ROSEBURG, Ore. — The federal government has proposed logging on Southern Oregon forests swept by wildfire last year, and environmental groups have gone to court to block the plans, alleging 24 northern spotted owls are at risk.
The timber would come from the area of one of the biggest fires of 2013, the Roseburg News-Review reported.
A dry lightning storm on July 26 ignited fires about 7 miles north of Glendale that eventually burned across more than 75 square miles of private and federal timberlands in southern Douglas and northern Josephine counties.
Many private landowners started salvage logging immediately after the fires were contained in September. The federal government held public meetings and did environmental assessments before holding a timber sale in July. The Fish and Wildlife Service authorized the Bureau of Land Management to salvage trees on about 2 square miles.
Two parcels drew bids, with a total of $1.6 million. A third, larger sale didn’t attract bids.
Three groups went to court earlier this month to argue that the plans would harm the northern spotted owl, which was listed as a threatened species in 1990.
The suit says the Fish and Wildlife Service approved what’s called the “incidental take” of spotted owls at seven sites they’re known to inhabit — in contradiction to the agency’s owl recovery plan, which recommends retaining owl habitat, including habitat burned in wildfires.
“Traditionally, salvage logging is the worst of the worst as far as ecologically affecting the forest,” said Nick Cady, legal director of Cascadia Wildlands. “It’s like kicking someone when they are down.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment, but a timber industry representative defended its work.
“We have had people review the Fish and Wildlife Service’s analysis of what to do with the dead trees, and we think they took a very conservative approach protecting owl habitat,” said Bob Ragon, executive director of Douglas Timber Operators. “We feel they did a pretty solid job.”