On February 4, 2014 Crag Law Center and its clients announced that the State of Oregon has cancelled 28 timber sales that would have logged habitat for the marbled murrelet, an imperiled seabird that nests in coastal old-growth forest.  With those 28 timber sales off the table, our clients agreed to a reasonable settlement with the State and dismissed their lawsuit.

Read the official press release about the settlement.

Since 2012, Crag Law Center represented Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Audubon Society of Portland in a lawsuit against Governor Kitzhaber and Oregon State forestry officials for clearcutting habitat for the imperiled marbled murrelet in violation of the Endangered Species Act. The Oregon Department of Forestry continues to authorize industrial-scale clearcutting of mature and old-growth forest used by the murrelet for nesting habitat where it raises its young.

Marbled murrelets are rare seabirds that nest inland in big, old trees. The birds have large webbed feet and require large tree limbs upon which they can crash land and moss in which they can nest. Murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest have been dwindling each year largely due to the loss of the mature and old-growth forests the birds require for nesting. Since 1992, the marbled murrelet has been protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Years ago, Oregon was on track to protect murrelets on these three forests by obtaining a permit from the Fish and Wildlife Service in exchange for a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would ensure conservation of murrelet populations and their habitat. Unhappy with the conservation measures required by the federal government, the State abandoned its efforts to obtain a permit and implement a management plan, instead deciding to increase harvest on state forest lands with no effective protections in place under the Endangered Species Act. Rather than improving wildlife protections, the State turned its back on murrelets and other listed species by walking away from the HCP process and deciding instead to increase logging. The lawsuit seeks to force the State to develop a conservation plan that will truly protect murrelets and the mature forests on which the birds and other species depend.

Crag partnered with Eugene attorney Daniel Kruse, Cascadia Wildland’s staff attorney Nick Cady, Portland attorney Scott Jerger, and WELC’s Susan Jane Brown to represent the groups in the lawsuit against the state.

After the case was filed in May 2012, Oregon voluntarily suspended timber sales on more than 1,600 acres of older forest in marbled murrelet habitat in the three state forests.  However, in November 2012, Chief Judge Aiken issued a preliminary injunction to halt the logging.  Chief Judge Aiken concluded the State’s voluntary suspensions do not go far enough, writing, “Because the suspension of logging activities may be lifted at anytime with 60-days notice, and due to the imperiled status of the marbled murrelet, the status quo includes an imminent threat of irreparable injury under the ESA.”

In February 2014 Crag and our clients settled the case, which resulted in the State of Oregon has cancelling 28 timber sales that would have logged habitat for the marbled murrelet. Instead of going to trial and defending its forest management practices, ODF instead cancelled an additional 17 timber sales – bringing the total to 28 – and agreed to reform its marbled murrelet policies.  With those changes in place, our clients agreed to bring the litigation to an end – for now.

Read the official press release about the settlement.

Read the Preliminary Injunction Decision

Read the Complaint
Read the Press Release on filing the lawsuit

Read press coverage on the preliminary injunction ruling:  APEugene Weekly; Register Guard; The World; KLCC

Read the news stories about the filing of the lawsuit:
Register Guard

Read the Notice Letter
Read the Press release 60-day notice
Read Media Stories on the 60 Day-Notice:
Portland Tribune

Visit Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity; and the Audubon Society of Portland to learn more about this issue and marbled murrelets. To contribute to this effort, visit the Murrelet Defense Fund.