Victory for coho salmon in Oregon state forests

Legal Agreement will bring new protections from logging to Oregon Coast coho salmon

last updated April 13, 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.

The settlment increases protections for the threatened coho salmon, whose population has been reduced to 5% its previous size in the last century.

Victory! After nearly a decade of litigation, Crag and our clients Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands and Native Fish Society secured safeguards for coho salmon in the two largest state forests. In March 2023, our clients signed a settlement agreement with the Oregon Department of Forestry that adds protections to over 500,000 acres in the Tilliamook and Clatsop forests. The agreement limits logging along streams and other activities that can pollute and destroy spawning habitat for this culturally and economically important species. 

Crag attorneys Oliver Stiefel and Maura Fahey served as attorneys on the case, along with Amy Atwood at the Center for Biological Diversity. 

“The Oregon Department of Forestry’s logging practices have devastated coho recovery efforts for decades. Securing protections that will improve conditions and help the coho recover is an important step in the right direction.” 

– Oliver Stiefel, Crag Staff Attorney

Crag and our clients started working on this case nearly 10 years ago. In 2014, our clients first notified the Oregon Department of Forestry of their intention to file a lawsuit under the Endangered Species Act to stop the agency from harming threatened Oregon coast coho through its forest management practices. Our clients agreed to delay litigation when the agency announced it would develop a Habitat Conservation Plan to outline its protections for coho. But after four years, no such plan emerged, so in 2018, Crag filed a lawsuit in federal court to stop the harmful logging activities that have been unlawfully destroying coho habitat. 

“Crag and our clients were in this fight for the long haul. This settlement is an important win to support salmon, water quality, and climate resiliency. And it’s long overdue.” 

– Maura Fahey, Crag Managing Attorney

Under the settlement agreement, the Oregon Department of Forestry agreed to expand no-logging-allowed buffer zones around streams from as little as 25 feet to 120 feet, and create additional buffer zones to reduce the risk of landslides. According to Amy Atwood, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity, “The protections provided by today’s agreement aren’t everything we want, but they’ll go a long way toward recovering coho salmon on Oregon’s North Coast.” 

“Logging the exceedingly steep slopes of the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests has real consequences for our beloved and iconic salmon,” said Jennifer Fairbrother, conservation director for the Native Fish Society. “While there is more to be done to improve the management of our state forests, there’s no question that these new protections will help restore fish as well as soil health, water quality and even our climate.”

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