Spotted Owl, Salmon ‘Kill’ Permits Invalid

A federal magistrate has invalidated a U.S. Fish and Wildlife 50-year permit that would have allowed the killing of endangered Northern Spotted Owls and Coho Salmon during logging operations in the Klamath-Siskiyou region of Northern California.

The Fruit Growers Supply Co. sought what’s known as an “incidental take permit” for the loss of endangered species during a logging operation within its 152,000 acres of forestland in Siskiyou County.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins found in an opinion Friday that the Fruit Growers should not be allowed “to piggyback off of the conservation work” of neighboring land controlled by the U.S. Forest Service.

Cousins also found a review of the project failed to take into account the cumulative effects of logging, planned use of herbicides and water withdrawal projects.

The lawsuit was filed in 2013 by the environmental groups, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Center for Biological Diversity and the Klamath Forest Alliance.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) violated the Endangered Species Act by favoring the conservation efforts by the U.S. Forest Service in its analysis of the Fruit Growers’ plan to mitigate harm to the owls and salmon, Cousins found.

But he also found the FWS did not violate the act when it issued a biological opinion that the Fruit Growers’ plan was unlikely to jeopardize the continued existence of the northern spotted owl or result in destruction of critical habitat.

The National Marine Fisheries Service, also named in the lawsuit, violated the act when it found he growers could adequately minimize the impact on coho salmon of soil and debris runoff into streams as a result of logging during the 50-year permit.

Given the short, three-year lifespan of the salmon, the NMFS failed to investigate the short-term impacts on coho, he found.

He also invalidated the Environmental Impact Statement saying the two agencies failed to analyze the cumulative effects of the timber harvest projects, the use of herbicides and water withdrawal projects.

Cousins did favor the Fruit Growers in holding that there was no requirement for the growers to disclose its economic data as the environmental groups had sought.

Cousins asked both sides to provide additional briefing on the potential remedies as a result of his ruling.

He set a hearing for May 6 on the remaining issues.

Case:  Klamath-SiskiyouWildlandsCenter v. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, No. 13-3717NC

Original complaint, here.


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