Oregon company aligns with state to fight land-use suit

A lumber company based in Eugene, Oregon, has joined the side of the state governor and state and federal agencies that manage forest land, all of which face a lawsuit over their plans for the land.

The governor and forestry officials have agreed to grant permission for more logging in the Clatsop, Elliott and Tillamook state forests in the Oregon Coast Range. Three environmental groups are pursuing land use litigation, however, to try to stop the logging, claiming it would disrupt the natural habitat of the marbled murrelet. The murrelet, a seabird, is an endangered species.

The Eugene company and four other logging industry groups have been approved by the U.S. district judge overseeing the case to join with the governor and other officials in defense of the suit.

Oregon state officials believe the environmental groups do not have to worry about damage to the murrelet. State officials said they have launched a strong forest management plan to protect the bird, which primarily lays eggs on mossy branches of old-growth trees.

The state plan includes designating a buffer zone of up to several hundred acres where there is known murrelet activity. It also requires the stoppage of logging while the birds nest from April to September.

With the inclusion of the timber company and industry groups, the state has five powerful allies. One of them is a forest industries council, which represents more than 50 companies that specialize in logging and wood products.

The entities that have joined in said they have done so because they depend on the timber sales from the area and because a restriction on public lands could hinder timber production.

In this case, the Eugene company owns and manages about 165,000 acres of Oregon forest, some within 50 miles of the Oregon coast and within the territories where the marbled murrelet live.

Source: The Register-Guard, "Timber firms help fight suit," Karen McCowan, July 9, 2012

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