Appeals Court Issues Landmark Ruling on Stormwater and Logging Roads in the

Tillamook State Forest

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a long-awaited decision on the Oregon Department of Forestry’s management of logging roads and stormwater in the Tillamook State Forest.  In the western United States, logging roads are one of the worst sources of sediment pollution, which smothers salmon spawning beds and harms water quality.  On the Tillamook State Forest, ODF has for years designed their roads to channel and discharge polluted stormwater from logging roads into coastal rivers and streams in the Tillamook State Forest, often times directly on top of or close to salmon spawning grounds.

The Oregon Department of Forestry and the timber industry have for years argued that its logging activities are exempt from the Clean Water Act’s permit program.  Today, the Ninth Circuit firmly rejected that argument and held that ODF must have a permit before it discharges polluted stormwater into Oregon’s rivers and streams.

Chris Winter, Staff Attorney and Co-Executive Director of the Crag Law Center, hailed the decision.  “Logging roads kill salmon, plain and simple.  The timber industry and ODF have tried to evade the Clean Water Act for years, and this decision will hopefully bring an end to the ‘stick your head in the sand’ approach to management.”

The decision comes at a particularly inopportune time for ODF.  The Oregon Board of Forestry, upon ODF’s recommendation, recently decided to increase the level of clearcutting on the Tillamook State Forest.  Winter said the revised plan is misguided.  “ODF first needs to get its house in order before dramatically increasing the level of clearcutting.  ODF doesn’t even have permits for its existing road network.  Increasing harvest should be the last priority at this point.  This is not how Oregonians expect the State to manage one of their natural treasures.”

Crag has partnered on this case for many years with its long-standing client Northwest Environmental Defense Center and its co-counsel Paul Kampmeier of the Washington Forest Law Center, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit.  Big thanks go out to WFLC and NEDC for their tireless efforts and excellent work.

More Information:

9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision — 9th Circuit Clean Water Act – Forest Roads Decision

August 17, 2010 Press Release — August 17, 2010 Press Release

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) Story – Logging Road Runoff Decision Could Have Huge Implications

OPB_News_0817forestrunoff (Audio File from OPB News)

Associated Press – Mud from Logging Roads is Pollution

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