A federal judge has refused to block a logging project on tribal land in Southwest Oregon but environmentalists are now appealing the ruling.
The dispute centered on a 270-acre logging project by the Coquille Indian Tribe near Bridge, Ore.
The 5,400-acre forest is held in trust for the tribe by the federal government, so its management falls under the jurisdiction of federal laws.
The Kokwel project aims to harvest stands between 80 and 155 years old, while leaving roughly 10-15 percent of the trees.
Over a 10-year period, the logging would yield about 14 million board feet of timber for the tribe, which will use the proceeds to pay for social services.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the project will have an adverse impact on the threatened northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet, but not enough to jeopardize the species.
Several environmental groups — Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and Umpqua Watersheds — filed a legal complaint challenging the Kokwel project last year.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane has now dismissed the case, upholding a previous ruling by a magistrate judge.
The magistrate judge rejected the environmentalist claim that logging would violate a statute that restored land to the Coquille tribe, calling this a “tortured argument.”
The environmental groups also failed to show that the tribe and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs insufficiently studied the “cumulative impacts” of logging, the judge said.
On June 30, the environmentalists filed documents challenging the dismissal before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.