Northwest forests hit by new lawsuits

 

Note: This article is a sidebar to this issue's feature story, A doomed species?

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 those policies.

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 plan.

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.

Meanwhile, all 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.

The timber 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 Oregon.

High Country News Classifieds
  • ELLIE SAYS IT'S SAFE! A GUIDE DOG'S JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE
    by Don Hagedorn. A story of how lives of the visually impaired are improved through the love and courage of guide dogs. Available on Amazon.
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY
    All positions available: Sales Representative, Accountant and Administrative Assistant. As part of our expansion program, our University is looking for part time work from home...
  • COMMUNICATIONS ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Position Title: Communications Associate Director Location: Flexible within the Western U.S., Durango, CO preferred Position reports to: Senior Communications Director The Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF)...
  • HISTORIC HOTEL & CAFE
    For Sale, 600k, Centennial Wyoming, 6 suites plus 2 bed, 2 bath apartment. www.themountainviewhotel.com Make this your home or buy a turn key hotel [email protected]
  • MAJOR GIFTS OFFICER
    High Country News, an award-winning news organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a Major Gifts Officer to join our...
  • RUBY, ARIZONA CARETAKER
    S. Az ghost town seeking full-time caretaker. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • VICE PRESIDENT, LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION
    Basic Summary: The Vice President for Landscape Conservation is based in the Washington, D.C., headquarters and oversees Defenders' work to promote landscape-scale wildlife conservation, focusing...
  • BRISTOL BAY PROGRAM DIRECTOR
    Seeking a program director responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of the Alaska Chapter's priority strategy for conservation in the Bristol Bay region of...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The National Bighorn Sheep Center is looking for an Executive Director to take us forward into the new decade with continued strong leadership and vision:...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Powder Basin Watershed Council, based in Baker City, Oregon, seeks a new Executive Director with a passion for rural communities, water, and working lands....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Powder River Basin Resource Council, a progressive non-profit conservation organization based in Sheridan, Wyoming, seeks an Executive Director, preferably with grassroots organizing experience, excellent communication...
  • ADOBE HOME
    Passive solar adobe home in high desert of central New Mexico. Located on a 10,000 acre cattle ranch.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition, based in Ely, Nevada is looking for a new executive director to replace the long-time executive director who is retiring at...
  • STEVE HARRIS, EXPERIENCED PUBLIC LANDS/ENVIRONMENTAL ATTORNEY
    Comment Letters - Admin Appeals - Federal & State Litigation - FOIA -
  • LISA MACKEY PHOTOGRAPHY
    Fine Art Gicle Printing. Photo papers, fine art papers, canvas. Widths up to 44". Art printing by an artist.
  • LOG HOME IN THE GILA WILDERNESS
    Beautiful hand built log home in the heart of the Gila Wilderness on five acres. Please email for PDF of pictures and a full description.
  • CARETAKER
    2.0 acre homestead needing year-round caretaker in NE Oregon. Contact [email protected] for details.
  • SEEKING PROPERTY FOR BISON HERD
    Seeking additional properties for a herd of 1,000 AUM minimum. Interested in partnering with landowners looking to engage in commercial and/or conservation bison ranching. Location...
  • COPPER STAIN: ASARCO'S LEGACY IN EL PASO
    Tales from scores of ex-employees unearth the human costs of an economy that runs on copper.