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Suit targets 'eco-friendly' timber sale

Conservation groups are challenging a timber sale that demonstrates the kind of ecosystem-driven logging that would be fast-tracked under Sen. Ron Wyden's bill to increase harvests from federally owned property in western Oregon.

Oregon Wild and Cascadia Wildlands filed the lawsuit Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Eugene.

Tree-sitters have been occupying the White Castle timber sale in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Roseburg District since last summer.

The lawsuit alleges the federal agency failed to follow environmental laws requiring a hard look at the potential environmental impacts of the sale, including clear-cutting trees up to 150 years old, destruction of northern spotted owl habitat, and felling trees containing nests of red tree voles, a key food for spotted owls.

"Essentially, they are saying they can clear-cut 438 acres without doing an environmental-impact statement," said Steve Pedery, conservation director of Oregon Wild. "They are saying they are experimenting. The perspective we have is they are clearly responding to pressures from politicians and county government, and that they want to get back to the business of clear-cutting to supplement county budgets."

Bureau of Land Management spokesman Cheyne Rossbach said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

The property, known as O&C lands, are a patchwork of timber formerly owned by the Oregon & California Railroad that reverted to the government early in the 20th century and are managed by the federal agency.