by the Coos Bay World
COOS BAY — The new owners of a controversial tract of South Coast forest land auctioned off this spring may face new obstacles to harvesting its timber.
Coast Range Forest Watch, an environmentalist group that conducts marbled murrelet surveys in the Elliott State Forest, says it’s recently detected murrelet nesting behavior in the East Hakki Ridge parcel.
The parcel was recently auctioned off to Eugene-based Seneca Jones Timber.
The Department of State Lands cited the declining value of the state’s Common School Fund, fed by timber proceeds from the Elliott, as its motivation for the sales.
Forest Watch volunteer Amanda St. Martin said that in order to determine marbled murrelet nesting behavior, surveyors need to witness murrelets flying at or below canopy height in that area.
She said that May 13 and 14, volunteers saw just that.
“Two surveyors on two separate days saw them flying below canopy height,” St. Martin said. “That’s a pretty good indication that they need that area to nest or to get to their nest.”
Logging in identified marbled murrelet habitat in the Elliott was barred in 2012 under a federal district court injunction.
But East Hakki Ridge wasn’t covered by that injunction because it had never been surveyed for murrelet nesting activity.
St. Martin said the group is trying to change that.
“We have already submitted the data to Oregon Department of Forestry, Fish and Wildlife and the Department of State Lands,” she said.
The East Hakki Ridge is already the subject of a lawsuit filed by Cascadia Wildlands, the Portland Audubon Society and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The groups are seeking to have the parcel’s sale to Seneca Jones blocked on the grounds that state law prohibits the sale of state forest lands originally belonging to the federal government.