Kai Huschke
Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
Community Organizer

Oregon Community Rights Activists Undeterred by Court’s Validation of Timber’s Toxic Legacy

NEWPORT, OR: The Court of Appeals of the State of Oregon issued a one-page decision in late June upholding a trial court decision overriding the will of voters and siding with corporate timber. The court has allowed for the continued use of aerially sprayed pesticides. 

The short “affirmed without opinion” decision also denies the ability of the Siletz River watershed to be seen as a rightful party to the case under the popularly adopted (2017) Freedom from Aerially Sprayed Pesticides Ordinance of Lincoln County.

Lincoln County Community Rights has until the end of July to decide if they will petition the Oregon Supreme Court to take the case. The group advocated for the Ordinance, which banned aerial spraying. They are now looking at other means to call out the injustice.

Oregon has a multi-decade legacy of using highly toxic herbicides and pesticides in a monocrop approach to tree farming. Despite the efforts of many in Lincoln County, including Carol Van Strum, author of A Bitter Fog: Herbicides and Human Rights and spokesperson for the Siletz River watershed in this case, the State of Oregon continues to sanction toxic pesticide use despite its documentable harm to the public, wildlife and the environment as a whole (see the Poison Papers: 

“[Existing environmental laws] have done nothing, they’ve literally allowed the poisoning to go ahead,” says Van Strum.

“Oregon and the corporate timber industry have been waging a 60+ year war against Oregon residents and the environment. The courts are just as guilty as the corporations by allowing the chemical warfare to continue,” says CELDF organizer Kai Huschke. “Justice for the people and nature has yet to be served, so the community rights activists of Oregon are not going away.”

After qualifying for the ballot the Ordinance was adopted by the voters in May 2017. Almost immediately upon the law going into effect, advocates of the corporate timber industry sued Lincoln County to overturn the ban. Despite nearly 2 ½ years of the ban being in place and not crippling the timber industry as claimed, the trial court overturned the ban in the fall of 2019, relying on an Oregon state law that was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Though the lower court denied the Siletz River watershed its right to be a party to the case, in a rare recognition of the validity of ecosystem rights, the trial court invited the Siletz River to appeal the decision and commented that the issue of ecosystem rights “will be gaining more interest as opposed to less in the future.”

The court’s decision in Oregon follows that of a court in France denying the claims of Tran To Nga on the effects of Agent Orange and the need for the corporations involved in its manufacture and sale to be held liable. Tran To Nga and Carol Van Strum were the lead protagonists in the recently-premiered PBS documentary “The People vs. Agent Orange.” Stay tuned at for details.


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) is helping build a decolonial movement for Community Rights and the Rights of Nature to advance democratic, economic, social, and environmental rights – building upward from the grassroots to the state, federal, and international levels.

photo credit: Beth Nakamura For The Intercept

Additional Resources