EPIC v. Simpson (Challenging Simpsons Northern Spotted Owl HCP)

EPIC v. Simpson (Challenging Simpsons Northern Spotted Owl HCP)


In September 1998, EPIC filed suit against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Simpson Timber Company concerning the impacts of the company’s Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) to species that have been listed as threatened since the HCP was granted. Simpson was the first logging company in California to receive an HCP to “take” (or kill) a protected species, receiving a permit in 1992 to kill 100 Northern spotted owls during the first 10 years of the HCP, with additional “take” to be authorized in 2002.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires that formal consultation occur with appropriate fish and wildlife agencies if a new species is listed that might be affected by Simpson’s HCP. Since the permit was issued, the Marbled Murrelet, Coho salmon and Tidewater Goby have been listed as “threatened” with extinction, but consultation on the impacts to these species has never been initiated. Our lawsuit alleges that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should have reevaluated the impacts of the HCP on these newly listed species since these impacts were never considered in the initial review and approval of the HCP.

FWS has asserted that it did not have continuing discretion over the permit to kill Northern Spotted Owls that it issued, in spite of clear written statements to the contrary. Unfortunately, because courts tend to defer to the ‘responsible’ agencies, and because the implications of our challenge could have shut down much of Simpson’s logging, a District Court Judge denied our request to enjoin logging until the agencies had reviewed the impacts of the Simpson HCP on other listed species.

In 1998, Simpson bought Louisiana Pacific’s holdings in Humboldt and Del Norte counties to become the largest corporate logging company on the North Coast. More than 380,000 of acres of forest land are now subjected to the company’s logging practices, which include intensive, 50-to-60 year logging cycles and near-minimum standards for water quality protection.