EUGENE, Ore. -- A proposed 100-acre Pedal Power logging project in the Thurston Hills near Springfield is on hold after a federal judge weighed in.
According to court documents, Judge Michael McShane ordered the Bureau of Land Management to issue a new environmental assessment that adequately discloses the likely increase of fire hazards to nearby communities. McShane also ordered the BLM to designate and preserve a Recreation Management Zone prior to harvest if the project proceeds.
Nonprofits Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild sued the BLM, alleging they didn't take a hard look at fire dangers associated with the project. Samantha Krop with Cascadia Wildlands said they are thrilled by the judge's ruling.
"People support the timber industry, people obviously support local jobs, but people also especially in an era of climate change are extremely concerned about community safety and about fire hazard," Krop said.
According to the BLM, the harvest would generate four million board feet of timber and create 52 jobs and $2.5 million in employment income. A spokesperson for the BLM said they are still reviewing the judge's ruling and could not provide any more comment.
Seneca Sawmill Company was set to do the logging. Spokesperson Casey Roscoe said they have not cut down any trees yet and the project is on hold. She said they are still willing to do the project if the BLM addresses the issues in the judge's order.
"I think we have enough people in the community that are now relying on us to able to push this forward, and if nothing else, we don't want to let the community down," Roscoe said.
The Pedal Power timber tract would also add roughly eight miles of hiking and biking to Willamalane Park and Recreation District's Thurston Hills Natural Area.
In a statement, Willamalane Superintendent Michael Wargo said they are working to identify what the ruling will mean for them and are pleased that the decision included the designation and preservation of a Recreation Management Zone prior to harvest. He said they will be meeting with the BLM to strategize their next steps.