Conservationists, Forest Service battle in court over logging issue

The Olympian


PORTLAND -- Lawyers for conservationists and the U.S. Forest Service argued before a federal judge Friday over how much work the agency needs to do to protect sensitive species living in old-growth timber slated for logging.
The Oregon Natural Resources Council and American Lands Alliance want U.S. District Judge Garr King to order a new environmental analysis on a group of timber sales on the Willamette National Forest near Oakridge, where environmentalists found nests of red tree voles that the Forest Service had missed.

Stephen Odell, representing the Forest Service, argued that the discovery was not significant enough to reopen the environmental analysis, especially because the agency removed trees where the nests were found from the logging.

Attorney Pete Frost, representing environmentalists, countered that the discovery of the nests was significant enough under the Northwest Forest Plan to reopen the process.

Environmentalists are hoping the lawsuit will persuade the Forest Service to turn to younger trees to meet timber harvest goals.

But the timber industry warns that the Northwest Forest Plan, adopted in 1994 to balance timber interests with the preservation of habitat for the northern spotted owl and salmon, will never meet its promised timber harvest without cutting small stands of old growth.

Judge King granted a preliminary injunction Aug. 1 stopping work on the Straw Devil, East Devil and Pryor timber sales, which cover about 300 acres outside Oakridge and were originally offered for sale in 1998.

A ruling is expected later this month.

When the Northwest Forest Plan went into effect, it put 81 percent of federal forests west of the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon and Northern California into reserves and promised an annual harvest of 1.1 billion board feet a year from the rest, said Robbie Robinson, president of Starfire Lumber Co. in Cottage Grove, which bought one of the sales.

"These kinds of sales have got to be part of it if they are ever going to reach the promise made by the federal government," Robinson said.

Doug Heiken of the Oregon Natural Resources Council said if the Forest Service does not want to do the expensive and time-consuming surveys for rare species dependent on old growth forests, there is plenty of thinning and other work to be done in younger stands that won't be challenged.

"I would hope they would do the right thing," said Heiken.

One of the sales, Straw Devil, has been occupied by tree-sitters living in platforms suspended high in the trees in hopes of preventing them from being cut.

The lawsuit alleges that while the sales are in an area designated for timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan, the Forest Service failed to adequately survey for old growth species such as the red tree vole, an important source of food for the threatened northern spotted owl.

Mature and old-growth timber account for 1.1 million acres of the 4.6 million acres where commercial logging is allowed on Northwest national forests. The mature timber and old growth on these lands amounts to 14 percent of the 8 million acres of mature and old growth trees on federal lands.


In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site