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Court Blocks Federal Timber Sale to Protect Endangered Umpqua Cutthroat Trout

A federal court blocked a timber sale because it would log habitat for salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act and violate the rules established in the President's Northwest Forest Plan.
March 29, 1999
Seattle, WA —

A federal district court blocked a timber sale late last week because it would log habitat for salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act and violate the rules established in the President's Northwest Forest Plan.A federal district court blocked a timber sale late last week because it would log habitat for salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act and violate the rules established in the President's Northwest Forest Plan. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of several fishing and environmental organizations.

Glen Spain of lead plaintiff Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations remarked of the decision, "The government did not even follow its own rules that offer these fish some chance of survival. The court's decision gives commercial fishermen some hope that we may yet see the wise stewardship that is essential to our livelihood."

The timber sale, called the Little River DEMO, is a so-called "research project" in the Umpqua National Forest that would log 160 acres in large blocks that run through river corridors. It violated the safeguards for fish habitat established in the Northwest Forest Plan, but the Forest

Service sought to evade those rules by invoking an exemption for research projects. The court found that the exemption could not be stretched to apply to this sale.

The Forest Service also acknowledged that the sale would degrade aquatic habitat conditions in the logged drainages. The Forest Service had ignored those impacts because this sale alone will not cause significant degradation across the entire 100,000 acre watershed. The court held that the Forest Service's own rules do not allow it to ignore an individual sale's degradation of fish habitat.

This sale is one of two dozen that were blocked by the same court last year because the Forest Service had not ensured that fish habitat would be protected. After the earlier decision, the agency generated more paper but made no changes to the Umpqua River basin sales, most of which involve extensive clear-cutting of old growth forest.

A court decision on the other sales at issue in the case is expected next summer.

"This ruling may finally force the Forest Service to stop logging salmon habitat until the federal government lives up to its legal obligations and promises to protect threatened and endangered salmon," said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund attorney bringing the case.

The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund on behalf of several fishing and environmental organizations.

Glen Spain of lead plaintiff Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations remarked of the decision, "The government did not even follow its own rules that offer these fish some chance of survival. The court's decision gives commercial fishermen some hope that we may yet see the wise stewardship that is essential to our livelihood."

The timber sale, called the Little River DEMO, is a so-called "research project" in the Umpqua National Forest that would log 160 acres in large blocks that run through river corridors. It violated the safeguards for fish habitat established in the Northwest Forest Plan, but the Forest

Service sought to evade those rules by invoking an exemption for research projects. The court found that the exemption could not be stretched to apply to this sale.

The Forest Service also acknowledged that the sale would degrade aquatic habitat conditions in the logged drainages. The Forest Service had ignored those impacts because this sale alone will not cause significant degradation across the entire 100,000 acre watershed. The court held that the Forest Service's own rules do not allow it to ignore an individual sale's degradation of fish habitat.

This sale is one of two dozen that were blocked by the same court last year because the Forest Service had not ensured that fish habitat would be protected. After the earlier decision, the agency generated more paper but made no changes to the Umpqua River basin sales, most of which involve extensive clear-cutting of old growth forest.

A court decision on the other sales at issue in the case is expected next summer.

"This ruling may finally force the Forest Service to stop logging salmon habitat until the federal government lives up to its legal obligations and promises to protect threatened and endangered salmon," said Patti Goldman, the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund attorney bringing the case.

Contacts

Patti Goldman/Jan Hasselman, Earthjustice (206) 343-7340

Glen Spain, PCFFA: (541) 689-2000

Penny Lind, Umpqua Watersheds: (541) 672-7065

Doug Heiken, Oregon Natural Resources Council: (541) 344-0675

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