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“It is past time the Forest Service permanently cancel this outdated logging project,” says Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild.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.
Instead of the usual wolf news updates about Oregon Fish and Wildlife's authorizations to shoot members of Oregon's slowly returning wolf population, this week ODFW has sent out a baby announcement.
The Imnaha pack in Eastern Oregon has at least four new pups whose images were captured by a motion-triggered camera. The pups were likely born in April, and began leaving their den in June, ODFW says.
The good news is that no one has shot Mama Wolf (aka wolf B-300), despite the permits that authorize ranchers to shoot collared wolves — Mama, Papa and two other pack members wear radio collars courtesy of ODFW to track their movements — the bad news is that Papa Wolf has not been heard from or seen in weeks.
Local conservation group and wolf advocates Cascadia Wildlands reacted to the puppy news with words of caution.
"This is exciting news for the budding gray wolf population in Oregon. Yet it remains essential there is increased public awareness about how to best reduce wolf-livestock conflict in the backcountry which will greatly decrease future lethal control of wolves," said Josh Laughlin.
Wolf advocates say that wolf-human conflicts, like the attacks on livestock that prompted ODFW's wolf killing permit, could be greatly reduced by taking actions like not burying dead livestock, which attracts wolves; not allowing cows to give birth in known wolf territories; and using non-lethal deterrents like fladry (flagging) and livestock guard dogs; and ranger rider programs, where watchers on horseback keep an eye on wolf packs near cattle to deter any conflict.
For more cute and cuddly wolf pack photos, go here.
Eugene's Civil Liberties Defense Center reports this morning that out that the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in its favor and has found the "Interference with Agricultural Operations" statute unconstitutional under the Oregon Constitution's Equal Protection clause.
The ag-ops charge, also called the the â€œEarth First! law,â€ is a controversial charge that opponents say targets logging protesters in violation of the First Amendment. Working on the case were CLDC director Lauren Reagan, Misha Dunlap English and Kenneth Kreushner.
This case began five years ago when Regan represented an environmentalist arrested for protesting the Biscuit timber sale in Curry County. Regan argued that that the agricultural operations law violated Oregonâ€™s constitution. The judge agreed, ruling that an exception in the statute â€œmakes it inapplicable to an individual involved in a labor dispute. What that exception has done is make the determination of what is illegal conduct based on the content of what the individual has to say when disrupting an agricultural operation. This violates the Equal Protection clause of the United States Constitution.â€
The state then appealed the decision, and the CLDC has won that appeal.
Recently 27 protesters were arrested and charged with this "ag-ops" charge, while protesting logging in the Elliot State Forest.
For the court's decision, go here.
In other good news on the environmental activism front, Cascadia Wildlands reports this morning that the Devil's Staircase Wilderness Bill passed out of the House Natural Resources committee on a party line vote this morning. Earlier this month it also passed through a Senate subcommittee with support from the BLM and the Forest Service.
The bill, H.R. 2888, is sponsored by Rep. Peter DeFazio and Rep. Kurt Schrader, as is another bill that made it through the committee this morning â€” one that would protect the Molalla as a Wild & Scenic River.
According to Oregon Wild, one of the many groups supporting the bill, wilderness protection would give the area located west of Eugene in the Wasson Creek area of the Coast Range, the highest possible federal protection.
A full House vote on the two bills is expected soon, according to Oregon Wild.