Judge Upholds Old-Growth And
Imperiled Species’ Protection
Western Environmental Law Center
January 10, 2006
Bush administration plan to eliminate protection for rare plants and wildlife thwarted
(Seattle, WA) – Late yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman issued a final decision declaring
illegal the Bush administration’s decision to eliminate safeguards that protected old-growth forests and
associated plants and wildlife.
Under the principle of “look before you leap,” the “Survey and Manage” standards of 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
The decision means the protections must be reinstated on the public lands governed by
the Northwest Forest Plan. About a quarter of those lands are in northern california's Six Rivers,
Klamath, Shasta-Trinity, Mendocino, and Modoc national forests.
“Once again, the courts have
insisted that the Forest Service use science rather than politics and favoritism to protect our forest
ecosystems,” said Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center. “We hope this ends the
government’s attempts to roll back the protections the Northwest Forest Plan affords some of our last
remaining old-growth forests.”
The Bush administration attempted to eliminate the Survey and Manage
standard along with other safeguards as part of a settlement agreement with the logging industry over a
lawsuit logging interests filed in 2001. Before a judge could rule on the merits of the case, the Bush
administration agreed to the demands of the logging industry.
“The Bush administration's back-room
deal with the timber industry was thrown out. Now the Forest Service and BLM have to take the common sense
approach by ‘looking before logging,” said Scott Greacen of EPIC, one of the plaintiff groups. "This
ruling helps preserve an important system of checks and balances that helps protect our old-growth forests
for wildlife, clean water, and future generations," Greacen said.
Kimberly Baker of the Klamath
Forest Alliance hailed the ruling. "This is a huge victory for people who value wildlife and old-growth
forests. It’s time for the Bush administration to recognize that Americans value our natural heritage and
want to see it permanently protected.”
The rare and uncommon species protected by the survey
standard live primarily in old growth forests. Of the 144 timber sales planned by the Forest Service and
the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implicated in the ruling, one-half would have logged old growth
Judge Pechman’s ruling today vacates the Administration’s decision to eliminate the survey
and manage standard, reinstates the standard, and requires that all timber sales on federal forests in
western Washington, western Oregon, and northwestern California comply with the standard.
Bush Administration wants to avoid doing pre-logging surveys for wildlife, they should stop cutting
old-growth forests,” states Noah Greenwald, conservation biologist with the Center for Biological
Diversity. “Protecting all old-growth is a move supported by a broad majority of the public.
are hundreds of species that are essential to clean air, clean water, and the health of old-growth
forests. 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 connection.”
on the case include: Conservation Northwest (formerly Northwest Ecosystem Alliance), Environmental
Protection Information Center, Klamath Sskiyou 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.
Western Environmental Law Center is a non-profit public interest environmental law firm that works to
protect and restore Western wildlands and advocates for a healthy environment on behalf of communities
throughout the West.
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 Stops Timber SalesA federal judge in Seattle has halted more than 140 Northwest
timber sales -- about half of them slated for increasingly rare mature or old-growth forests.
Ruling Reinstates Species Protections
By Robert McClure,
January 10, 2006
the next two years, the order Monday by U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman could stop the cutting of up to
289 million board feet of timber. That represents more than half the annual cut coming out of the region's national forests, according to a lawyer for environmentalists.
had previously rejected the Bush administration's policy that made it no longer necessary to look for
rare plants and animals before letting loose the chain saws.
"What the court did was restore an
important system of checks and balances that protects the few remaining old-growth forests," said Dave
Werntz, conservation and science director of Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest, the lead plaintiff
in the case.
"It reinstates old-growth forest protections that require the government to avoid
sites where rare plants and animals live," he said.
The timber industry contends that the surveys
for about 300 rare plants and animals were never required by law or authorized by regulation. The industry
is now considering reinstating a lawsuit that aimed to have the requirement declared illegal, said Chris
West of the American Forest Resources Council.
"We're not surprised, but we're disappointed (that
the judge) went as far as she did, because she didn't distinguish between the projects that have nothing
to do with old growth" and those that do, West said. "She did a meat-ax approach."
the U.S. Forest Service official in charge of the Northwest, said through a spokeswoman that she was
disappointed, but would have no further comment until Monday's ruling is reviewed further.
surveys in contention were first agreed on as part of the Northwest Forest Plan of 1994, which was
negotiated by the Clinton administration in hopes of ending arguments over logging old-growth forests,
where threatened creatures such as spotted owls live.
