Three conservation organizations — the Audubon Society of Portland, Cascadia Wildlands and the Center for Biological Diversity — reached a settlement agreement with the state on Wednesday, canceling 28 timber sales on the marbled murrelet’s habitat, more than 2,700 acres in Elliott, Clatsop and Tillamook state forests.
The agreement also ensures the seabird, protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, is unharmed in future management practices.
“This agreement provides immediate relief for the dwindling population of the marbled murrelet,” said Francis Eatherington, conservation director of Cascadia Wildlands. “The state of Oregon needs to see more in our state forests than timber volume.”
This legal battle began in 2012, when conservation organizations argued that logging is the seabird’s primary threat.
But state officials said the land has to generate money for public schools through the Common School Fund, according to a state constitutional requirement.
Jim Paul, assistant director of the Department of State Lands’ land management division, had previously said that the Elliott State Forest was losing money, making a $2 million negative impact on the Common School Fund.
In December the state land board — Gov. John Kitzhaber, secretary of state Kate Brown and state treasurer Ted Wheeler — decided to move forward with sales of some tracts in the Elliott State Forest.
Noah Greenwald, Center for Biological Diversity’s endangered species director, said the state and Oregon Department of Forestry are “paying the price” now for years of “flouting” the law.
“It’s time for the state to find a path forward that generates income for schools, but doesn’t drive species extinct in the process,” he said.
Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland’s conservation director, said the canceled sales speak “to how out of alignment the state’s practices were with the law.”
“Hopefully this marks the beginning of a new era of responsible and sustainable management of our state’s forests,” he said.
Reporter Chelsea Davis can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 239, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @ChelseaLeeDavis.