Judge tosses out lawsuit challenging thinning project
A federal judge has thrown out an environmentalist lawsuit against a 200-acre thinning project on U.S. Bureau of Land Management property in Oregon.
U.S. District Judge Anna Brown has agreed with a magistrate judge’s ruling that BLM complied with environmental laws.
The lawsuit was filed in 2012 by the environmental group Bark, which objected to the Airstrip timber sale southeast of Estacada, Ore.
The BLM approved the project because the area was overstocked with trees but Bark claimed that snags would be removed contrary to land management plans.
Bark argued that the area is already deficient in snags, which are important for cavity-nesting birds, but the BLM wants to eliminate even more of them.
The BLM acknowledged that roughly 10 percent of snags would be cut for safety reasons, road building and logging operations.
However, the snags would be left on the forest floor to provide woody debris for wildlife, the agency said.
Thinning the forest will improve the growth of remaining trees and result in better habitat over the long term, according to BLM.
Existing snags in the area are too small and decayed to provide much value or last for an extended time, the agency said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Acosta found that thinning isn’t precluded by the snag deficit and the project is consistent with plans for the area.
“It is unreasonable to reject the benefits expected to inure to the land as a result of the sale solely because the snag deficit will continue immediately after the commercial thinning is completed,” Acosta said.
The judge also rejected Bark’s argument that BLM didn’t sufficiently study the project’s effects on several bat species in the area.
“BLM has identified and clearly described the impacts of the sale on special status bat species suspected to be present in low numbers on the land,” he said.