Judge halts more than 140 Northwest timber sales to protect rare species

U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman has reinstated the “look before logging” rule on federal lands in the Pacific Northwest — abolished in 2004 by the Bush administration — and ordered a halt to 144 timber sales in California, Oregon, and Washington that might imperil about 300 rare animal and plant species. Federal lawyers had argued that reinstating ecological surveys would cost the government about $2.7 million a year, but Pechman ruled that the potential for environmental harm outweighed the burden and costs on both the government and timber companies. Although logging interests say they may restart a lawsuit to have the ecological surveys declared illegal, environmentalists are relieved by the ruling. Said Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center, the law firm representing environmentalists in the case, “I think it’s a small investment to make to preserve old-growth forests and the species that live in them.”