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State Forests Under Fire

Marbled Murrelet. Photo credit USFWS.
Marbled Murrelet. Photo credit USFWS.

Oregon’s state forests are the focal points of protests and lawsuits this summer. The culminating action of the Earth First! Cascadia Bioregional Rendezvous on June 25 was a lockdown at the state Capitol protesting the increased logging and clearcuts on Oregon’s state lands.

Activists from Cascadia Earth First! and Cascadia Forest Defenders (CFD) chained themselves together and staged a “die-in” in the offices of Treasurer Ted Wheeler and Secretary of State Kate Brown while others climbed the building’s flagpoles, hanging banners reading, “Oregon: For Sale by Kate Brown and Ted Wheeler” and “Defend Oregon, No Compromise, Earth First!”

Brown and Wheeler are members, along with Gov. John Kitzhaber, of the State Land Board, which voted to nearly double the clearcuts on the Elliott State Forest, the protesters say. The groups are also calling to separate public school funding from state forest management. 

In the end, according to Oregon State Police reports, six protesters were arrested, including two from Eugene, Cameron Michael Kennedy and Nicole Dentremont. CFD says at one point the support crew for the protesters locked down in Brown’s office was asked to leave and the door was covered over blocking the view of concerned fellow protesters.

Conservation group Cascadia Wildlands has been working on the state forest issue from another angle. At the end of May, together with the Center for Biological Diversity and the Audubon Society of Portland, the group filed a lawsuit in federal court charging that “Oregon’s clearcutting practices illegally harm threatened marbled murrelets within the Tillamook, Clatsop and Elliott state forests in violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Cascadia Wildlands says the most recent status review of marbled murrelets by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the swift, potato-shaped birds have been declining at a rate of approximately 4 percent per year and that the decline is probably related to the continued loss of habitat, primarily on state and private lands. 

In response to the suit, Oregon halted eight of the 10 timber sales the groups objected to. The other two timber sales had already been cut, Josh Laughlin of Cascadia Wildlands says. He says Cascadia Wildlands is pleased the state of Oregon has suspended operations on these clearcutting projects that are harming the murrelets through the injunction relief phase of the case. “Now we call on Gov. Kitzhaber to initiate balanced conservation plans on our coastal state forests instead of continuing to make Swiss cheese out of them.”