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Activists file Klamath Marsh Refuge suit

Published Jan. 21, 2004


Environmental groups filed suit Tuesday seeking more scrutiny of activities such as logging, haying and livestock grazing on the Klamath Marsh National Wildlife Refuge.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Portland claims the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is involved with "destructive commercial development," according to a press release by the Oregon Natural Resources Council.

The groups asked a judge to halt most logging, hay mowing and cattle grazing on the refuge until the Fish and Wildlife Service considers the impacts on the environment in a process more open to the public.

Wendell Wood, ONRC Southern Oregon field representative, said the groups brought their concerns to the Fish and Wildlife Service last fall, but they haven't been addressed yet.

"We've been waiting since September and hadn't heard anything," he said.

At issue is how the Fish and Wildlife Service decides when to allow logging, grazing and haying, and when to open roads.

Wood said the groups aren't strictly opposed to the activities, but the Fish and Wildlife Service needs to get comment from the public before making any decisions.

Ron Cole, manager of the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which includes the Klamath Marsh and five other refuges in the Klamath Basin, said he had been in contact with Wood about the concerns in the lawsuit. He said the Fish and Wildlife Service follows the law on seeking public comment for any decision.

Cole, who has been refuge complex manager for five months, said he found out about the suit when he called Wood Tuesday to talk about other matters. He said he was surprised by the suit.

Cole said he plans to develop a comprehensive management plan for the Klamath Marsh. Work on the plan had been scheduled to start in 2008, but Cole persuaded Fish and Wildlife Service officials to bump it up to 2005.

Development of such a plan is one of the things environmentalists seek in their lawsuit.

Cole said he is confused by the lawsuit because the groups knew a plan was in the works. Ironically, he said the lawsuit could slow down the creation of the plan, which is usually a two- to three-year process.

He said the public will be involved every step of the way.

"It's a very open process, with public meetings and forums," he said.

Along with the ONRC, the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, North Coast Environmental Center, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Audubon Society of Corvallis, Klamath Basin Audubon Society, Lane County Audubon Society, Salem Audubon Society, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, Umpqua Valley Audubon Society, and Umpqua Watersheds are plaintiffs in the suit.

- The Associated Press contributed to this story.





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