Victory in the Beautiful Ochoco National Forest
In January 2019, the Oregon Federal District Court ruled that a proposal to build a 137-mile Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) trail system in the Ochoco National Forest would harm habitat for elk, wolves, and native fish, and that the Forest Service failed to satisfy its legal obligation to study the potential environmental impacts.
Judge Marco Hernández determined that the Forest Service failed to protect sensitive habitats for elk calving and mating, wolf dispersal habitat, and aquatic habitat for Redband trout. The decision solidified an earlier ruling from Magistrate Patricia Sullivan, issued on August 27, 2018.
Starting in 2016, Crag represented Central Oregon LandWatch to challenge the U.S. Forest Service’s approval of a plan to build an unnecessary 137-mile OHV trail system. The proposed OHV trail system was vehemently opposed by a diverse range of Oregonians, and in challenging the project, 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.
“There is unprecedented opposition to the proposed project because so many Central Oregonians have a special connection to the Ochoco Mountains. We are pleased that the court listened to the diverse voices of the local community who have been telling the Forest Service for years that a destination ORV trail system in one of the last quiet and serene forests just doesn’t make sense.”
– Paul Dewey, Central Oregon LandWatch
This ruling represents not only a win for our clients and the coalition that came together to protect the Ochocos, but also the majestic elk, native trout, and wolf populations and the old-growth forests, native ponderosas, and the delicate watersheds of the Central Oregon forest. The results of this case highlight the importance of keeping the Forest Service and other government agencies accountable for the effects of destructive projects.
“The court took the opportunity to dig into the issues, and determined that the Forest Service violated a series of federal environmental laws. The writing’s on the wall for the Forest Service: the agency must do a better job of protecting healthy wildlife habitat and high-quality recreational opportunities–now, and for future generations.”
– Crag Staff Attorney, Oliver Stiefel
Crag represented Central Oregon Landwatch, an environmental organization dedicated to protecting Central Oregon’s beautiful lands.