A federal judge has halted U.S. Forest Service plans to log part of the Willamette National Forest burned by last summer’s wildfires after a lawsuit filed by environmentalists.
The ruling Friday by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken comes after Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild sued to stop the logging near Breitenbush Hot Springs and Detroit Lake, the Statesman Journal reported.
The groups allege the Forest Service modified logging contracts — which were focused on thinning green trees and doing prescribed burns — to include logging fire-charred trees without going through the proper environmental review process.
“Oregon Wild brought this case to defend the simple proposition that when a wildfire burns through an ongoing timber sale, the Forest Service needs to pump the brakes and involve the public in deciding how to move forward,” Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild said. “That’s not just the law, but also the best way to protect our forests, drinking water, wildlife, carbon, and scenic values.”
In court papers, the Forest Service denies those claims and says it carefully analyzed the logging plans after the fire before deciding to proceed.
“The careful (new) analysis is precisely the type of thorough post-decisional review regulations seek to foster," the Forest Service said in a statement.
Aiken's ruling halts any further logging, pending the end of the lawsuit.
This is the second court action on a wildfire-related logging lawsuit in less than a month.
A different federal judge halted Forest Service plans to log in another part of the Willamette National Forest in November.