October 13, 2021

Earthrise prevails in receiving preliminary injunction to protect old growth forests

A federal judge halted a 78-acre (31.5-hectare) commercial timber harvest in central Oregon at the request of Earthrise and on behalf of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project.

After a 30 minute in-person oral argument on September 29, Professor Tom Buchele and co-counsel Earthrise alum Jesse Buss ’12 obtained a preliminary injunction against the commercial logging of hundreds of large and old-growth trees in the Ochoco National Forest’s Walton Lake Recreation Area. Buchele is a Clinical Professor of Law and the Co-Director, Earthrise Law Center.

Buchele has been involved in numerous logging cases, but this case presented unique circumstances, specifically trying to stop the Forest Service from logging trees that are 4-5 feet in diameter and likely hundreds of years old. Earthrise has been fighting this project on behalf of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project since 2016. The injunction halts a 78-acre (31.5-hectare) commercial timber harvest in central Oregon near Walton Lake in Oregon’s Ochoco National Forest, on the claim that the project violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The injunction granted September 29 is the second preliminary injunction Earthrise has sought against this logging – the first granted in October of 2016. Both injunctions were issued by US District Court Judge Michael Mosman.

Buchele and Buss were joined at the counsel table by Earthrise Legal Fellow (and former Earthrise student) Bridgett Buss ’20 and current student Claire Deuter ’22. Deuter participated in Earthrise the year prior and is currently doing an independent study this semester to continue her work on this case. Current students Chelsea Stewart-Fusek ’22 and Colin Reynolds ’22 helped in this case as did new legal fellow Alex Houston ’21.

“Earthrise can only bring successful legal challenges like this one because we have such amazing students and legal fellows (and alums) to help us take on cases where the odds are obviously stacked against us,” said Buchele. “Their hard work and dedication help us overcome the odds, and I think the educational benefits they get from working on these legally challenging cases are difficult to overstate. This case is not over. Our opponents are nothing if not persistent. But as of today, the trees are still standing and will be standing for at least another logging season.”