Logging of Parcels Liquidated from Elliott State Forest Will Harm Marbled Murrelets, Other Oregon Wildlife, Water and People
EUGENE, Ore.— Conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue Seneca Jones and Scott Timber today to prevent the imminent clearcutting of three large parcels of Elliott State Forest lands that were recently sold to these companies. The notice presents evidence that the clearcut logging conducted by both companies will harm federally protected marbled murrelets, seabirds that come inland to nest and breed in mature and old-growth forests. The Endangered Species Act prohibits actions that injure or kill threatened species, including destruction of occupied habitat.
In 2012 Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society of Portland initiated a similar lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Forestry for clearcutting occupied murrelet habitat on the Elliott State Forest. The court stopped the logging of occupied mature forest, ultimately forcing the state to cancel 28 timber sales.
“These parcels, which once belonged to all Oregonians, should never have been sold in the first place,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland. “Now that they’ve been sold, we’re not going to allow them to be clearcut and contribute to the extinction of the unique marbled murrelet.”
The Adams Ridge #1, Benson Ridge and East Hakki Ridge parcels are valued at $22.1 million. The state sold them to Seneca Jones and Scott Timber for $4.2 million. Clearcutting the parcels will hurt marbled murrelets by eliminating the trees they need for nesting and by fragmenting the forest, which leads to trees blowing down and increased predation of the birds and their nests.
“This is just irresponsible behavior on behalf of the state and these companies,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director with Cascadia Wildlands. “The state is proceeding with a plan to divest itself of these lands at an outrageous discount with the understanding that these corporations will clearcut these lands in plain violation and disregard for federal law.”
Current research on marbled murrelet populations in the Pacific Northwest shows populations are declining every year and continued logging on the three state forests is a likely factor. If the state continues with its divestment of Elliott State Forest lands, this large sanctuary of mature forest will be lost, subjected to harsh clearcutting and pesticide spraying practices of the Oregon Forest Practices Act. Oregon is home to a vital part of the West Coast murrelet population, but if the state does not figure out an effective solution for the Elliott soon, the population declines could worsen.
“It is time for the State to look for real solutions for the Elliott now that it has been forced to abandon decades of unsustainable, illegal logging practices,” said Audubon Conservation Director, Bob Sallinger. “Liquidating public lands at bargain basement prices is a non-solution and we are confident that clear-cut logging of the Elliott’s old growth forests remains illegal regardless of whether it is conducted by the State or private timber companies.
Recent, certified surveys conducted on all three of these parcels determined they were occupied by marbled murrelets. Although very elusive, the marbled murrelet, when observed below the forest canopy, is demonstrating that it is nesting in that forest stand.
The conservation organizations — Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon Society of Portland — are represented by outside counsel Daniel Kruse of Eugene, Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity, Nick Cady of Cascadia Wildlands, Chris Winter of the CRAG Law Center and Scott Jerger of Portland.