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Lawsuit challenges timber sale, conservation group says environmental protocol was not strictly followed

Herald and News 1/23/14

GRANTS PASS (AP) — Conservation groups are challenging a timber sale that demonstrates the kind of ecosystemdriven logging that would be fast-tracked under Sen. Ron Wyden’s bill to increase harvests from federally owned property in western Oregon.

   Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

   Tree-sitters have been occupying the White Castle timber sale in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Roseburg District since last summer.

   The lawsuit alleges the federal agency failed to follow environmental laws requiring a hard look at the potential environmental impacts of the sale, including clear-cutting trees up to 150 years old, destruction of northern spotted owl habitat, and felling trees containing nests of red tree voles, a key food for spotted owls.

   “Essentially, they are saying they can clear-cut 438 acres without doing an environmental-impact statement,” said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. “They are saying they are experimenting. The perspective we have is they are clearly responding to pressures from politicians and county government, and that they want to get back to the business of clear-cutting to supplement county budgets.”        Bureau of Land Management spokesman Cheyne Rossbach said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

   The property, known as O&C lands, is a patchwork of timber formerly owned by the Oregon & California Railroad that reverted to the government early in the 20th century and is managed by the federal agency.

   Wyden, D-Ore., has offered a bill to fasttrack logging on the O&C lands following the principles of Oregon State University forestry professors Norm Johnson and Jerry Franklin to increase jobs and revenues for timber counties. Wyden spokesman Keith Chu said the senator had no comment on the   lawsuit, but he stood behind the ecologicalforestry principles in his bill.

   The sale was designed in a stand of   trees that grew back naturally after a fire 110 years ago, Rossbach said. It will demonstrate whether it is possible to create a broader diversity of habitats through logging in a way that is economically viable. The harvest areas mimic the effects of wildfire, with broad areas harvested while small patches of older trees remain. It was also designed to promote young stands and open areas that are at a premium in public forests, while retaining essential elements of old growth.  

   Tree-sitters have erected four platforms in trees that must be cut to build a road for logging equipment near the top of the biggest unit for sale, Rossbach said. The Bureau of Land Management has proposed closing the area to the public, a first step to removing the tree-sitters, but the closure proposal is under appeal.



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