GRANTS PASS — Western timber companies have gone to court to lift the logging ban on national forests due to the government shutdown, arguing the government has no authority under timber sale contracts to force loggers to stop working.
Three wood products companies and a timber industry association filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford against the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
The lawsuit seeks a temporary restraining order, which would lift the logging shutdown and argues direction from the Office of Management and Budget does not require suspension of operations on a federal contract as long as direct supervision is inessential to the contractor’s work. It adds that some of the contracts involve work that is improving public safety by reducing wildfire danger and removing dead trees in danger of falling in campgrounds.
The companies also say the agencies failed to file notice of the shutdown or give the timber industry a chance to respond.
“It makes zero sense for the cash-strapped government to shut down operations that pay millions into the United States Treasury,” said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resources Council, the timber industry group that filed the lawsuit. “A timber operation isn’t something you can turn on and off like a light switch.”
The Forest Service and BLM had no comment on the lawsuit.
The service started sending out notices to 450 timber buyers last week, saying they had to wrap up operations. The BLM, which sells timber only in Western Oregon, followed suit.