optimistic that the judge would recognize how abused this concept to create early-seral forest from plantations had become.  
Just over a month ago, the ruling came down, and the Court sided with us on all counts, harping on the fact that this “ecological forestry” was designed for young stands and not older forest.  The Northwest has limited older forest left on the landscape, so sacrificing older forest to create early-seral forest does not make sense.  It was the epitome of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
This victory threw a major wrench in a number of other “ecological forestry” projects being planned by the Forest Service and BLM, especially the projects slated for older forests. 
Cool Soda Map

Map of the Cool Soda Project and Age Classes

Cool Soda was one of these projects on the Sweet Home Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest.  The project was fairly large, over thousands of acres, and was part of a collaborative process between private timber owners, the Willamette National Forest and conservation groups and other stakeholders trying to get at restoration needs on the landscape across a “checkerboard” ownership.
The final proposal mostly involved commercial thinning in young plantations to restore ecological diversity while generating timber volume.  However, a small portion of the project involved heavy thinning and “ecological forestry” in native, never-logged forests over 120 years old.  We objected to the project because of these older forest units, and met with the Forest Service staff to attempt to resolve our differences over the project.  
Due to the weight of the White Castle decision and the understanding of the Forest Service, we were able to eliminate the older forest units from the final decision without resorting to litigation.  We were able to save all parties’ time and resources and end up with a project that would have a myriad ofbenefits, including restoring diversity into dense young plantations, replacing failed culverts that were impacting aquatic health, and generating timber volume for the local mills.
We are hopeful that moving forward the Forest Service and BLM will honor the original intent of creating early-seral habitat and abandon futile attempts at masking mature forest timber grabs as “ecological” projects.



Cascadia Wildlands Defeats White Castle Clearcutting in Court

Press Release: March 17, 2015

Contact: Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746

Judge Rejects "Eco-Forestry" Clearcutting on O&C Lands

Controversial "variable retention regeneration harvest" clearcuts in White Castle timber sale declared illegal; conservationists win on all counts.

A US District Court judge has ruled in favor of white castle treesconservation groups Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands in their legal challenge of a controversial clearcut logging project on public lands in Douglas County. At stake in the case was the Bureau of Land Management’s “White Castle” logging project which proposed clearcutting 160 aces of 100-year old trees using a controversial methodology developed by Drs. Jerry Franklin and Norm Johnson referred to as “variable retention regeneration harvest” sometimes referred to as “eco-forestry.” In her ruling, Judge Ann Aiken found that the BLM’s environmental review fell far short of fully considering the full range of harm that could result from clearcutting.

“This ruling proves that BLM can’t just re-name a clearcut something else and then expect it to suddenly be acceptable,” said Sean Stevens, Executive Director of Oregon Wild. “The White Castle timber sale was a test to see if eco-forest clearcutting could pass legal muster or public scrutiny, and it failed.”

Attorney Jennifer Schwartz argued on behalf of the conservation plaintiffs and repeatedly highlighted the scientific dispute surrounding the project and “variable retention harvest,” especially its implementation in older forests and spotted owl critical habitat. The Court ultimately determined that “The [spotted owl’s] Recovery Plan, the [spotted owl’s] critical habitat proposal, comments from the public and scientists, and Franklin and Johnson's own reports demonstrated the existence of ‘a substantial dispute’ casting ‘serious doubt upon the reasonableness’ of BLM's decision to harvest forest stands over 80 years old.”

By the BLM’s own admission, the White Castle sale was intended as a prototype for greatly expanding clearcutting on other BLM O&C lands, a factor that weighed heavily in the judge’s ruling. The judge found the precedential nature of the project worthy of greater scrutiny: “Project materials describe the pilot projects as test of new harvest methods and ‘new policies’ that could supplant BLM's current ‘risk-adverse strategy’ of avoiding regeneration harvesting and other ‘active management’ methods.[] Approval of the White Castle Project will not have binding impact on future projects, but it will, by design, shape BLM forestry methods and strategies moving forward.

“The scariest part of this project was its potential to set the tone for logging across 2 million acres of Western Oregon BLM,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The project was mired in scientific uncertainty and was the obvious result of political pressure to bail out county politicians by returning clearcutting to our public forests. I hope this ruling convinces the BLM to revisit its intentions for our public lands.”

The proposed timber sale lies within publicly-owned forest in the South Myrtle Creek watershed, near the community of Canyonville. The Roseburg BLM District proposed the controversial “eco-forestry” logging method as justification to clearcut over 187 acres, including 160 acres of trees over a century old.

Bulldozing roads and other destructive activities associated with the project would also have targeted additional trees over 150 years old. Federal biologists with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have acknowledged nearly 200 acres of habitat for threatened wildlife would be damaged or destroyed by the logging. In her ruling, the judge found the likely effects of this clearcutting to require the BLM to conduct a much more rigorous environmental analysis than they have done thus far.

buck rising white castleDespite the fact that BLM has been largely meeting its timber targets for the last 15 years, primarily through non-controversial thinning of young forests, the agency has recently pursued more controversial projects as a way to increase logging. BLM claimed that clearcutting the White Castle forest would benefit the environment by removing mature trees in order to favor shrubs and brush, even though such habitat is not rare like old forest. As part of the same planning process, Roseburg BLM carried out a similar and related clearcutting project in younger forests, known as Buck Rising. Conservationists did not challenge the Buck Rising project in court but they were not pleased with the results.

“BLM claims that since they intend to retain a few patches of standing trees , it isn't really a clearcut,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild . “Anyone who has seen the aftermath of logging at Buck Rising would have a difficult time explaining the difference between acres of stumps and rutted earth created by eco-forestry and those created by old style clearcutting.”


A copy of the legal decision can be found here.

Photos of the White Castle forest can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)

Photos from the BLM's Buck Rising clearcuts can be found here. (please credit to Francis Eatherington)


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.

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


Press Release: Settlement Reached in Wolf Legal Fight

May 24, 2013
Rob Klavins, Wildlife Advocate, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 210,
Steve Pedery, Conservation Director, Oregon Wild, (503) 283-6343 ext. 212,
Nick Cady, Legal Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746,
Josh Laughlin, Campaign Director, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 844-8182
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.



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.

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


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.
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