Timber lawsuit plaintiffs respond to court ruling
Court Requires Assessment of Significant Environmental Harm
EUGENE - United States District Court Judge Anne Aiken has found that the United States Forest Service broke the law in seeking to carry out the controversial Goose logging sale near McKenzie Bridge, Oregon, without a detailed analysis of potential environmental damage. This logging sale has drawn intense opposition from local residents and landowners concerned about harm to wildlife and nearby streams. Represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, the conservation organizations Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands filed a legal challenge against the planned logging in 2012.
"The Judge's decision that the Goose logging sale is illegal is vindication for the concerns of local residents and conservationists," said attorney Susan Jane Brown of Western Environmental Law Center. "The McKenzie River and surrounding forests is too important to our community, and to the people of Oregon, to allow this kind of unwise logging project to go forward."
The judge found that the Forest Service failed to properly analyze the impacts of the 2,100-acre logging project-an area the size of 2000 football fields. Potential environmental harm includes damage to the 9,700-acre Lookout Mountain Potential Wilderness Area above McKenzie Bridge, and logging within protected stream buffers and sensitive species habitat.
The legal ruling comes on the heels of passionate opposition by members of the local community. Many residents of the McKenzie Bridge area believe they weren't properly notified about the project with some only hearing about it once timber sale flagging was put up adjacent to their properties. Residents have collected nearly 5,000 signatures opposing the logging project.
"We are not opposed to all logging," said Doug Heiken, Conservation and Restoration Coordinator with Oregon Wild. "But the Forest Service has a responsibility to the American people to ensure that projects like this don't damage fish and wildlife habitat or pollute streams that provide drinking water to our communities. With the Goose logging project, the Forest Service was clearly on the wrong track."
The judge also found that the agency failed to fully consider the harm logging in the area could have on threatened wildlife like the northern spotted owl.
"While there are some restorative components to this project such as thinning in dense young stands, the Forest Service chose to pair them with aggressive logging in mature forest near streams, threatened species habitat, and within a potential wilderness area," says Josh Laughlin with Cascadia Wildlands. "It is imperative the Forest Service focus on restoring what has been damaged by past mismanagement and abuse, and move away from controversial projects that make conditions worse in the forest."
Conservation groups believe the Forest Service should instead be spending limited taxpayer dollars on projects that restore degraded landscapes, like restoration thinning in young tree plantations formed by past clearcutting, decommissioning harmful roads, and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. While the Forest Service did analyze an alternative in the Goose project that focused on restoration thinning in young plantations that the organizations supported, the agency instead chose to adopt the much more controversial alternative.
The organizations are represented by attorneys Susan Jane Brown and John Mellgren at Western Environmental Law Center.
McKenzie River Reflections