Oregon timber bid motivated by lawsuit threat

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PORTLAND — An Oregon company says it bid on land in the Elliott State Forest as a challenge to environmental groups who have promised lawsuits to protect a threatened seabird.

The Seneca Jones Timber Co. does not need the lumber, co-owner Kathy Jones told The Oregonian newspaper. Instead, she and her sisters decided to take a stand against “eco-radical” environmental groups.

“It’s very much a personal decision,” she said. “We just decided we were going to do this based on principle and bring it to the public’s attention.”

Environmental groups such as the Cascadia Forest Defenders have threatened to sue companies that bid on the land that sits in the Coast Range in Coos and Douglas counties. They are concerned about the threatened marbled murrelet.

In one letter, Cascadia Forest Defenders warned timber companies: “Do not bid on these sales. If you become the owner of the Elliott, you will have activists up your trees and lawsuits on your desk. We will be at your office and in your mills.”

Jones said her company would not be intimidated by threats from elitist environmentalists “sent from Washington D.C.”

Jason Gonzales, a spokesman for Cascadia Forest Defenders, said Jones’ attacks were an attempt to avoid serious conversation about the future of Oregon forestland.

“They’d rather just call names and say rude things,” Gonzales said. “We don’t look at these Elliott parcel sales as an isolated incident. There’s a statewide trend of public land being privatized. It’s a large-scale assault on public lands.”

Five bids were submitted on three parcels for sale, said Julie Curtis, spokeswoman for the Department of State Lands. No decision will be made about the bids for several days, Curtis said.

Jones said she didn’t know how much her company might log of the 788-acre parcel it pursued. The land hasn’t been surveyed for murrelets, which have been found living within 2 miles of the parcel.

The marbled murrelet was listed as threatened in 1992, and habitat protection has meant less logging in the Pacific Northwest. The tiny sea birds venture inland to raise their young and depend on old-growth forests for nesting. They have been steadily disappearing from the coasts of Oregon, Washington and California.