Umpqua Watersheds Blog



Published September 10th, 2023 in News

by  Ken Carloni

A federal judge has found that a Trump-era rule change that allowed for the logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest violates several laws.”  NPR Aug. 31, 2023

In an important ruling, a federal court has just declared that a rule change implemented during the Trump administration, which allowed for the logging of old-growth forests, stands in violation of key environmental laws. The ruling, handed down on Aug. 31st, represents a significant victory for eastside old growth and underscores the importance of preserving these critical ecosystems

The Trump-era rule change, implemented in 2021, aimed to relax regulations governing the logging of old-growth trees by removing the ban on cutting trees 21 inches in diameter or greater, and instead emphasized maintaining “a mix of trees, with trees at least 150 years old prioritized for protection”. Our eastside partners argued that allowing the logging of the largest and most fire-resistant trees would have devastating consequences for these ancient forests and the species that depend on them.

The court’s decision was based on several key findings:


  • Failure to Conduct Adequate Environmental Impact Assessments: The ruling emphasized that the government failed to conduct thorough environmental impact assessments before implementing the rule change. This omission violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires federal agencies to assess the environmental impacts of their actions and consider alternatives.


  • Contravention of the Endangered Species Act: The court found that the Trump-era rule failed to adequately protect endangered and threatened species that rely on old-growth forests for habitat and survival. This constituted a violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which mandates the protection of such species and their critical habitats.


  • Disregard for Public Input: The court also pointed out that the rule change was enacted without meaningful public participation, undermining the principles of transparency and democratic decision-making. Public input is a fundamental aspect of environmental policy-making, as outlined in the National Forest Management Act (NFMA).

This ruling mandates the immediate cessation of old-growth logging activities under the invalidated rule. It also compels the government to initiate a comprehensive review of the environmental impacts and alternatives before considering any future changes to regulations concerning old-growth forest management.

Kudos to the Greater Hells Canyon Council, Oregon Wild, Central Oregon LandWatch, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club who brought the lawsuit and to all of our partners who provided expert testimony!



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