The Sierra Club filed suit last month to block the logging of 12,000 acres of forest land in southwest Washington state that it says is critical habitat for the marbled murrelet, a seabird that nests in the Pacific Northwest's old-growth forests.
The suit, filed July 27, charges that the Interior Department violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved the logging plan submitted by the Washington Department of Natural Resources "without notifying the public, without inviting public comment, and without conducting environmental review" as required by federal law.
The areas that would be logged under the permit comprise 60 percent of the marbled murrelet habitat in southwest Washington, according to the lawsuit.
The Sierra Club has been accusing the federal government of dragging its feet for the last several years when it comes to protecting the marbled murrelet, which nests in old growth forests and travels up to 50 miles each day to forage for fish in Puget Sound and the Pacific. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service describes marbled murrelets as "long-lived seabirds that spend most of their life in the marine environment, but use old-growth forests for nesting." They are considered a threatened species in Washington state and Oregon.
The Sierra Club's co-plaintiff in the suit is the Olympic Forest Coalition.
The Department of Interior, under which the Fish and Wildlife Service operates, told King 5 Friday that it cannot comment on pending litigation. Timber industry groups were contacted but were unable to comment until they had more opportunity to review the lawsuit.
Additional reporting by KING5.com's Russ Walker.