Judge halts commercial timber harvest in Central Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has halted a 78-acre (31.5-hectare) commercial timber harvest in central Oregon near Walton Lake in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest at the request of an environmental group.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman granted the preliminary injunction sought by the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project against logging in the recreational area that was to start in October, the Capital Press reported.
Mosman said at the end of oral arguments in Portland on Wednesday that the nonprofit group was likely to prevail on the merits of its claim that the project violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
The group also met the other requirements for a preliminary injunction, such as demonstrating immediate and irreparable harm from the project, the judge said. The logged trees would be lost for generations, if not permanently, Mosman said.
The Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project filed a complaint last year against a 178-acre (72-hectare) timber project at the Walton Lake recreational area, but its request for a preliminary injunction focused only on the 78 acres.
Tom Buchele, the group’s attorney, argued the U.S. Forest Service should have examined the site-specific effects of logging on the “locale” of the recreational area, rather than on the entire national forest.
“The impacts to the locale certainly are significant. I would say dramatic,” Buchele said.
Sean Duffy, attorney for the federal government, countered that the project was analyzed for various factors, such as its effect on forest species, which required looking at a larger scale. These factors supported the agency’s “finding of no significant impact,” he said.
“It’s backed up by a significant environmental analysis,” Duffy said.