In a decision dismissing three lawsuits intended to compel more federal land logging in western Oregon, DC federal district court judge Richard Leon found that the timber industry failed to show that less logging means more wildfires (see page 7’s footnote). Judge Leon had ruled earlier in favor of the industry plaintiffs in one of four forum-shopping lawsuits filed by attorney Mark Rutzick. But, judges don’t like being reversed. When the DC circuit court did so in the earlier case, ruling that the timber industry failed to establish standing, Leon took that message to heart and said “ditto” for the other three lawsuits.
Judge Leon’s ruling likely ends a two-decades long legal skirmish by the timber industry to compel federal agencies to increase logging levels from Northwest Forest Plan lands. The campaign has been led by the Portland-based American Forest Resource Council. For 20 years AFRC chose primarily the courts as its strategy to increase logging. Today’s decision suggests that AFRC may change its focus from the courts to Congress, which would play to the strength of its newly-hired executive director, Travis Joseph, former natural resources staff to Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio. Joseph, who is not an attorney, was DeFazio’s point person during House negotiations over proposed O&C forest legislation that continues to languish in Congress.