Dozens protest Seneca Sawmill logging project

Activists held signs and chanted against the 100-acre Pedal Power logging project in the Thurston Hills.

Posted: May 28, 2020 12:00 PM
Updated: May 28, 2020 4:42 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- A proposed logging operation near Springfield is being met with more pushback.

Protesters from groups including Cascadia Wildlands and Sunrise Eugene gathered Thursday afternoon outside Seneca Jones Timber Company in Eugene. Activists held signs and blocked one entrance into the mill for about an hour. 

The company has plans to log about 100 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in the Thurston Hills. Those in favor of the operation say it would bring money and jobs to the area and some new recreational trails. 

One of those protesters was Murray McLeod, who owns a home near the Thurston Hills.

“Having trails without the logging is one of the alternative plans in their documentation, so I would favor that particular route," McLeod said. 

McLeod said he and others were under the impression the project was not moving forward after a judge halted the project last September, in part because the Bureau of Land Management failed to disclose the wildfire hazards the project would create.

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But last week, BLM reissued its decision, this time referencing an updated environmental assessment that discloses the hazards and allows the project to move forward.

BLM says the harvest would generate four million board feet of timber and create 52 jobs and $2.5 million in employment income.

However, some residents feel the area shouldn't be available for logging in the first place.

"I would like the entire project scrapped. There’s no community benefit to allowing a private corporation to come in and cut trees on land that really should belong to the public," said Debra McGee, a protester. 

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Protesters also raised concerns about the climate impacts of cutting down trees and said they feel BLM should not be taking action on the project during the coronavirus pandemic when the public is not able to be as engaged in the process.

Seneca Sawmill Company spokeswoman Casey Roscoe likened the protest to a publicity stunt and accused protesters of purposefully spreading fear and misinformation.

“This is not real. This is not news. There's no clearcut going on in the Thurston Hills -- there's no additional fire danger,” Roscoe said.

Cascadia Wildlands and Sunrise Eugene plan to file a formal protest in response to BLM's recent decision to move forward with the project. If that is unsuccessful, the group is considering further legal action.

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