Legislature OKs land purchase to settle suit over owl

The News Tribune


Olympia, WA - Lawmakers have agreed to spend $2.7 million to buy 232 acres of Klickitat County timberland to settle a lawsuit over the nearly extinct northern spotted owl.

The money is part of the the $25 billion, two-year budget that the Legislature passed on Thursday.

SDS Lumber Co. sued the state Department of Natural Resources after department officials found an owl nest on the land and restricted logging on the parcel near Trout Lake.

State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland agreed to purchase the SDS property and settle the lawsuit more than a year ago, just before the state Supreme Court was scheduled to hear the case. But the settlement hinged on budgetary approval.

In May 2000, a Yakima County jury awarded SDS more than $2.2 million.

By the time of the settlement, interest on the award had increased the state's obligation to more than $3 million.

The Washington Environmental Council, a coalition of environmental groups, had opposed the settlement because leaders said it would set a precedent for similar claims in the future and undermine state wildlife protection efforts.

Susan Gordon: 253-597-8756

(Published 12:01AM, June 10th, 2003)


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