For Immediate Release, April 14, 2021

Contact:

Nick Cady, Cascadia Wildlands, (314) 482-3746, nick@cascwild.org
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity, (503) 484-9214, ngreenwald@biologicaldiversity.org

Lawsuit Aims to Stop Post-Fire Logging on Oregon State Forest

Organizations Challenge Department of Forestry’s Clearcutting in Santiam State Forest After Last Summer’s Wildfires

PORTLAND, Ore.— A coalition of conservation groups filed a lawsuit today challenging the ongoing post-fire clearcutting in the Santiam State Forest east of Salem. The state forest has been closed to visitors since the Labor Day wildfires and is currently being extensively logged by the Oregon Department of Forestry.

The department’s logging operations in the Santiam have been contentious as they are impacting areas beloved by mountain bikers, horseback riders and hikers, including the Monument Peak horse camp and the Niagara area.

“I’ve been mountain biking in this area for years and got to know the trails really well,” said Mark Goldsworthy, a Salem resident and standing declarant in the lawsuit. “When I heard that the area was due to be clearcut I was shocked and disheartened. It’s like losing an old friend.”

Community members and environmental organizations have also been raising concerns about the huge ecological impact that heavy logging has on post-fire forests and watersheds. Research shows that post-fire salvage logging damages the local environment and delays forest recovery, while releasing large amounts of carbon, further worsening the global climate crisis.

“Oregon’s Department of Forestry is doubling down on the devastating effects of last year’s fire season, and clearcutting some of the most treasured recreation areas in the Santiam State Forest,” said Nick Cady, legal director with Cascadia Wildlands. “These are beautiful forests in protected areas and the department is taking advantage of the fires to log these areas and triple its volume output for the year. The agency is out of control.”

“Salvage logging the Santiam State Forest will do great damage to spotted owls, struggling salmon populations, water quality and forest recovery,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Oregon Department of Forestry is stuck in the 1950s and out of step with science and the values of most Oregonians.”

“We've known for a long time that burned forests are great at storing carbon, but not when they're logged,” said Rebecca White, wildlands director with Cascadia Wildlands. “It's time for our state land managers to plan actions that will help us fight against climate change, not contribute to making it worse.”

Today’s lawsuit was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court by Cascadia Wildlands, the Center, Willamette Riverkeeper, Audubon Society of Portland and Audubon Society of Salem.

Background

Post-fire logging typically removes most of the remaining trees and involves intense road building and maintenance, the planting of nonnative species and the application of toxic herbicides. The combined impacts of these actions disrupt forest health, degrade habitat, harm forested watersheds and impact aquatic ecosystems by driving erosion and removing potential habitat in the form of woody debris (Karr et al. 2004, Donato et al. 2006, Reeves et al. 2006).

Logging emits far more carbon than even severe wildfire (Law et al. 2018). While fire-killed trees may take several decades or even centuries to decompose, during the logging and milling process, most of the carbon is rapidly released into the atmosphere (Smith et al. 2006, Gower et al. 2006). Post-fire logging undercuts the natural sequestration and storage capacity of post-fire forests and contributes to carbon emissions that worsen climate change.

In congressional testimony to the House Subcommittee on Resources (Nov. 10, 2005, hearing on H.R. 4200), University of Washington Professor Jerry Franklin said, “Timber salvage is most appropriately viewed as a ‘tax’ on ecological recovery.”

An interactive map of the areas proposed for logging can be found here. Photos of the ongoing logging are available here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.