On August 27, Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan of the Oregon Federal District Court ruled that a proposal to build a 137-mile Off-Road Vehicle trail system in the Ochoco National Forest would harm elk habitat. In a victory for public lands and wildlife, Judge Sullivan determined that the Forest Service failed to satisfy its legal obligation to study the environmental impacts of the major new destination trail system, and to ensure that sensitive habitats for elk calving and mating are protected.

Staff Attorney Oliver Stiefel said, “the court took the opportunity to dig into the issues, especially with regard to the project’s adverse impacts on elk habitat, and determined that the Forest Service violated a series of federal environmental laws. The writing is on the wall for the Forest Service: the agency must to a better job of protecting healthy wildlife habitat and high-quality recreational opportunities–now and for future generations.

Since 2016, Crag has represented Central Oregon LandWatch in the fight to preserve the Ochoco mountains, which are home to majestic elk, native trout, and howling wolves. LandWatch promotes the voices of the local community who use the Ochoco for an array of recreational opportunities like hunting, fishing, and camping, and who would be negatively impacted by the new trail system.

LandWatch teamed up with the Oregon Hunters Association, and environmental organizations WildEarth Guardians, Oregon Wild, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and the Sierra Club. The coalition’s legal arguments were supported by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Read the press release from Landwatch here.