As part of the deal, the Forest Service and
the Bureau of Land Management were to send scientific survey teams into the forest before agreeing to sell
rights to cut timber there. Species covered include salamanders, slugs, snails, mushrooms and mosses. If
found, they must be buffered from the timber cutting.
The Clinton administration agreed to that
condition to satisfy then-U.S. District Judge William Dwyer, but later realized that the process of
looking for these creatures is laborious and expensive. It would cost about $2.7 million a year to
reinstate them, federal lawyers argued before Pechman.
But Pechman ruled Monday that "the costs and
burden imposed on defendants and (timber companies) do not outweigh the potential environmental harm" of
allowing the timber cutting to go on.
"I think it's a small investment to make to preserve old-
growth forests and the species that live in them," said Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law
Center, the Eugene, Ore., law firm arguing the case for environmentalists.
West, of the timber
group, said his allies still are analyzing the effect of the decision. It affects everything from small
projects cleaning up timber that could endanger people in campgrounds up to standard timber sales
affecting hundreds of acres each.
He pointed out, though, that although the Northwest Forest Plan
promised about 1 billion board feet of timber a year from parts of federal forests considered expandable
in the plan, challenges by environmentalists and other factors have limited the annual take to just a
fraction of that.
And many of the timber sales the judge blocked are intended to thin out forests
that have grown unnaturally thick because of a federal policy of suppressing fires, West said. Those
overstocked stands can go up in massive, destructive wildfires.
"The reality of the (federal)
program is that most of these are thinning sales, and her decision impacts those just like it would
old-growth sales," West said. "Are we going to be protecting our watershed, forests and communities?
Now we have more hoops to go through."
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.
Ruling Guards Old GrowthA federal judge has reinstated
rules designed to protect endangered plant and animal species amid old-growth trees.
By Paul Fattig, Medford Mail Tribune
January 11, 2006
specialists are scrambling to determine the impact on local federal timber sales following Monday's federal court
ruling reinstating survey and management requirements of old-growth species in the 1994 Northwest Forest
The ruling by US District Court Judge Marsha J. Pechman in Seattle covers
144 timber sales totaling some 289 million board feet in Western Oregon and Washington and the
northwestern corner of California.
About half of those sales include old-growth logging. The federal
government estimated during the case that its projected economic loss from stopping the timber sales was
about $2.7 million.
It is unknown how many of those timber sales are on the US Bureau of Land
Management's Medford District or the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.
"A cursory look shows
that a number of timber sales are compliant," said Karen Gillespie, spokeswoman for the BLM district. "We
know we'll be able to move forward on some. But we haven't had time to do a final analysis."
Forest Service is also assessing the impact of the ruling, said Julie Cox, spokeswoman for that agency's
Region 6 office in Portland.
Red tree voles and Siskiyou salamanders were among the more than 400
plant and animal old-growth species that scientists originally felt could be at risk if logging took place
in their habitat. However, the Bush administration dropped those survey and management requirements early
in 2004 as part of a legal settlement with the timber industry, prompting a lawsuit by environmental
Pechman sided with the plaintiffs last August, although she didn't announce her final
decision until Monday.
"The agencies now have to look before they log," said George Sexton,
conservation director for the Ashland-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, one of the 10 plaintiffs
in the lawsuit.
In Western Oregon, more than 80 percent of old-growth forests that existed a century
ago have been cut, he said.
Old-growth trees are important for a variety of reasons, including
preserving biological diversity, clean water and recreational opportunities, he said.
"When you have
such a diminished amount of old growth, it puts all three of those values at risk," Sexton said.
"This is a huge victory for people who value wildlife and the old-growth forests of the Pacific
Northwest," added Rolf Skar, campaign director of the Illinois Valley-based Siskiyou Regional Education
"It's time for the Bush administration to recognize that Northwesterners value our natural
heritage and want to see it permanently protected," he added.
Other local groups involved in the
case include Umpqua Watersheds and the Klamath Forest Alliance. They are represented by the Western
Environmental Law Center and Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center.
While the ruling will affect
old-growth timber sales, it won't affect second-growth thinning projects, Sexton said, noting that
logging the latter isn't controversial.
He observed that a 1999 study determined there were
770,000 acres of replanted trees of five to 12 inches in diameter in Jackson and Josephine counties.
Those small trees contain more than 5.7 billion board feet of timber.
"They need to address the
oceans of clearcuts and fiber plantations they've already created," Sexton said, noting those sites would
produce stable, permanent jobs while avoiding future legal battles.
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