Oregon Public Broadcasting

Environmental groups have forced state foresters into a strategic retreat, in a legal battle over a threatened seabird. As a result, ten state-run timber sales have been delayed.

murrelet_small.jpgMarbled Murrelet, Courtesy NPS

Conservation groups Cascadia Wildlands, Portland Audubon and the Center for Biological Diversity argue the logging in dispute violates the federal Endangered Species Act because it would destroy marbled murrelet habitat. The Oregon Department of Forestry denies that. But officials have agreed to hold off on logging ten timber sales implicated in the lawsuit.

Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Kevin Weeks, says suspending the timber sales frees up staff who would be supervising the sale process.

"They have to shift their time into making sure that we're helping the Department of Justice attorneys prepare for a very vigorous defense," Weeks says.

He says it'll be up to a federal judge what ultimately happens with the ten sales in the Clatsop, Tillamook, and Elliott state forests.

The marbled murrelet preys on fish, but it nests in older forests. The bird's decline has been blamed in part on a loss of forest habitat.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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