Environmental Groups Condemn Congressional Candidate Carrick Flynn’s Comments on Spotted Owls and Timber Unity

Flynn distanced himself from the conservative advocacy group but defended his remarks.

TIMBER TOWN: Stimson Lumber in 2012. (Robert Delahanty)

After multiple environmental groups condemned Democratic congressional candidate Carrick Flynn’s remarks in which he expressed emotional sympathy for Timber Unity and criticized the impact of listing the northern spotted owl as endangered, his campaign tried to backtrack last week. His spokespeople said Flynn had misspoken.

In his own comments to WW on May 1, Flynn distanced himself from Timber Unity but said his remarks had been misinterpreted.

On April 28, five groups put out a lengthy statement condemning Flynn’s remarks on an April 13 episode of politics podcast The Bridge, during which he gave voice to rural hostility to the spotted owl (”it’s an owl, looks like other owls”) and said he had “emotional sympathy” for the group Timber Unity.

“As organizations who have been fighting for decades to uphold the strong environmental values held by the people of Oregon, we are stunned and deeply saddened to hear Carrick Flynn, a Democratic candidate running for Congress, make comments mocking critical environmental protections, sympathizing with a far-right group that has ties to the Jan. 6 insurrection, and referring to our state’s iconic land use system as ‘insane,’” says the statement released by Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Wild Conservation Leaders Fund, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Renew Oregon Action Fund. and RiverPAC of Oregon.

“Flynn has attacked the very heart of what makes Oregon the state we all love to call home,” the statement adds. “Living here goes hand-in-hand with caring about the natural environment all around us. If Flynn doesn’t understand that, he shouldn’t be representing us in Congress.”

(OLCV and PCUN endorsed Flynn opponent Andrea Salinas.)

In reply, Flynn’s campaign said that “Carrick unequivocally condemns the politics of Timber Unity” and that Flynn “erroneously cited an organization that is anathema to our shared Democratic priorities.”

“He condemns Timber Unity, and simply meant to express empathy with working families whose livelihoods have been disrupted,” Flynn campaign manger Avital Balwit told WW on April 28. “Obviously, that was the wrong reference to make.”

Opponent Matt West, whose condemnation of Flynn’s remarks brought them to light, dismissed the reversal.

“I’m glad to hear Carrick respond to my call for him to condemn Timber Unity,” West says. “But it’s unacceptable that a Democratic candidate would ever express their support for a group with such deep ties to the far right. I’m a true progressive. I still don’t know what Carrick is.”

In an interview with WW on May 1, Flynn asked people to listen to the podcast for themselves.

“I’m emphatically not a Timber Unity supporter,” Flynn told WW. “Actually, if I had something I could request to show up in this article, it would be me encouraging people to go back and listen to that podcast. Because I did not say that, I do not mean that. And if you look at my politics, I do have concerns about the economic effect conservation had on timber communities. But I have concerns about economic effects of any large economic trends or any government regulation on communities.”

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