Bark Sues the Forest Service on the Jazz Timber Sale

On Thursday, July 25th, Bark filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service challenging the legality of the Jazz Timber Sale! The Jazz Sale proposes to log some 2,000 acres and rebuild 12 miles of decommissioned road, across 30 square miles of the Collawash River Watershed in the southern end of the Mt. Hood National Forest.

Bark has voiced our concerns about the Jazz Timber Sale at every possible step since the logging project was first proposed in 2010. Since then, Bark volunteers have dedicated over 600 volunteer hours getting boots on the ground in the forest to provide site specific recommendations to the agency, and nearly 2,000 individuals submitted comments during the public comment period. Bark appealed the Forest Service’s approval of the Jazz Timber Sale, and was heartened when the Forest Service withdrew its decision in December 2012. However, they reissued the Decision in March 2013, with no substantive changes. Because the Forest Service did not meaningfully address Bark’s many concerns regarding the legality of the timber sale, Bark made the decision to take the Forest Service to court.

Bark’s lawsuit challenges the Forest Service on a number of environmental issues and laws including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Collawash Watershed is the most geologically unstable watershed in Mt. Hood National Forest and is designated critical habitat for threatened salmon, including the last wild late run of winter Coho salmon. Nonetheless, Jazz would rebuild 12 miles of roads on this unstable ground and cross 9 streams in the process. The Forest Service’s own Environmental Assessment states that road building and logging would contribute at least 19 tons of sediment into waterways each year. Out of the 2,000 acres of forest proposed for logging, only 9 acres are designated to be managed for timber emphasis. The remainder is designated Earthflow or Special Emphasis Watershed by the Forest Service’s own management plan. Bark questions, therefore, how logging would be consistent with the Forest Service’s management objectives in these areas, which are designed to enhance and protect aquatic conservation objectives.

A second component of Bark’s legal challenge relies on our recent work post-logging monitoring for BMPs. The Forest Service has long relied on Best Management Practices (BMPs) as a way to mitigate the impacts of logging to water quality. Over the past year, Bark engaged in a post-logging monitoring study to better understand to what extent these BMPs are effective, and if they are in fact implemented consistently by timber contractors. In many cases we discovered that timber companies did not fully follow the BMPs. Furthermore, despite the legal requirement to do so, the Mt. Hood National Forest has no program to monitor the implementation or the effectiveness of BMPs. We wonder how the Forest Service can maintain that BMPs protect water health in this sensitive and important watershed without verification that this protocol is either effective or even followed.

Bark is represented in the lawsuit by NEPA Coordinator and Staff Attorney Brenna Bell, and by Dave Becker of the Law Office of David H. Becker, LLC.

You can read Bark’s full Complaint (below) to learn more about our challenge to the Jazz Timber Sale. For more background on Jazz, click here.