COOS BAY — The state of Oregon has withdrawn more than 900 acres of planned timber sales in Elliott State Forest, pending the outcome of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists.
The Oregon Department of Forestry plans instead to open 465 acres of alternative logging sites that were not named in the lawsuit, The (Coos Bay) World reported.
“It’s certainly nowhere near what was proposed in the annual operating plan,” department spokesman Kevin Weeks said.
Weeks estimated the change in plans will cost the Common School Fund about $9.85 million in income next year. But environmental groups say deferred logging means another year of protection for the endangered marbled murrelet sea bird.
The lawsuit, filed by Cascadia Wildlands and other environmental groups in May, alleges the state’s logging practices violate the Endangered Species Act.
“All the current scientific information suggests the seabirds’ population is continuing to plummet in this region,” Cascadia Wildlands spokesman Josh Laughlin said. “Clear cutting of its nesting habitat is a factor. To us, that suggests that public agencies like the Department of Forestry should take stronger measures to ensure their survival.”
Laughlin said a federal judge will hear the lawsuit sometime next year.
The state would have to drastically adjust its forest management plan if the judge decides in favor of the environmental groups.
Cascadia Wildlands wants the state to pursue a habitat conservation plan that would allow logging in certain areas and preserve other areas as habitat for endangered species. The state managed the Elliott State Forest with a habitat conservation plan for years. But it was scrapped last year because the National Marine Fisheries Service would not approve it, saying the plan did not adequately protect Coho salmon.
Currently, all areas of the state forest are open to logging if no endangered species live in the immediate vicinity.
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