The fate of Northwest forests has been tied up in the courts since 1987, when the Portland Audubon Society sued the government for failing to address the possible extinction of the northern spotted owl.
Although the suit was later
thrown out of court, a flood of litigation followed. In 1991, in a
case filed by the Seattle Audubon Society and 11 other
environmental groups, federal Judge William Dwyer in Seattle ruled
that the government's timber sales in the Northwest failed to
protect forest species such as the owls throughout the range, as
required by the National Forest Management Act. Dwyer barred timber
sales that would log the owl's habitat until the government changed
Dwyer's injunction was still in
effect when President Clinton opened the historic Forest Summit in
Portland in April 1993. He promised a solution that would "put the
stalemate behind us." But the solution - Option 9 - has fallen
short of that goal.
The judge's three-year ban on
logging was not lifted until last week, and Dwyer was careful to
say that the legality of Option 9 "should be tested." He scheduled
a hearing Sept. 12 to hear legal challenges to the
Other lawsuits loom. On May 18, the
environmental community filed a new lawsuit, this time contending
that Option 9 violates the National Forest Management Act. Dwyer
was scheduled to rule on the merits of this case within 120 days of
the day it was filed. During this period, the 13 plaintiffs have
agreed not to seek further injunctions. The plaintiffs in this case
are the Oregon Natural Resources Council, Pacific Rivers Council,
Seattle Audubon Society, Headwaters, The Wilderness Society,
National Audubon Society, Pilchuck Audubon Society, Western Ancient
Forest Campaign, Washington Environmental Council, Klamath Forest
Alliance, Northcoast Environmental Center, Portland Audubon Society
and Lane County Audubon Society.
but one of the 12 plaintiffs in the 1991 suit have agreed to
release 83 million board-feet of timber sales enjoined by Dwyer.
This deal, reached last August, has been dubbed the "Deal of Shame"
by a number of groups not party to the settlement, including the
Native Forest Council in Eugene. They claim the mainline groups
"sold out" in giving some old growth up for harvest (HCN,
12/27/93). The mainline groups, including the Sierra Club, Oregon
Natural Resources Council and others, contend they feared political
backlash in Congress if they failed to approve the deal.
Nonetheless, the deal is being challenged in Dwyer's court by the
Forest Conservation Council and Save the West and in a separate
filing by the Native Forest Council.
industry has filed two suits, one in U.S. District Court in
Washington, D.C., that claims the Clinton forest team violated the
federal open meetings law. Interestingly, a plaintiff in this case
is the Native Forest Council. In March, the judge ruled against the
government, but the case is likely to be merged with other
litigation before Dwyer.
The other lawsuit
charges Option 9 violates a law which industry claims requires the
government to maximize timber harvests in western