For Immediate Release, June 3, 2008
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-7495
Francis Eatherington, Umpqua Watersheds Inc., (541) 643-1309
Josh Laughlin, Cascadia Wildlands Project, (541) 434-1463
New Threats to the Spotted Owl Prompt
Legal Notice on the Elliott State Forest
PORTLAND, Oreg.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Umpqua Watersheds Inc, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center filed a formal notice of intent today to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to reconsider the impacts of logging mature and old-growth forests on the Elliott State Forest on the northern spotted owl in light of new information showing the owl is facing increased threats from the combination of habitat loss, the barred owl and disease.
“New information shows threats to the spotted owl have increased dramatically, yet the Oregon Department of Forestry is plowing ahead with clearcutting their habitat on the Elliott,” said Noah Greenwald, science director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “ Oregon could do more to protect the owl and old-growth forests and still provide funds for schools.”
In 1995, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Oregon Department of Forestry a permit to log spotted owl habitat on the Elliott and to “take” owls based on mitigations provided by a “habitat conservation plan.” The permit allowed the Department of Forestry to log 22,000 acres of spotted owl habitat, which was expected to contribute to the loss of 43 individual owls on at least 22 owl territories over 60 years, leaving at most 13 owl territories. A 2003 survey found that owls had indeed been lost from all these territories and were already limited to just 13 territories after just eight years. This survey, however, also found that barred owls were present within six of these 13 territories, as well as within two territories where spotted owls were no longer found.
“The barred owl presents a substantial new threat to the spotted owl that was not anticipated in 1995,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director of Umpqua Watersheds. “Continued clearcutting of the limited spotted owl habitat on the Elliott should stop until it can be shown that it will not further endanger the spotted owl.”
The Elliot State Forest is a 93,000 acre tract of state forests, 90 percent of which is “Common School Fund Lands,” in the Coast Range east of Coos Bay and is managed to generate revenues for Oregon schools. It harbors some of the last, best habitat for the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, coho salmon, and other threatened species in the Coast Range. The Oregon Constitution requires that the Common School Fund Lands be managed “with the object of obtaining the greatest benefit for the people of this state, consistent with the conservation of this resource under sound techniques of land management.” The Oregon attorney general has stated that this provision authorizes management of these lands to secure both economic and non-economic values. State law thus allows managing the Elliott to preserve wildlife habitat, clean water and other values in addition to generating revenues for schools.
“The Elliott could be managed to balance preservation of old forests and protection of the spotted owl with the need to provide funds for Oregon’s schools,” said Josh Laughlin, conservation director of Cascadia Wildlands Project. “The current management of the Elliott, however, does not achieve this balance.”