Missy Lahren

ReImagining the Law
& the Rights of Nature

with Missy Lahren

On June 30, 2023, a coalition of groups – Earth Law Center, the Center for Whale Research, and the Keystone Species Alliance – filed a notice of appeal to challenge the “Power Plant” timber sale, currently set to be auctioned on July 26th, 2023, by the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The forest is in close proximity to the Elwha River with a diverse mix of Douglas fir and Western red cedar, many at least a hundred years old, and a diverse, naturally regenerated understory. This timber sale is incompatible with the restoration of the iconic Elwha River, which underwent the largest dam removal in US history, completed in 2014. $327 million of federal funding has been invested in the river’s restoration to date. The extensive logging of older legacy forests in the Elwha River Watershed is without studies or consideration of impacts to instream flows, groundwater recharge, and water temperature. Past, current, and future planned timber sales will remove hundreds of acres of forest.

The lawsuit also alleges that the department failed to consider how the logging could impact this critical riverine wildlife corridor, soil health, salmon and orca populations, and ongoing Elwha river restoration. The Elwha River is the City of Port Angeles’ residents only source of drinking water. The forest is in the headwater area for Colville Creek and small tributaries of the Elwha River, areas critical for the recharging of groundwater to feed these streams. The Forest, its streams, and the rejuvenating Elwha River work together to support two keystone species: returning salmon populations and the critically endangered Southern Resident Orcas, who depend upon consuming salmon for their survival. Given their proximity to the Elwha River, these older forests provide critical habitat for endangered and threatened species, including Southern Resident orcas, Chinook salmon, and the Marbled murrelet. In fact, a juvenile Marbled murrelet was recently found just miles from the proposed harvest.

Community groups launched an ambitious campaign to raise funds to negotiate for the protection of the forests from imminent logging. Pledged funds from the “Elwha Forest Fund” will go solely to replace the revenue that would have come from the extractive timber harvest Auction. This legal action is by no means the first action taken by community groups in opposition to timber sales in the Elwha watershed. On March 5, 2023, over a hundred community members, largely from Port Angeles, the lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Jamestown S’klallam Tribe, the Lummi Nation, and surrounding areas in the Olympic Peninsula, joined together in a peaceful rally at the Elwha River Observation Area.


“As we become aware of the interconnections of living things inherent throughout the natural world,” says Howard Garrett of the Center for Whale Research, “the mosaic of life in mature forests stands out as essential to nurture healthy rivers and salmon. Southern Resident orcas depend on those fish for their sustenance and reproductive health. We disrupt and erode those delicate relationships at our peril and theirs.”

Guest Bio

Missy Lahren has worked as an environmental activist and public interest lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1993. More recently, she shifted her focus and embarked on a M.Ed. in “Integral Education” and a Ph.D. in “Philosophy and Religion” both of which centered on the emerging field of “ecozoic education.” Her masters constructed a middle school curriculum on systems theory while her dissertation focused on a curriculum for Earth Day. Currently, she is weaving law, education, and philosophy together to help expand enforceable human and ecological rights as a board member for three non-profits: Planetary Advocates, Eleanor Lives, and the Earth Law Center.