Community wins legal challenge against logging
A federal court judge has ruled the Bureau of Land Management didn't do enough environmental analysis of the Scattered Apples Timber Sale, delaying timber harvest.
Judge Michael Hogan in Eugene on Dec. 20 ruled that the Medford District didn't fully document the cumulative effects of logging on spotted owls and salmon in its 1999 environmental assessment. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit have 14 days to tell the judge what they want in relief based on the decision, then the BLM will have 10 days to respond to that.
Abbie Jossie, Grants Pass Resource Area manager, said the decision could be appealed to the 9th Circuit Court, or attorneys for both sides could work out a solution.
Or Judge Hogan could "tell us exactly what he wants," Jossie said. "We're working with our attorneys to determine what our options are," Jossie said.
The Scattered Apples sale has divided the town of Williams for about seven years. It includes a 3.6-million-board-foot timber sale, fuel reduction and trail work on 3,483 acres. Swanson Group of Glendale bought the sale, and planned to begin harvest in 2003. Some fuels reduction began last fall, Jossie said.
Opponents protested the BLM decision, then filed suit last year over harvest of 1,500 trees 22 inches in diameter or larger.
Plaintiffs include the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Williams citizens. They say old growth trees are being "held hostage" to fuel reduction projects.
The BLM did not include a community plan called Scattered Apples Restoration Alternative as part of its analysis, a decision also argued in the lawsuit. Hogan ruled in the BLM's favor on that point, and also ruled that the BLM did not fail because timber volume in the final sale was higher than in the analysis.
Jossie said recent 9th Circuit Court decisions have set the standard for district court judges. The new "hard-look" standard says agencies should look at all past actions and future actions in analyses.
"The community wants the right thing done here," said Spencer Lennard of Williams, of the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "We're hoping that because Judge Hogan has ruled with us several times it puts us in strong position to finally have the BLM sit down with us at the table and design a non-controversial project that achieves goals of reducing fire risk."