Cascadia Wildlands, Western Environmental Law Center and Oregon Wild announced today that the Trapper timber sale, the proposed logging of an old-growth forest in the McKenzie River watershed, was halted in district court.
The sale, which was slated to be logged by Seneca, also the controversial owners and operators of a biomass plan in Eugene, has been the subject of legal cases and of protests by Cascadia Forest Defenders for years.
Conservation groups and community members today hailed a district court decision that declared the Trapper timber sale illegal. The timber sale, located in the McKenzie River watershed, the source of Eugene’s drinking water, would have logged 155 acres of never-before-logged mature forest in the Blue River area of the Willamette National Forest.
Federal Judge Tom Coffin ruled that in approving the timber sale the U.S. Forest Service violated a basic federal environmental law. Judge Coffin wrote: “The public is entitled to be accurately informed of the impact of the proposed action on the [northern spotted owl] and to have a meaningful opportunity to weigh in on the proposal… [A]pproval of the Trapper Timber Sale were based on a factual inaccuracy and the public has yet to be informed of the actual findings.”
The Forest Service cannot move forward with logging until the agency makes a new decision that meets the requirements of the law.
“The McKenzie is Eugene's backyard recreation paradise and its old forests filter our drinking water and shelter all kinds of wildlife,” says Kate Ritley, Executive Director of Cascadia Wildlands. “This logging proposal was flawed from the start when it was first issued a decade ago, and it’s high time we left it in the past."
The Forest Service first proposed the timber sale in 1998 and has failed to address significant new information that has arisen since the agency issued a decision on the project in 2003. In the ten years since the project was planned, a pair of threatened northern spotted owls has taken up residence in the vicinity of the timber sale.
The court said the agency relied on a flawed analysis of impacts to endangered species and failed to respond to a scientific critique of the project.
“It is past time the Forest Service permanently cancel this outdated logging project,” says Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild. “The agency has a choice between logging mature and old-growth forests or identifying common-sense projects that thin young forests to benefit wildlife, protect the forest, and create jobs. It should be an easy choice.”
The Trapper timber sale has been the subject of controversy before. On two past occasions, Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild successfully challenged the species impacts opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). USFWS is the federal agency in charge of recovering endangered species and had illegally issued opinions that would have allowed the Trapper timber sale to proceed despite negative effects to threatened wildlife.
"The fight to protect the ancient forests and wildlife found in the Trapper timber sale has been a long and hard one, but today that diligence has finally paid off,” says Susan Jane Brown, attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center.
The groups believe the Forest Service should be spending limited taxpayer dollars on projects that restore degraded landscapes, like restoration thinning in tree plantations resulting from past clear-cutting, decommissioning harmful roads, and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat.
The organizations are represented by Susan Jane Brown of the Western Environmental Law Center and Dan Kruse of Cascadia Wildlands.
Have the popular efforts to preserve the section of Oregon's coastal rainforest known as the Devil's Staircase (aka Wasson Creek) gone off track?
Oregon Wild, one of the groups involved in the effort, has put out a video saying that Congressman Peter DeFazio and Sen. Ron Wyden have wandered off the trail and need some prodding to work to pass Wilderness legislation this year to protect the area.
For more information, check out Oregon Wild's petition.