Owl defenders awarded $1 million

  The federal government must pay $1 million to lawyers who fought to protect the northern spotted owl during a six-year legal battle with the Bureau of Land Management. Federal District Court Judge Helen J. Frye awarded $966,317 in attorney fees to the Seattle-based Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, while the Western Environmental Law Center of Eugene, Ore., was given $39,195, reports The Oregonian. "The government here has no one to blame but itself," says Sierra Club attorney Todd True. "If they'd followed the law in the 1980s and through the early "90s they wouldn't owe this money." In a January 1994 ruling, Frye banned new logging on BLM land and ruled that the agency violated federal environmental laws by failing to protect the owl. Frye has since lifted the ban, but the land remains unlogged as the BLM works out new plans to protect wildlife. Although attorneys for the groups had requested $430 per hour under a federal law that allows them to seek twice their hourly rate of $215, Frye awarded them only $205 per hour. True says the award won't be used for bonuses since the attorneys are salaried; the money will pay for future work.

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