Two conservation groups are challenging a U.S. Forest Service timber sale outside Crater Lake National Park in an area the groups want to see protected as wilderness.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene by the Cascadia Wild and Oregon Wild. The groups are asking a judge to stop the Loafer timber sale in an area northwest of Diamond Lake on the Umpqua National Forest.
The lawsuit claims the Forest Service should more fully examine the project’s potential harm to protected species like northern spotted owls and red tree voles. It says the logging requires building a road through two areas of virgin forest, which would make them ineligible for future wilderness designation.
A Forest Service spokesman told the Associated Press the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
The Loafer sale, named after the Loafer Creek drainage, is proposed on the Umpqua’s Diamond Lake Ranger District and would affect a portion of the 2,000-acre plus Dread and Terror roadless area. The project would result in 30 million board-feet of tree fiber.
According to the Forest Service’s environmental assessment, the Loafer sale will restore natural ecosystem function and reduce fire fuels.
The Loafer environmental assessment was issued in March and the final record of decision was filed in May. The decision was appealed, but the appeal was denied by the Forest Service’s regional office in August.
“Since then we have been pursuing the avenue of litigation,” said Erik Fernandez, Oregon Wild wilderness coordinator. He said the project would log within the proposed wilderness near the North Umpqua River north and slightly west of the park.
“This area is a key corridor for wildlife species migrating from the high elevations along the crest down to lower elevations,” he said. “The North Umpqua also is known as a world class salmon fishery and we’re concerned that this project would have a negative impact on water quality and salmon.”
Oregon Wild also opposes the Bybee timber sale on the west side of Crater Lake National Park.
The proposed 50,000 acre Crater Lake Wilderness would, according to Fernandez, “protect the park’s backcountry and corridors leading in and out of the park, creating a 90-mile habitat conservation corridor along the crest of the Southern Cascades.” The proposed wilderness would not affect any of the existing park roads or developed areas, including Rim Village and the Crater Lake Lodge.
As proposed, the Bybee would log 1,300 acres of potential wilderness on Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest lands, also near Crater Lake National Park. The Forest Service has made changes in the proposed sale but, according to Fernandez, “The changes have simply moved the project from terrible to bad” because it would imperil and weaken the park’s ecosystems and would be near the headwaters of the Rogue River.