For Immediate Release
August 17, 2020
Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild File Legal Challenge Against the Thurston Hills Timber Sale
Litigation comes as BLM refuses to alter timber sale despite Court rebuke for wildfire risk and logging proposed trail system
Springfield, OR | — In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) rejected administrative protests and decided to move forward with the Thurston Hills timber sale despite widespread opposition to the project. Last year on September 19th 2019, Oregon’s federal District Court rejected the Thurston Hills timber sale due to BLM’s failure to disclose increased wildfire danger for nearby communities and residents, and the BLM’s failure to designate and protect trails in this newly designated recreation area. In response to the court order, BLM made no changes to the project and quickly reissued another decision, a response typical of the Trump administration which ignores the rule of law and attempts to circumvent environmental rules and public process.
“There is simply no rational reason to log this area. It is already sensitive to wildfire, and it is a designated recreation area, specifically set aside for the proposed trails. The trail building is not tied to the logging in any way, the BLM should just build these trails now,” said Nick Cady, Legal Director of Cascadia Wildlands.
“Parts of this forest have never been logged and they deserve to be protected.” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild. “Proceeding with the Thurston Hills project, in defiance of a court order, is an extension of the Trump administration’s contempt for the rule of law, and disregard for anyone that is not a campaign donor or political crony.”
With 79th Street in Springfield on one side and newly constructed trails on the other, this BLM parcel is among the the closest federal forest land to the Springfield-Eugene urban area and an invaluable recreation area for local residents. The timber sale would result in extensive “regeneration harvest” (all but clear-cutting) of 109 acres of forest immediately adjacent to Willamalane’s recently opened 655-acre Thurston Hills Natural Area and near numerous residences who access their homes along the same road where logging will occur.
“As a 20-year resident of Thurston Hills, I deeply oppose the Thurston Hills timber sale primarily due to the associated wildfire dangers,” said Ronna Frank, who lives on 71st Street blocks from the proposed logging. “My friends and neighbors tried to raise these issues to the BLM, and they said it was our problem and completely dismissed us. I could not believe it. These forests have been our backyards for decades.”
“The lack of notice is troubling,” said Amy Sherwood, a Thurston Hills resident and small business owner. “Throughout this entire process, the BLM and Seneca have shown a detached indifference for the rights and concerns of landowners and community members.”
This project will increase wildfire danger to the adjoining Springfield residences, and convert the area into a permanent commercial tree farm for repeated logging. Not only is this project a threat to community safety, but would also have dramatic impacts on recreation. The BLM has designated areas for trails, but plans to log directly over them, likely preventing the area from becoming the regional running and mountain biking destination that was envisioned and planned for by the cities of Springfield and Eugene.
“Mountain biking trails near Eugene and Springfield are pretty limited. We were really excited to get new, natural single-track trails through mature forests in Thurston Hills, it allows us to get some really fun riding in on a weekday or weekend. ” said Ian Petersen, local mountain biker and owner of Map Your Adventure. “My business is making maps of popular, regional climbs, rides, and runs. Mature forests slow erosion during the rainy months and provide shade when it’s hot. If the area is logged, the trails will have to be graveled to stop erosion in the winter, and the sun will fry riders like a couple eggs come summer. Gravel trails are much less fun to ride than the dirt trails that are currently in Thurston. No one will be excited about more hot, gravel logging roads through stump fields, plenty of that already over in Bend.”
Many public officials have voiced their opposition to this project, including Lane County Commissioners Joe Berney, and Pete Sorenson.
“I oppose the Thurston Hills timber sale as it stands because it puts community members at increased risk of wildfire unnecessarily,” said Sorenson in a statement. “This is the closest federal land to the Eugene/Springfield area and as such should be preserved for community resilience and recreation, not cut down for timber revenue.”
Cascadia Wildlands is a Eugene-based nonprofit working to defend and restore Cascadia’s wild ecosystems in the forests, in the courts, and in the streets.
Oregon Wild works to protect and restore Oregon’s wildlands, wildlife and waters as an enduring legacy for future generations.
The battle to save this public land continues!
Read the legal complaint here.