Judge says new forest management plans should stand

A judge has dismissed legal challenges to federal forest management plans on BLM property in Western Oregon.

Environmentalists and logging companies have both failed in their legal attacks against the federal government’s plans for managing 2.5 million acres of Western Oregon forestland.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane has rejected allegations that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s “resource management plans” for six forest districts unlawfully relaxed environmental protections. He also dismissed arguments that the plans didn’t allow for sufficient logging.

The plans issued by the agency in 2016 were meant to replace others that had been enacted more than two decades earlier, but multiple environmental groups filed a lawsuit arguing the action violated several federal laws governing the forestland.

McShane has now agreed to dismiss the litigation filed by Pacific Rivers and eight other organizations at the recommendation of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jolie Russo, who said the plaintiffs didn’t successfully “refute or otherwise undermine” BLM’s “final environmental impact statement” for the new plans.

“In other words, BLM considered potential direct, indirect and cumulative impacts of the various management alternatives on twenty-five resources throughout the FEIS, and addressed site-specific future actions where those actions could be reasonably forecasted,” Russo said.

Although protections for threatened and endangered species are “not identical” to those in the older Northwest Forest Plan, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service didn’t ignore the science or earlier management objectives in evaluating the new plans, the judge said.

“Instead, the record establishes FWS and NMFS considered the relevant facts, available data, and scientific information, and supplied a reasoned analysis in determining the 2016 (plans) would avoid jeopardy and adverse modification,” she said.

Russo also determined that Zuber & Sons Logging, Turner Logging and the Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce lacked standing to challenge the BLM’s plans in federal court.

The magistrate judge said that timber harvest levels will increase under the new plans, so arguments that even higher levels would be beneficial to prevent wildfires are “speculative.”

“Likewise, the fact that defendant-intervenors and their surrounding communities would benefit economically from increased logging is neither sufficiently specific nor causally connected to the proposed action,” she said.

I've been working at Capital Press since 2006 and I primarily cover legislative, regulatory and legal issues.

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