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Judge Clears Way for Klamath Timber Sale
by Alex Breitler April 08, 2004
Redding Record Searchlight

Three environmental groups say cutting in the rugged Salmon River watershed would endanger owls and other wildlife while increasing fire danger.

SACRAMENTO: A federal judge has cleared the way for officials to proceed with one of three timber sales that sent tree-sitters scrambling to lofty perches last summer.

Judge Garland E. Burrell dismissed a lawsuit filed last year in U.S. District Court in Sacramento in protest of the 600-acre Knob Sale, Klamath National Forest spokesman Brian Harris said Wednesday.

Three environmental groups named as plaintiffs say cutting in the rugged Salmon River watershed would endanger owls and other wildlife while increasing fire danger.

The project would leave piles of slash logging residue on the forest floor ready to ignite, the groups say. The U.S. Forest Service says otherwise, claiming the harvest will remove thick spindles of trees that are forced to compete for limited nutrients, sunlight, air and soil.

The project is also fulfilling timber-harvest requirements under the Northwest Forest Plan, Harris said.

It was unclear if any of the groups would file an appeal. A spokeswoman for the Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center in Ashland, Ore., could not be reached Wednesday afternoon. The other plaintiffs were the Etna-based Klamath Forest Alliance and the Environmental Protection and Information Center in Garberville.

"We have the green light to go ahead" with the sale, Harris said Wednesday. However, he said the forest might wait and see if an appeal is filed, meaning the logging may not begin until 2005.

Controversy erupted last summer as logging crews began work on an earlier, yet equally contentious, 744-acre sale. In May, three tree-sitters staged a two-week protest that ended when they voluntarily descended. Two were convicted and sentenced to five days in jail and two years probation.

Now the battles have shifted to the courtroom. On its Web site, the wildlands center says it has started litigation on three other projects in the Klamath forest.

There are few places in the United States where most tributaries flow freely without dams and where nearly half of the land is free from logging roads or other development, they say.

But the death of 34,000 Chinook salmon in the Klamath River in 2002 raised concerns about what logging operations might do to the water quality of creeks and rivers that flow into the Klamath.

Harris said it remains to be seen if the forest will see demonstrations as it did last summer.

"The potential is certainly there," he said.

Reporter Alex Breitler can be reached at 225-8344 or at abreitler@redding.com.

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