The news that clearcutting would be suspended on 914 acres of the Elliott State Forest came to logging opponents through a September memo that was posted on the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) website, Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands says. He says this was welcome news for an endangered sea bird that nests in Oregon’s coastal old-growth forests. Cascadia Wildlands and other groups filed a suit in federal court in July to try protect the threatened marbled murrelet and its habitat, and that suit has led to the temporary cease in clearcutting.
Six timber sales were deferred on the Elliott, Kevin Weeks of ODF says, and one, Moon Creek on the Tillamook. Weeks says there are no plans to defer additional sales at this time.
The lawsuit alleges that specific timber sales and ongoing timber practices on the Elliott, Tillamook and Clatsop state forests are violating the Endangered Species Act by harming the murrelet’s nesting habitat. The state had been working on a plan called a Habitat Conservation Plan for the forest, Laughlin says, he says but “walked away” after federal agencies wouldn’t approve “egregious” streamside logging that could affect federally listed Coho salmon. Instead Laughlin says, the State Land Board voted to “ramp up” clearcutting on the state forests.
The increased logging has been not only been the subject of a lawsuit, but a number of protests from treesits to occupying state offices have drawn attention the state forest logging issue.
The memo dated Sept. 19 is in regard to the 2013 Coos District operations plan, and it says that due to Cascadia Wildlands vs. Kitzhaber et al timber operations on a number of areas in the Elliott will be suspended until the case is resolved.
The land board, made up of Gov. John Kitzhaber, Secretary of State Kate Brown and Treasurer Ted Wheeler, is scheduled to have an executive session, which is not open to the public, Nov. 26 at noon in Salem “to consult with legal counsel concerning current litigation or litigation likely to be filed,” but a representative would not say if the meeting was in regard to the Cascadia Wildlands case.
Weeks says ODF will soon open a comment period on the Coos operations plan proposing six new sales in non-murrelet habitat.
Laughlin says conservationists will continue to “call on Kitzhaber to take a timeout on old-growth clearcutting on state forests and commence efforts to create balanced forest plans for our coastal state forests.”