Judge Rules Habitat Conservation Plan Too Kind to Loggers, Hard on Wildlife
YREKA, Calif.— A federal court has halted a logging plan in northern California that would have harmed old-growth forests and federally protected fish and owls. The decision by the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, stems from a lawsuit filed by three conservation groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2013 for approving a “habitat conservation plan” for Fruit Growers Supply Company that allowed it to log thousands of acres during the next 10 years and to “take” (harm or kill) endangered species, including up to 83 northern spotted owls, nearly half the owls believed to live in the area.
Under the Endangered Species Act, a habitat conservation plan can allow for the harming or killing of endangered species but only if the plan limits that harm as much as possible and includes appropriate mitigation measures. Instead, the Fruit Growers Supply logging plan called for aggressive forest liquidation in the plan’s first decade while allowing the company to take credit for owl habitat on federal public lands. The court’s decision means that Fruit Growers Supply will not be allowed to harm struggling salmon populations, destroy spotted owl habitat and decimate old-growth forests on 150,000 acres in Siskiyou County.
“This is a big victory for Northern California’s old-growth forests and its endangered wildlife,” said George Sexton, conversation director of the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. “The court made it clear that this type of destructive logging is not only bad for our environment, it’s illegal.”
“The math on this plan simply doesn’t add up,” said Kimberly Baker, executive director of the Klamath Forest Alliance. “Old-growth forests that take hundreds of years to grow can’t be replaced in 50 years. These irreplaceable Northern California forests and the wildlife that lives in them need to be preserved, not sold off for vague promises of improvements that may never happen.”
“The Endangered Species Act is designed to be a safety net for our most vulnerable wildlife,” said Justin Augustine with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This decision reinforces that principle and will prevent Fruit Growers Supply Co. from getting a free pass to destroy the forests that spotted owls, salmon and many other species rely upon to survive.”
The conservation organizations — Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Klamath Forest Alliance, and the Center for Biological Diversity — were represented in the lawsuit by the Washington Forest Law Center and the Western Environmental Law Center.