For Immediate Release, September 11, 2012
Court: Ashland Forest Logging Violates Rules Protecting City Water Supply
MEDFORD, Ore.— A federal court has found that soil erosion caused by logging in the Ashland watershed in southern Oregon violates U.S. Forest Service standards designed to protect the city of Ashland’s municipal water supply.
“Logging on steep slopes will expose sensitive granite soils to erosion and foul Ashland’s water,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity and co-plaintiff in the lawsuit, brought under the National Forest Management Act, with Eric Navickas. “This lawsuit tackles an obvious environmental hazard that triggered serious concern in the community.”
In 2009, the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest approved the Ashland Forest Resiliency logging project on 7,600 acres in the hills south of Ashland.
The magistrate’s report signed Friday and issued Monday, found that the AFR project will exceed soil-exposure standards on “restricted watershed” lands with "very high or very severe" erosion hazards, and defy standards on “restricted riparian” lands that are located within 100 feet of streams. It disagreed with the Forest Service’s contention that the soil standards are “flexible.”
Lininger was part of a collaborative group organized by the city of Ashland that consulted with the Forest Service on the AFR project. However, the agency rejected the “Community Alternative” proposed by the city, which would have avoided logging in riparian areas to protect water quality.
The report must be reviewed by a district court judge and it will not affect logging in the AFR project scheduled for this year. If the judge upholds its legal findings, changes to the project may be required in later years.
“Fire-hazard reduction in Ashland’s forest will continue,” Lininger said. “The Forest Service ignored collaboration, which made this lawsuit necessary to ensure that community agreements are respected.”
To download a copy of the magistrate’s report, click here.
Plaintiffs were represented in the case by attorneys Marianne Dugan and Sean Malone of Eugene.