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Court Overturns Bush Repeal of NW Forest Plan Protections
ONRC Press Release
August 02, 2005

Bush administration plan to eliminate protection for rare plants and wildlife must be reconsidered Seattle - The Bush administration's decision to eliminate safeguards that protected old-growth forests and associated plants and wildlife has been declared illegal by a federal judge.

The "Survey and Manage" rules under the Northwest Forest Plan, required federal agencies to survey an old-growth area for rare plants and wildlife before allowing logging or other destructive activities, and if found, modify their plans to reduce the risk of extinction.

"This is a huge victory for people who value wildlife and the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest" said Doug Heiken on Oregon Natural Resources Council. "It's time for the Bush administration to recognize that Oregonians value our natural heritage and want to see it protected."

"This ruling helps preserve an important system of checks and balances that protects our old- growth forests for wildlife, clean water, and future generations," said Joseph Vaile of Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center.

Judge Marsha Pechman of Seattle ruled that "even though the Survey and Manage standard was only a part of the overall strategy to protect these species, it was a necessary part to satisfy the [Northwest Forest] Plan's 'foundational objectives.

'" Dominick DellaSala, a PhD and forest ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund, explains how the rule protects a delicate web of life.

"There are hundreds of species that are essential to the health of old-growth forests by cycling nutrients and cleaning our air and water, where the sum of their parts is greater than the whole." DellaSala explains, "The Survey and Manage program, developed by some of the best scientific thinkers in the region, is a global model of conservation because it recognizes this important fact."

The United States Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management estimate that without the Survey and Manage rules, more than 50 species are at high risk of local extinction. Without the rules, old-growths forests across Oregon, from the slopes of Mount Hood, to the headwaters of the McKenzie River, to the Wild and Scenic Rogue River were all at greater risk from logging.

The Bush administration attempted to eliminate these and other safeguards as part of a settlement agreement with the logging industry over a lawsuit logging interests filed in 2001. Background In March 2003, the Bush administration eliminated the "survey and manage" standard-a central part of the Northwest Forest Plan, since it was adopted nearly ten years ago.

The Plan was declared to be legal in 1995 in part because the Survey and Manage standard gave federal officials some assurance that wildlife in the forests would be adequately protected from logging. A fundamental principle of the survey and manage rules is to protect habitat for threatened wildlife to prevent them from becoming endangered. Doing so lessens the likelihood that future endangered species listings will interfere with logging.

The Northwest Forest Plan was adopted in 1994 to protect spotted owls, wild salmon, and over one thousand other species that call the old-growth forests of the Pacific Northwest home. The plan applies only to federal lands, and was supposed to provide enough wildlife habitat on federal lands so that private forests could be managed with fewer restrictions.

The Northwest Forest Plan significantly reduced logging on federal lands at a time when the logging industry was restructuring to address changing mill technology and international competition. Most mills that remain competitive today have retooled to process smaller trees and obtain most of their log supplies from private lands.

Only a few mills in Oregon and Washington continue to target old-growth trees from federal lands. Meanwhile, polls have repeatedly demonstrated that a majority of voters in Oregon and Washington support protecting all remaining mature and old-growth forest in their states.

The plaintiffs include: Conservation Northwest (formerly Northwest Ecosystem Alliance), Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, American Lands Alliance, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, Klamath Forest Alliance, Umpqua Watersheds, Center for Biological Diversity, Northcoast Environmental Center and Gifford Pinchot Task Force. They are represented by the Western Environmental Law Center and Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.

Judge Finds Easing of Forest Rules Illegal
By Paul Boerger, Mt Shasta Herald
September 14, 2005

A recent US District Court preliminary ruling has found illegal a provision of the US Forest Service Northwest Forest Plan that allowed the USFS to eliminate Survey and Manage procedures for rare plants and animals prior to timber sales or fuels reduction.

The ruling was made August 1st in Seattle, WA, by US District Judge Marsha J. Pechman as part of a suit filed by a coalition of environmental groups including the Oregon Natural Resources Council and Conservation Northwest.

The Northwest Forest Plan covers 24.5 million acres in Oregon, Washington and northern California that are managed by a variety of Federal agencies. California's section of the plan covers six million acres.

Survey and Manage was replaced last year by Sensitive Species policies that allowed forest managers to determine whether a species existed in a project area based on past research and data bases rather than on the ground inspection.

Judge Pechman said that although Survey and Manage "was only a part of the overall strategy to protect these species, it was a necessary part."

She has asked for additional legal briefs before issuing a final order, and no timber sales or projects have been halted.

Survey and Manage proponents say the policy ensures that rare species are found and protected.

Doug Heiken of the Oregon Natural Resources Council says the ruling is a good one.

"It's a good step forward. It keeps the Northwest Forest Plan intact," Heiken said. "We don't yet know what all the implications are, but we hope it results in thinning the young stands and staying out of the old growth forests."

Heiken has previously opposed dropping Survey and Manage saying, "Survey and Manage was a very important promise made in the 1994 to protect old growth forests. Now they just want to go in with chain saws."

US Forest Service spokesperson Rex Holloway said the USFS hopes to address Pechman's concerns without having to reinstitute Survey and Manage.

Holloway said although Survey and Manage was dropped last year, harvests had not increased substantially because the USFS lacks funding to conduct timber sales.

"Until we see significant increases in funding, we're not going to see significant changes in what we're offering in the Northwest plan," Holloway said.

Survey and Manage was developed as part of the Northwest Forest Plan implemented in 1994. The plan required that prior to or during ground disturbing projects the impact of such projects on certain rare species was to be studied and mitigation measures taken if a threat was found.

The USFS said Survey and Manage had resulted in reduced timber harvests, restoration projects and fuels reduction because of excessive attention to rare or little known species.

In 1994, more than 400 rare or little known species were included for mitigation measures in the Plan, of which 234 were fungi. Also included were mollusks, moss, lichen and insects.

That number has since been reduced to 296 species including the invertebrates and arthopods.

Under Survey and Manage, each species identified as having a possible habitat in an area slated for a project must be searched for and, if found, extensive research done on viability and possible mitigation measures.

"The agencies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and years of effort looking for rare species. No new sites have been found for over 100 of these species," said a 2004 USFS press release. "The resources used for Survey and Manage could instead be used for forest health projects such as hazardous fuel reduction and restoration projects."

Heiken agrees Survey and Manage can be expensive in some areas, "but that's the price of doing business."

"You only have to survey within the range of the habitat," Heiken said. "Typically, it might be only three to five species."

Heiken said that if an area contains species that require Survey and Manage with expensive mitigation costs, "maybe they shouldn't be logging there."

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.