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Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance

Protecting the environment by providing legal services for forest cases of statewide significance.

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Washington Environmental Council v. Sutherland

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This case addressed Washington State’s sustainable harvest calculation on 1.8 million acres of state lands by challenging the environmental impact statement used by the Board of Natural Resources in 2004 to justify a 30% increase in logging--an increase that would have had a detrimental impact on endangered northern spotted owls and salmon.

COURT INFORMATION:  King County Superior Court No. 04-2-26461-8 SEA

CLIENTS:  Washington Environmental Council, National Audubon Society, Northwest Ecosystem Alliance, and Olympic Forest Coalition

DEFENDANTS:  Douglas Sutherland, Commissioner of Public Lands; Board of Natural Resources; and Department of Natural Resources  

CO-COUNSEL:  John B. Arum

STATUS:  This case settled in March 2006.  WFLC continues to participate in post-settlement meetings and ongoing projects that resulted from the settlement.  Projects include refining owl habitat definitions, innovative silvicultural modeling, and the recalculation of the sustainable harvest level. 



This case challenged the environmental impact statement (EIS) used by the Board of Natural Resources in 2004 to justify an increase in logging on state lands.  Based on the EIS conclusions, the Board determined to increase logging by 30% on Washington's 2.2 million acres of forests.

WFLC alleged that the EIS used by the Board failed to adequately represent the detrimental impact that logging would have on northern spotted owls, salmon habitat, and cumulative effects. 

On Sept. 27, 2005, Judge Sharon Armstrong ruled that DNR did not properly evaluate the impact on northern spotted owl and threatened salmon.  The Court directed the Board to prepare a new EIS and ordered the state not to log under the new plan.

After several months of intense negotiations, the parties reached a settlement in March 2006, and the lawsuit was dismissed.   As part of the settlement, DNR agreed to a number of measures, including additional protections for spotted owl habitat, increased treatments to improve habitat, modeling exercises for innovative silviculture, and a new schedule for planning.  In addition, parties agreed to increased levels of communication as well as a dispute resolution process for issues related to the settlement.