Ruling on the conservationists' motion to dismiss, Judge Lodge threw out Plum Creek's lawsuit, noting that Plum Creek could not invoke the power of a federal court to insulate its actions. The decision states that federal law explicitly allows citizens to participate in the implementation and enforcement of the Endangered Species Act, a right Plum Creek sought to deny. Judge Lodge wrote "...allowing Plum Creek to proceed with this action seems to run contrary to Congress' intent in enacting the ESA citizen suit provisions...."
"Plum Creek tried to pull a fast one and intimidate citizens who are just trying to bring a little balance to a massive logging plan stretching over three states," said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles. "Plum Creek's strategy backfired."
The HCP covers 1.6 million acres of Plum Creek land in Montana, Idaho, and Washington and promises to address the needs of bull trout, salmon, and steelhead -- all protected under the Endangered Species Act. In exchange, the timber giant received permits that allow the company to destroy critical habitat in the normal course of logging. The plan lasts for 30 years.
In his ruling, Judge Lodge also noted that "Trout Unlimited and Pacific [Rivers] (the two conservation groups targeted) attempted to proceed without litigation. The fact that Plum Creek has initiated this litigation in the face of such efforts runs contrary to the interests of justice."
"Plum Creek has no right to drive native species to extinction, and it tried to use the court to prevent citizens from protecting our fish," said Mary Scurlock of Pacific Rivers Council.
Earthjustice represented Trout Unlimited, Pacific Rivers Council, and Montana Council of Trout Unlimited in defending against the lawsuit.