Standing Up for Sensitive Species Habitat

Crag challenges logging plan to clearcut old growth forests home to at least four Endangered Species Act-listed species, including northern spotted owl

The Siuslaw HLB logging project would clearcut areas of mature and old-growth forests that provide suitable habitat for endangered species including the northern spotted owl, but the Bureau of Land Management dismissed impacts to these imperiled species as insignificant. Photo Credit Kyle Sullivan, BLM. License CC BY 2.0.

On September 8, 2022, Crag filed a lawsuit on behalf of long-time clients Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to log 13,225 acres of public forests in the coast range foothills west of Eugene. Attorneys from Crag Law Center and Cascadia Wildlands are representing the organizations. 

The logging plan, known as the Siuslaw Harvest Land Base Project (“Siuslaw HLB”) will clearcut mature and old growth forests that are home to at least four species protected by the Endangered Species Act, including northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and Chinook and Oregon Coast coho salmon. Most of the forests slated for logging are mature and old-growth forests that provide crucial wildlife habitat, but the agency dismissed impacts to these imperiled species as insignificant without any actual review of the impacts the logging would have on the ground. 

Additionally, the HLB Siuslaw logging project will clear cut mature and old growth forests that border many communities and residences west of Eugene. Many of the local residents strongly oppose the project because they are concerned about the contamination of their drinking water, increases in fire hazard, loss of recreation opportunities, soil erosion and stability, further road construction, and the destruction of habitat that the logging may cause. 

The Bureau of Land Management admits that this logging will increase fire hazard risks, slope instability and landslide risks, and drinking water contamination for these communities, but dismissed concerns raised about these impacts as insignificant–without completing the careful environmental review required by federal law.

On behalf of our clients, we’re suing the Bureau of Land Management for violating the National Environmental Policy Act. In preparing the Siuslaw HLB logging plan, the agency failed to take the requisite “hard look” at environmental impacts, conduct any site-specific analyses, or prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. The Bureau of Land Management is required under bedrock environmental law to consider the negative impacts the proposed logging will have on our communities and weigh those impacts against the alleged benefits of commercial logging.

“The Bureau of Land Management is attempting to evade its legal obligation to consider and publicly disclose the impact these clearcuts will have on sensitive wildlife species, forest health, carbon storage and climate change, water quality, and wildfire hazard. The agencies tasked with managing our public lands must be accountable to the public they serve.” 

Erin Hogan-Freemole, Crag Legal Fellow

Protecting Habitat and so much more

This logging plan would not only cut irreplaceable mature and old growth trees in the coast range that are home to endangered species, but jeopardize water quality and increase the risk from forest fires and landslides. At a time we should be reducing wildfire risk and keeping carbon in trees to reduce the worst impacts of climate change, this plan would be a step in the wrong direction. 

Read the Press Release here:

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