Judge says timber sale in Crater Lake's back yard could harm wildlife, orders study (Press Release 3/21/17)

3/21/2017
Location: 
Eugene

A U.S. District Court in Eugene has issued an order requiring the Umpqua National Forest to more comprehensively study environmental impacts of the proposed Loafer Timber Project timber sale. The Forest Service must complete the study and weigh its findings before proceeding with the timber sale in an area about 60 miles east of Roseburg, Oregon.

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, challenged the project in court last June. The groups sought to prevent harm to important roadless areas that are part of the Crater Lake Wilderness citizen’s proposal and vital northern spotted owl habitat.

Judge Russo determined the proposed logging project would have significant effects on the environment and the Forest Service should have prepared an environmental impact statement before allowing the project to move forward. In addition, the judge also found that the Forest Service failed to conduct meaningful analysis on the characteristics of the Loafer project’s roadless areas, including on more than 1,000 acres that would no longer be eligible for consideration as wilderness by Congress. These roadless areas are a part of the Crater Lake Wilderness Proposal.

“The Umpqua’s forests are highly valued by the local community for quiet recreation and wildlife habitat. Judge Russo’s recommended ruling is a validation of the concerns continually raised by the community as to the impacts of logging in spotted owl habitat and undeveloped areas,” said Robin Meacher, Wildlands Campaign director for Cascadia Wildlands and an attorney on the case. “This is an acknowledgement that impacts to threatened species and our limited amount of undeveloped areas require in-depth analysis before they can move forward.” 

Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild have been engaged in the Loafer Timber Project for years. The first version of the project was stalled in 2014 when the Umpqua National Forest withdrew its decision after being sued by Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild. 

"Not only would this timber sale impact popular recreation opportunities on the North Umpqua Trail and Umpqua Hot Springs, but it bulldozes its way into remote backcountry areas that deserve to be Wilderness," said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild. "This decision validates the tens of thousands of Oregonians who have called on Senator Wyden and Congress for greater protections for the wildlands around Crater Lake."

The final version of the project included 1,400 acres of logging in the area encompassing the Umpqua Hot Springs, the Dread and Terror Ridge, and Thorne Prairie Region. The project was slated to downgrade and reduce northern spotted owl habitat in the 22,600-acre project region and allowed for the killing of four spotted owls. These impacts were part of the judge’s findings that the Forest Service erred in not conducting the thorough environmental analysis needed to truly understand the project's potential impacts. As a result of the decision, the Forest Service is prohibited from implementing the Loafer project until and unless it complies with its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act.

“Judge Russo’s decision emphasizes that the Loafer project will have significant impacts on important roadless areas and designated critical habitat for the northern spotted owl,” said John Mellgren, staff attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center. “As such, it is vitally important that the project be evaluated in a more thorough and robust environmental impact statement before additional taxpayer dollars are spent degrading these important features of Oregon’s natural environment.”

Contacts:
Robin Meacher, Cascadia Wildlands, (541) 434-1463, robin@cascwild.org
Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, (541) 344-0675, dh@oregonwild.org
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, (541) 485-2471, mellgren@westernlaw.org

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