State House backs stiffer timber-protest penalties

SALEM — The Oregon House has passed two bills targeting protesters who chain themselves to machinery or block roads to interfere with logging operations in state forests.

One bill would make it a crime to interfere with logging. A first offense would be a misdemeanor and subsequent offenses would be felonies.

The other bill would allow logging companies to sue demonstrators who interfere.

Anti-logging demonstrations stretch back to the 1980s, when people began protesting logging old-growth forests on federal lands. They picked up again in 2011, when demonstrators protested increased logging in the Elliott State Forest.

A judge has since blocked logging in Elliott stands occupied by the marbled murrelet — a threatened seabird that nests in old-growth forests — while a challenge from conservation groups moves through court.

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