Seattle PI: "Northern spotted owl lawsuit settled"
July 3, 2008
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA -- A settlement has been reached in a 2006 environmental lawsuit that sought to block logging on 50,000 acres of private timberland to protect the threatened northern spotted owl.
On Thursday, the affected parties announced that a policy working group on spotted owl preservation would be established by the Washington Forest Practices Board.
According to a state Department of Natural Resources statement, the working group will look into using private land to contribute strategically to areas protected by the state and federal governments, with the goal of conserving a viable northern spotted owl population.
The Seattle and Kittitas Audubon societies filed suit in federal court in Seattle, asking the court to bar logging on certain private timberlands west of the Cascades.
The lawsuit targeted four sites owned by the Weyerhaeuser Co. in southwest Washington where spotted owls have been seen, citing them as examples of sites where the court should order the state Forest Practices Board to ban logging.
The environmental groups said state rules provided no "meaningful protection" for the owls outside 13 "special emphasis" areas where the state offers specific protections. The owl is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Along with loss of habitat, the northern spotted owl faces competition from other owl species.
Weyerhaeuser spokeswoman Kristen Sawin said Thursday that scientific research will determine how private land can strategically contribute to protection of the spotted owl's environment.
The settlement maintains habitat around the four owl site centers that were the focus of the Audubon action against Weyerhaeuser, the state's statement said, adding that other settlement details between the forest products company and the plaintiffs were confidential.
The goal is to create science-based solutions to the spotted owls' needs, said Patty Henson, a state Natural Resources spokeswoman.
The working group will comprise representatives of private companies, conservation agencies and a broad array of state offices, including the Governor's Office, he said.
The settlement is "rather about solutions, instead of going into court and a judge deciding the case," said Cindy Mitchell of the Washington Forest Protection Association.