The Register-Guard by Diane Dietz
January 16, 2015
January 16, 2015
A pair of environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court on Thursday to halt a series of clear-cut-style timber harvests totaling 259 acres on federal land along Shotgun Creek, about 25 miles north of Springfield.
Seneca Sawmill Co. in Eugene bought the timber for $4.2 million in December from the federal Bureau of Land Management and got the green light to begin logging preparations this winter, the agency said.
The project is a step toward the bad old days of large-scale clear-cuts on public land, said Nick Cady, legal director for Cascadia Wildlands. “This time they are only leaving two trees per acre. It’s going to look like private land clear-cutting in Oregon,” he said.
Environmental nonprofits Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, with 22,000 members between them, are seeking an injunction from a federal judge in Eugene.
BLM spokeswoman Jennifer Velez declined comment on the lawsuit.
The suit comes as logging proponents advocate for clear-cutting on federal lands as an essential tool for meeting increased demand for lumber as the homebuilding sector recovers nationally.
Velez said the sale — called Second Show — would keep some trees, some in groups, some dispersed, on the logged terrain. The logging would be done on roughly a dozen tracts, all near each other but with some strips of forest left between them.
The cuts “will appear as ‘skips’ and ‘gaps’ on the landscape with scatterings of individual trees and small groupings of trees throughout,” she said in an email.
But the environmental groups say that the Second Show’s extensive logging and road building would damage quality and be hard on salmon, including spring chinook.
Shotgun Creek flows into the Mohawk River, which pours into the McKenzie River — and then into the Willamette.
“This is a drinking water supply,” Cady said. “It’s a watershed that runs directly into Springfield. We haven’t seen large scale logging on public lands right next to a community the size of Springfield in a really long time.”
The environmental groups are asking the court to halt the Second Show because the BLM failed to account for the cumulative effects of logging in the watershed and failed to account for the environmental groups’ objections in the environmental approval process.
About one-quarter of the Mohawk watershed is publicly owned BLM land, and the remainder is mostly owned and used as industrial timberlands, according to the lawsuit.
“The Mohawk watershed is already degraded by private land logging. It’s already classified as ‘not properly functioning,’ which is the lowest classification for watershed health,” Cady said.
The BLM failed to analyze the cumulative impact of another logging sale — for 1,500 acres for commercial thinning — nearby, the lawsuit said.
“Federal agencies cannot evaluate projects in a vacuum,” the lawsuit said. “They must take into account the additive impact to the surrounding community based upon current ongoing or proposed projects.”
That requires that the BLM produce an environmental impact statement that includes input from the National Marine Fisheries Service, Cady said.
The lawsuit also contends that the BLM failed to evaluate the environmental groups’ objections, because the agency improperly ruled that the groups missed the deadline for submission.
The groups mailed their objections in a certified letter with days to spare, Cady said, but agency officials weren’t available to receive the letter until after the deadline. Agency rules require the BLM to accept the postmark date as the time of submission, according to the lawsuit.