Seattle P-I: "Weyerhaeuser ordered not to log owl habitat"
By COLIN McDONALD
A Seattle federal judge Wednesday ordered the Weyerhaeuser Co. not to log four sections of spotted owl habitat in southwest Washington.
"This proves owls have a federal right to live," said Peter Goldman, a lawyer for the Seattle Audubon Society who filed the motion.
U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman issued the injunction granting Audubon's request to stop logging near the sites until the conclusion of its lawsuit against the state and Weyerhaeuser. The trial is set to begin in April.
The judge denied the advocacy group's second request to stop the state from granting logging permits for more than 200 other sites on private land that have been identified as possible spotted owl habit.
Pechman ruled against the scientific testimony presented by the state and Weyerhaeuser that habitat requirements established in the mid-1990s were unnecessarily large and Weyerhaeuser's more recent and smaller estimates were sufficient to protect the species.
Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal said his company already has stopped harvests at three of the sites as part of a research agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He also said that barred owls have been found at all of the sites and are known to compete with spotted owls for habitat. He said they are a likely cause of the threatened birds' continual decline, not the logging of relatively young, 50- to 80-year-old, forests.
Spotted owls were declared a threatened species in 1990 because of logging in old-growth forest, the primary habitat for the owls. Despite increased protection of the remaining old-growth forests and a protection plan, the owl's population has continued to decline, and they now are being found in younger forests.
The judge said she denied Audubon's request to stop the state from issuing logging permits in spotted owl habitat because the group did not identify the amount of suitable habitat at those sites.
Alex Morgan, conservation director for Seattle Audubon, said his group would try to figure out how to document what is at those sites to prove to the state and court which ones have spotted owls and therefore cannot be logged.
"What this means is a little non-profit is left to enforce the Endangered Species Act," he said.