You may recall that the Forest Service announced in 2020 that they were beginning a public process to amend the “Eastside Screens”, an imperfect (but still very important) rule that protected mature and old-growth trees across 7 million acres of Eastern Oregon and Washington. After decades of intense logging that devastated PNW forests and removed nearly all old growth, the Screens were created as a stop-gap measure to protect what little big and old trees remained. The intention was that this would eventually be replaced by a permanent rule, but that permanent rule never came.
What did come, however, were relentless attacks on the Screens from the day they took effect. They became a common talking point at former Rep. Greg Walden’s town halls as something to be struck down. They were blamed for increasing fire risk, threatening “desirable” trees, and a smorgasbord of other offenses. And the nuanced and complex discussions about the Screens that truly needed to happen never did. Especially since the Forest Service weakened them through an unbelievably rushed and incomplete public process.
That brings us to today, and the lawsuit that we wished we never had to file. Last June, GHCC and five other conservation organizations filed a legal challenge against the Forest Service’s decision to weaken the Screens. Since then, we’ve seen proponents of the changes try to attack the lawsuit in both the court of law and the court of public opinion, trying to claim that this was an “uncontroversial” decision. We obviously disagree.
Next Monday, May 1st, the fate of the Screens and the future of our public forests will be decided at a court hearing in Pendleton. How the Judge will rule is out of our hands, but we hope they will truly consider the context that led us to this moment: despite broad public support and the advice of over 100 independent scientists, decades of political opposition and timber industry pressure found a willing partner at the tail end of the Trump administration. A partner that was ready and willing to execute their will in short order, despite the costs. That certainly doesn’t feel like a durable solution to us.
Regardless of the results, we hope you’ll join us in Pendleton on May 1st at 1:30pm, and keep an eye out on our website for more updates on the case.
If you’d like to join us in person, here are the details:
What: Court hearing on Eastside Screens lawsuit
When: Monday, May 1st at 1:30pm
Where: Pendleton US District Court, 104 S.W. Dorion, Pendleton, OR 97801
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to attend, or if you have questions.