Oregon Logging Plan May be Set Aside -- Northern Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets to Benefit

Contact: Robert Johns, 202-234-7181 ext.210,

 

Marbled Murrelet by Michael Woodruff
Marbled Murrelets by Michael Woodruff

(July 25, 2011) Northern Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets, and other wildlife may benefit from a “legal error” in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) controversial plan for managing Western Oregon forests. The BLM has now admitted that the plan is legally flawed and should be set aside, and a new planning process developed. BLM made that announcement via a court filing in response to a lawsuit by EarthJustice. A federal judge must now decide the plan’s fate, but given that both the plaintiff and the government agree that the plan is flawed, it seems  likely that the court will agree.

 

The Western Oregon Plan Revisions (WOPR) was approved by BLM in 2008, but experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service were never given the opportunity to consult on the plan’s impacts on endangered species as mandated by Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act. As a result, in 2009, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the WOPR was legally indefensible and must be withdrawn.

 

The plan would quadruple old-growth logging on BLM-managed forests in Oregon, reducing habitat for the threatened Northern Spotted Owl and Marbled Murrelet, as well as impacting threatened wild-salmon stocks. An estimated 680 known Spotted Owl sites and 600 Marbled Murrelet sites would have been eliminated over the course of the plan’s implementation, along with significantly more old-growth habitat needed for young owls to safely disperse. Over 70 percent of the timber volume would come from clear-cuts where no trees would be retained. The combined impacts could trigger the need to raise the Endangered Species Act status of the owl from Threatened to Endangered.

 

American Bird Conservancy and other members of the Bird Conservation Alliance, a coalition of more than 200 conservation and bird groups, weighed in with a series of letters to the Obama Administration urging the WOPR be withdrawn.

 

“This is an important step forward toward conserving wildlife and assuring the integrity of forest management in the Pacific Northwest,” said Steve Holmer, Senior Policy Advisor for American Bird Conservancy. “Conserving old-growth forests protects wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and clean drinking water supplies for Oregon communities.”

 

“The low elevation forest lands of western Oregon managed by BLM have very high ecological values including carbon storage, and they provide irreplaceable habitat that links large blocks of forest in the Coast, Cascade, and Klamath mountains,” said Holmer. “This area is critically important for the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and many other animals and must be preserved.”

 

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American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit membership organization whose mission is to conserve native birds and their habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts by safeguarding the rarest species, conserving and restoring habitats, and reducing threats, while building capacity in the bird conservation movement.