Timber workers sue federal agency over Oregon land

A case of environmental litigation is brewing out of Portland, Oregon. The American Forest Resource Council, a group in Portland that is involved with the timber industry, has filed a lawsuit against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.

The American Forest Resource Council have recently accused the federal agency of appropriating a large portion of Portland land to be used as a habitat for an endangered animal that does not live there, nor is it likely it ever will. The Fish and Wildlife Service designated around 3.7 million acres in Oregon, Washington and California to be used as a critical habitat for a rare bird called the marbled murrelet.

When the agency took these actions, they claimed that logging on the lands have contributed to the bird's demise. The bird is considered threatened in the three states on the west coast as defined by the Endangered Species Act.

Loggers, like the members of the American Forest Resource Council, are angered at the way the land is being treated and for the fact their rights to the land have been limited. Groups can still log the land that is set aside as a habitat, but must go through government agencies to do so.

Plus, the American Forest Resource Council claims that the birds are not occupying the land now, and because it lacks the characteristics of an old forest that the bird finds favorable, it is unlikely they will make a home there. Essentially, the group argued that the government is tying up the land for no good reason.

The lawsuit was filed in a federal court in Washington D.C. Under the endangered species act, the government can only designate land for a specific habitat if that animal already lives there, or needs the land for their future survival. Neither seems to be the case here.

Source: The Oregonian, "Oregon timber industry group files lawsuit over marbled murrelet habitat designations," Eric Mortenson, Jan. 30, 2012

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