Climate group, DNR meet in superior court
August 3, 2023
Mason County Climate Justice and the Legacy Forest Defense Coalition will find out the results of their request for a preliminary injunction by Monday for the court to enjoin any operations and halt to operations on either of the sites of the Sure Wood and Plumb Bob Timber Sale forests while the court decides the merits of the case against the state Department of Natural Resources and Tacoma-based Stella Jones Corp.
Superior Court Judge Cadine Ferguson-Brown presided over the hearing Monday with about 40 people there in support of the two environmental groups. Jennifer Calkins, the lawyer representing the groups, said the idea of the injunction is to keep the status quo while arguments are made in court.
In her opening arguments, Calkins said the case is about communities.
“It’s about the community of people who rely on the environmental values these specific forests provide,” Calkins said during her opening argument Monday. “For example: this case is about community member Robert Hamilton, a veteran who served this country in Vietnam, who invested time and energy to ensure that Sherwood Creek provided good habitat for salmon, and who relies on the Sherwood Forest to protect the tributaries of the creek to provide habitat for salmon and other species. This case is about the injury to Robert Hamilton of DNR’s failure to comply with SEPA and the irreparable harm he will suffer if these forests are logged in reliance on illegal SEPA determinations.”
SEPA is the State Environmental Policy Act, which is a process that identifies and analyzes environmental effects associated with governmental decisions. Calkins said the policy mandates of SEPA recognize the right of the people to a healthy environment. As part of the case, Calkins argued that DNR failed to consider the impact of climate change.
“What is clear is that the state, DNR, does not want to determine the merits of the case, because they know they screwed up,” Calkins told the Journal on Tuesday. “So they’re trying real hard to get us kicked out early on procedural issues rather than get to the substance and the hearing yesterday really embodied that because they wanted to argue these procedural issues rather than argue the merits and the interveners spent most of their time arguing how they would be harmed if the court issued an injunction and stopped their work.”
Calkins said they have asked for a permanent injunction on the timber sales because state DNR failed to comply with SEPA and the basis for the sales are unlawful.
Calkins said if the preliminary injunction is denied, she plans to continue litigating. If the preliminary injunction is granted, operations will pause, and Calkins said she has legal strategies from there.
Working with MCCJ and LFDC has been a joy for her, Calkins said.
“It has been a joy because I’ve been able to talk to so many community members and what they have told me about their experiences, it’s been really a powerful experience,” Calkins said. “Having them there was really energizing just because their voices have been so important to me as I’ve been working on this case. I was really thinking about the voice of the community when I was arguing yesterday. … The goal of my argument was to make sure that the voices of the community was heard in that courtroom and for people to be there from the community really was powerful and I hope I did them justice. I feel fortunate to work with people in Mason County and it’s really been a powerful experience for me.”