Conservation Groups Sue Forest Service Over Cottage Grove Timber Sale

Plaintiffs claim the sale will harm animals and mature trees

Red tree vole courtesy of Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team.

Oregon conservation groups Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and Benton Forest Coalition have filed a lawsuit against the Umpqua National Forest Supervisor Alice Carlton, and the U.S. Forest Service to challenge the Quartz Integrated Project — a timber sale near Cottage Grove.

The 847-acre area of the timber sale would affect mature trees and about 70 red tree vole habitats, as Eugene Weekly previously reportedThe red tree vole is a “near threatened” small, tree-dwelling animal, according to the International Union for Conservation of National and Natural Resources’ Red List of Threatened Species. It’s a major food source for the northern spotted owl, a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, which makes it an important part of the area’s ecosystem.

“Red tree voles are closely linked with northern spotted owls,” Benton Forest Coalition’s Reed Wilson says. “They have similar habitat requirements: old trees with cavities, structural defects and massive limbs suitable for nesting.” Wilson says these are exactly the types of trees located throughout the Quartz timber sale area.

“It is incredibly disappointing to again witness the Forest Service targeting mature forests to solely benefit private timber interests,” says Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “The Quartz timber sale is a clear example of the Forest Service’s pursuit of commercial timber at the expense of all the other public values this agency is required to protect.”

In originally surveying the area, in 2013, the Forest Service only identified one inactive red tree vole nest, according to EW, but, the all-volunteer citizen group Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team, re-surveyed the area and over the next three years documented the over 70 active nests.

This led the Forest Service to designate the site as “non-high priority,” stating that the thriving red tree vole population would not be harmed by the project.

“The red tree vole is already in a precarious position given the historic logging that occurred in Oregon over the past century,” Cady says. “And the recent elimination of protections for this species on BLM [Bureau of Land Management] lands in Oregon places its future in jeopardy. The Forest Service must do all it can to ensure its survival and cancel reckless timber sales like Quartz.”

The conservation groups submitted their suit to the U.S. District Court today, Wednesday, May 16, for “Violation of Administrative Procedure Act, National Forest Management Act, and National Environmental Policy Act,” according to their press release. Read EW’s prior reporting on the Quartz timber sale here.