Groups sue Portland airport for refusing anti-logging ad

A detail of the ad on display at the Eugene Airport but refused by the Portland Airport.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - conservation group and the American Civil Liberties Union have sued to get an advertisement against federal logging legislation placed at Portland International Airport.

The Port of Portland, which manages the airport, turned down the ad as "political." It's aimed at legislation to increase logging on federal forests, particularly the Western Oregon tracts known as the O&C lands.

The suit filed Thursday in Multnomah County says the airport's refusal violates free-speech provisions of the U.S. and state constitutions.

The city-owned Eugene Airport accepted the ad, which mimics a picture postcard and depicts a hillside denuded by logging.

"Welcome to Oregon, Home of the Clearcut!" it reads.

In Eugene, city officials cited a ruling from the Oregon Court of Appeals against the Portland transit agency TriMet in a similar case involving ads about dams on the Klamath River. The state Supreme Court is now considering that case.

The ad is sponsored by environmental groups, including Oregon Wild, a plaintiff in the suit.

The group's executive director, Sean Stevens, said in a statement Friday the airport "cannot reject advertising from conservationists who opposed clearcutting simply because it makes the logging industry and some politicians uncomfortable."

The O&C lands were railroad lands in the 19th century now held by the federal government. A House bill would turn over a million acres of them to a state-appointed trust to be managed primarily for timber production and revenue for counties. Opponents of the bill say it would lead to widespread clearcuts and environmental damage.

The airport contends that federal law allows it to restrict ads about religion or politics, and it does so "in order to maintain a neutral and welcoming atmosphere for all of our visitors," spokesman Steve Johnson said in a statement Friday.

The airport said political expression is allowed in specific locations under a permit program.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press