Several groups file lawsuits challenging logging plan.
Less than a month after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management finalized its new plan to increase logging on Western Oregon forests, the lawsuits have begun.
Two environmental coalitions filed lawsuits Thursday saying an increased harvest will put drinking water at risk and fail to adequately protect species threatened with extinction. That comes two weeks after the timber industry filed its own suit, on Jan. 2, asserting that BLM's new strategy doesn't cut enough trees.
The BLM finalized its plan to triple the harvest on 2.2 million acres of forests with a decision signed Dec. 31. That change in land management was prompted by a timber industry lawsuit, which the Bush administration settled in 2003 with a promise to increase the harvest. The American Forest Resource Council filed that suit based on a 1937 law that directs the BLM to manage the land for timber production for the financial benefit of counties where the land is located.
Since 1994, the Northwest Forest Plan has guided logging on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest with the goal of protecting species threatened with extinction.
In its new lawsuit, the American Forest Resources Council alleges that the BLM land can sustainably deliver much more than the 502 million board feet a year that the agency estimates will be harvested.
"The O&C Act requires that these lands be managed according to sustained yield principles and what that means to foresters is every year you cut approximately the amount that's grown," said Ann Forest Burns, vice president of the resource council.
Meanwhile, 15 conservation, fisheries and recreation organizations have filed two lawsuits alleging that the plan, known as the Western Oregon Plan Revision or WOPR, will threaten drinking water sources for millions of Oregon residents, and harm salmon and other species at risk of extinction.
The McKenzie Flyfishers, which joined the Pacific Rivers Council in filing one of the suits, is a local club that promotes the sport of fly fishing and rarely finds itself suing federal agencies, said Jeff DeVore, the club's conservation co-chairman.
But the club has grown increasingly troubled about the proposal and its impact on fish as it learns more about the plan, DeVore said.
"We've gone on record saying they aren't listening to the peer reviews and the other scientists who are saying all the things that can really go wrong" with the increase in logging, DeVore said.
The other suit was filed by 13 organizations, including Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project and the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
The plan abandons key protections for the last best spawning and rearing habitats for salmon on public lands, said Glen Spain of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations.
The lawsuits weren't exactly unexpected, said BLM spokesman Michael Campbell. Many of the same groups filed suits against the agency when the annual cut was much lower.
"In the end we have a pretty complex set of processes and procedures to go through for a timber sale, and we make an effort to meet all of our obligations," he said. "We plan on moving forward with implementation until we're directed differently by the courts."
Here's an excerpt of the 1937 act describing how BLM's Western Oregon forests should be managed:
U.S. Code: Lands valuable for timber shall be managed ... for permanent forest production, and the timber thereon shall be sold, cut and removed in conformity with the principle of sustained yield for the purpose of providing a permanent source of timber supply, protecting watersheds, regulating stream flow, and contributing to the economic stability of local communities and industries, and providing recreational facilities.
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|Title Annotation:||City/Region; Environmental coalitions claim more logging will harm drinking water and species|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Jan 16, 2009|
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