Victory! Another old-growth logging project stopped in Southern Oregon

last updated June 3, 2024

Woman looking up at huge tree in Ochoco National Forest, which the BLM is proposing to log. Credit Jim Davis

Victory! We are holding agencies accountable for protecting old-growth forests. Photo by Zheyuan Guo.

Huge win holds agencies accountable for protecting old-growth forests, wildlife habitat

After four years of working with a coalition of conservation organizations, including KS Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and Soda Mountain Wilderness Project to hold the line against old-growth logging in Southern Oregon, we won a huge early victory!

A federal judge just ruled against the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) plans to log old-growth forests in Southern Oregon, which would have had devastating impacts on wildlife and increased risk to nearby communities.

Background

Our lawsuit challenged the BLM’s Integrated Vegetation Management (IVM) logging plan, which would have aggressively logged 17,000 acres of protected old growth forests called Late Successional Reserves, forests specially designated for wildlife habitat protection and conservation. 

In 2016, when the Bureau of Land Management wrote their land management plan for Southern Oregon, they set aside these late successional reserve (LSR) forests to help protect the forest canopy and structure that is critical to the survival of threatened wildlife species like northern spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and coastal marten. But when the agency actually went to carry out their land management plan, they reversed course! The BLM announced plans to aggressively log 17,000 acres in the protected late successional reserve forests. And that’s why we brought them to court!

On behalf of our clients, we filed our lawsuit in April 2023. In April 2024, we had oral arguments in Medford, Oregon. We explained that the IVM logging plan breaks federal law on multiple counts, by cutting out opportunities for public comment, fast-tracking logging of old-growth forests, and removing habitat for threatened species. The judge agreed!

The BLM’s logging plan would have destroyed habitat for threatened species like Pacific martens, northern spotted owls, and marbled murrelet, seen above. Photo by Dona Hilkey

The BLM’s logging plan would have destroyed habitat for threatened species like northern spotted owls (top), marbled murrelet, and pacific martens (bottom). Photos by Rhett Wilkins, Oregon Wild (top), and Dona Hilkey (bottom).

On May 24, 2024 Judge Clarke found that BLM’s logging program violated their own federal management plan and the National Environmental Protection Act. His ruling puts the brakes on the old-growth Late Mungers timber sale in Southern Oregon, and has wider ripple effects for future logging projects. With Judge Clarke’s order in hand, our clients will be asking the Bureau of Land Management to halt planned logging of hundreds of protected old growth forest in the Rogue Gold project as well.

His order puts the brakes on the old-growth Late Mungers timber sale in Southern Oregon, and will help us and our clients protect old growth going forward!

“Judge Clarke recognized that although some active management of our forests can be helpful to mitigate wildfire risk, the BLM went too far. The agency can’t target specific areas for logging that the BLM itself set aside for habitat. I’m happy we could help our clients in Southern Oregon hold the line on agency decision-making and ensure transparency for these communities going forward. 

– Meriel Darzen, Crag Staff Attorney

Our Clients

Strategic cases like this have huge impacts. And it’s thanks to our amazing clients KS Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and Soda Mountain Wilderness Council, and the countless hours of field checking, commenting, organizing, protesting, of local community members in southern Oregon that we defeat these logging projects again and again.

Looking ahead

Judge Clarke recommended that the agency be required to halt its plans to log the reserved forests (LSRs) as part of the Integrated Vegetation Management Plan. Next, Judge Ann Aiken of the District of Oregon will review the court’s findings and recommendations and issue a final decision. As always, Crag and our clients will continue to fight to keep agencies accountable and hold the line against old-growth logging in Southern Oregon and across the Pacific Northwest.

Crag Legal Fellow Alexandria Dolezal (left) and Crag Staff attorney Meriel Darzen (center) outside the Medford courthouse, with clients after the summary judgment hearing. Photo by KS Wild. 

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