Oregon loggers can resume work on federal lands after a judge ruled against two agencies that suspended timber harvests during the partial government shutdown.
U.S. District Judge Owen M. Planner in Medford signed an order Thursday, lifting the logging ban imposed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service.
According to court records, the BLM and Forest Service asked that the timber industry’s motion be dismissed because the government reopened Thursday.
The timber industry, however, pressed ahead with its lawsuit, which was filed Monday, because companies didn’t want to wait for notices to proceed.
“This is good logging weather, and they needed to get after it,” said Ann Forest Burns, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, a party in the suit. “As soon as our members got the word, they were moving forward.”
Murphy Company, which operates mills in Washington and Oregon, including Sutherlin, sent loggers back to work as soon as possible and made plans to work through the weekend to make up for time lost.
“It is tough to lose any time in these months when we are trying to put our full log inventory in,” the company’s director of resources, Jacob Groves, said today. “I think all of Murphy Company and the timber industry thought it was a good decision by the judge because it takes all the uncertainty out of it instead of having to wait for (notifications).”
BLM Roseburg District spokesman Cheyne Rossbach said he did not know when the agency will issue the notifications.
The BLM and Forest Service justified the suspension of timber contracts by citing a law that prohibits agencies from incurring obligations that exceed appropriations, according to court documents.
Forest Burns said the parties are still pursuing the underlying case, contending it was unlawful for the federal government to stop timber operations if a contract was in place prior to the shutdown and if oversight by federal inspectors wasn’t critical.
“They’ve got to keep their crews working. Those guys work on daily wages, they are not on salary, and if there isn’t work for them to do, they can’t pay their workers, and those workers can’t pay for food for their families,” she said.
Art Adams, owner and general manager of Roseburg-based Nordic Veneer, said today the company had one supplier slightly affected by the shutdown.
“We normally get 65 to 75 (timber) loads a day, and it pretty much held in there,” Adams said. “We might have been off two or three loads, but we seemed to have still gotten wood for the most part.”
•You can reach reporter Christina George at 541-957-4202 or at email@example.com.