Conservationists Announce Imminent Court Challenge to Force Washington State to Comply with Forest Practice Act
On behalf of environmental organizations Northwest Ecosystem Alliance and the Pilchuck Audubon Society, attorneys Todd True of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund and Peter Goldman of Environmental Law Support Associates announced that they expect to file shortly a petition in Thurston County Superior Court charging that state forest practice rules are egregiously inadequate to protect Washington's salmon habitat, water quality, wildlife, private property and the recreational and scenic value of forest lands.
The State's regulation of the timber industry is a joke that stopped being funny when salmon runs began to disappear. When I go the woods these days, I see more mudslides than fish," said Mitch Friedman, Executive Director of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. Friedman explained, "we've waited and waited for the state to take some action, and frankly, the salmon and the streams can't wait any longer. It's a damn shame that we need a court challenge to get the state to comply with its own laws laws that require it to protect clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and recreational and scenic values."
According to evidence provided by independent scientists, current state forestry rules allow timber harvesting practices that jeopardize fish and wildlife, water quality, and private and public property. The conservation groups are asking the court to set aside these inadequate rules and order the Department of Natural Resources to immediately adopt new regulations that actually protect water quality, fish and wildlife, and other public resources.
"Thousands of miles of once-pristine streams and hundreds of acres of land and private property have been seriously damaged by irresponsible logging practices allowed by the current forest practice rules. The tiny improvements in the rules that were adopted as an emergency response to the endangered species listings of steelhead and other salmon are like giving a band-aid to someone bleeding to death," said Dave Ward, Executive Director of Pilchuck Audubon Society. "And even then, the timber industry attacked the emergency rules as too restrictive," he added. "If we wait for the state and the timber industry to do something, the salmon will be long gone," Ward concluded.
For the past two years, environmental groups have worked with state, federal, county, and tribal representatives as part of the Timber, Fish and Wildlife negotiations, aimed at improving our state's forest practice rules. Despite tremendous investments of time and effort, the negotiation process failed to produce meaningful agreements for protecting salmon, water quality and the environment.
"The timber industry and its allies put up roadblocks every step of the way. Their strategy of delay and court challenges to protect the status quo is aimed at preserving business-as-usual logging operations, not clean water and fish," stated Todd True. "Since all other avenues have failed, environmental organizations feel they can't wait any longer. We have to turn to the courts to protect the resources because the state has failed to follow the law."