Holding the line against logging in old-growth and ”reserve” forests

Crag and conservation groups file challenge to BLM scheme to log 17,000 acres of protected forest

April 10, 2023 

Sign posted on tree of Penn Butte sale, the first scheduled timber sale in the Williams Late Successional Reserve forest in Southern Oregon as part of the BLM's Integrated Vegetation Management plan.

We’re suing the Bureau of Land Management to stop the Penn Butte timber sale, which would remove over 450-acres of old-growth habitat. Photo by KS Wild. 

New case filed! On April 11, 2023, Crag, on behalf of a coalition of conservation coalitions including longtime clients Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and the Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, filed a legal complaint challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) “Integrated Vegetation Management” (IVM) program. The Integrated Vegetation Management program would aggressively log forest stands located within Late Successional Reserves, which are forest areas the Bureau of Land Management set aside to protect habitat for wildlife that need mature and old-growth forests to survive.

Put simply, by allowing heavy logging, including clearcuts or ”gaps” in reserve areas, this program would remove the forest canopy and structure that is critical to the survival of threatened wildlife species like northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and coastal marten.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service Biological Opinion for Penn Butte concluded that the proposed old growth logging is “likely to adversely affect” spotted owls and their designated critical habitat. 

“Bureau of Land Management timber planners can dance around it all they want,” said George Sexton, KS Wild Conservation Director, “but it’s crystal clear that gap creation logging creates clearcuts that remove habitat and increase  fire hazard.”

The first commercial Integrated Vegetation Management timber sales is scheduled to be auctioned off in late May. This first sale, called Penn Butte, is located in the Williams Late Successional Reserve (near Williams, Oregon) and would remove over 400-acres of old-growth habitat through “open seral” logging and another 51 acres through “gap creation” clearcutting. But the agency never analyzed that timber sale in its review of the IVM program.

“The Bureau of Land Management sidestepped its procedural duties and cut the public out of the process when it decided to approve thousands of acres of large tree logging without explaining where the logging will occur and how it would affect existing forests in the short and long-term. This is particularly egregious where these forests were set aside by the agency itself as reserve lands with the goal of protecting habitat.”

Meriel Darzen, Crag Staff Attorney

“The forests targeted for removal in Penn Butte are resilient, healthy, and most important they are designated as reserves for conservation, not timber supply,” said Doug Heiken, Conservation and  Restoration Coordinator for Oregon Wild. “If we want to store carbon and provide habitat this is the place  for careful conservation, not aggressive logging.”

“If the Bureau of Land Management is interested in real fire-focused restoration, we would be fully supportive,” stated Cascadia Wildlands Legal Director Nick Cady, “but aggressively logging wildlife habitat in the Late Successional Reserves that will increase fire hazard for the surrounding community is ridiculous. It demonstrates that this agency does not care what this community has been through and is only concerned with producing timber volume.”

Here are photos of the Penn Butte/Late Mungers timber sale within the Williams Late Successional Reserve. Photos by KS Wild.

Looking Ahead

What’s happening next? The case was filed in Federal District Court in Medford, Oregon. Stay tuned for updates as the case progresses. 

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