Conservationists File Suit To Protect Biologically Diverse Suiattle River Watershed in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest (press release 4.26.11)

Seattle, WA

UPDATE 5/24/11

Victory! Suiattle River Watershed Protected! On May 24, 2011, the Federal Highways Administration wtihdrew the Suiattle River road project. 

The Western Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Pilchuck Audubon Society and the North Cascades Conservation Council, has filed a lawsuit to halt the Suiattle River Road project on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, which would destroy designated critical habitat for many threatened species.

Winter storms in 2003 and 2007 washed out several portions of Forest Road 26, also known as the Suiattle River Road, on the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest in Washington.  In 2007, the Forest Service proposed repairs of the road, but abandoned the project in response to serious environmental and legal concerns. The Forest Service then turned over primary responsibility for repairing the Suiattle River Road to the Federal Highways Administration. Now, claiming an “emergency,” the FHWA is proposing to circumvent environmental laws and the Northwest Forest Plan by rebuilding the road without conducting a detailed environmental review.

The proposed project would destroy mature and old growth forests that are home to numerous federally listed threatened species, including the northern spotted owl and the marbled murrelet.  The road project would also devastate portions of the Suiattle River, a designated “Scenic” river, which is protected habitat for many fish species, such as the Puget Sound pink salmon, coho salmon, chinook salmon, and steelhead.

“In violation of the law, Federal Highways failed to analyze the environmental effects of reconstructing the Suiattle River Road on ancient forests, protected species - such as salmon, spotted owls, and marbled murrelets - and a whole host of important ecological values,” said attorney Susan Jane Brown.

Plaintiff Bill Lider, of Lynnwood Washington, explained: “The FHWA and USFS have been cavalier with their use of emergency road repair funds for non-emergency projects.  How can a road washout in 2003 still be an emergency in 2011?  As a taxpayer, I want to see these funds used as Congress intended them to be used for true emergencies.”

The lawsuit aims to halt road construction on Suiattle River Road 26, pending a proper environmental review.

Susan Jane Brown, attorney, Western Environmental Law Center, (503) 914-1323
Bill Lider,, 425-776-0671