Last week three conservation groups challenged the 847-acre Quartz timber sale in the Cottage Grove Ranger District of the Umpqua National Forest.

The sale targets mature forests, home to a thriving population of red tree voles, a small tree-dwelling mammal that is a prey source for the imperiled northern spotted owl. The contested land is critical to forest ecosystems in western Oregon say the groups, Benton Forest Coalition, Cascadia Wildlands, and Oregon Wild. 

“It is incredibly disappointing to again witness the Forest Service targeting mature forests to solely benefit private timber interests,” said Nick Cady, legal director at Cascadia Wildlands. “The Quartz timber sale is a clear example of the Forest Service’s pursuit of commercial timber at the expense of all the other public values this agency is required to protect.”

The red tree vole is a unique tree-dwelling species that inhabits mature and old-growth forests throughout much of western Oregon. Extensive red tree vole habitat has been destroyed by aggressive logging in Oregon’s Coast and Cascade Ranges. In 2011, the US Fish and Wildlife Service found that the species warranted listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, but declined to extend those protections, in part due to regulatory protections, on public federal forestlands.

“The red tree vole is already in a precarious position given the historic logging that occurred in Oregon over the past century,” said Cady. “And the recent elimination of protections for this species on BLM lands in Oregon places its future in jeopardy. The Forest Service must do all it can to ensure its survival and cancel reckless timber sales like Quartz.”

Although in its initial analysis for the Quartz timber sale, the Forest Service documented little red tree vole activity, subsequent surveys conducted by volunteers with the Northwest Ecosystem Survey Team and verification surveys by the Forest Service resulted in seventy-five vole nest detections. 

Despite this information, the Forest Service decided to proceed with the sale and destroy the vole nest sites.

“The Forest Service seems determined to proceed with logging these beautiful forests regardless of the diligent efforts of citizens to document the presence of rare wildlife. First, the Forest Service said there were too few red tree voles to warrant protection. Later, the Forest Service said there were too many voles to warrant protection,” said Doug Heiken, conservation and restoration coordinator at Oregon Wild. “The poor red tree vole just can’t catch a break.”