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Major Timber Harvest Blocked
By Denny Walsh, Sacramento Bee
Friday, October 15, 2004

Forest Service didn't adequately explore impact of Klamath plan, judge says.

A Sacramento federal judge has blocked a major timber harvest and watershed-improvement project from proceeding in the Klamath National Forest, ruling Thursday that the U.S. Forest Service acted unlawfully in its zeal to implement its plans.

U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. found the agency violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to prepare a full environmental impact statement, "despite substantial questions regarding whether the project will significantly affect the environment."

The judge also found that the Forest Service "abused its discretion" when it substituted habitat analysis for population surveys of species, and it violated the National Forest Management Act by failing to demonstrate how the proposed project "maintains the existing condition" of the forest, or at least keeps it viable.

Based on the findings, Damrell enjoined the Forest Service from implementing the project until a full environmental impact statement, or EIS, is prepared.

The agency could not be contacted late Thursday.

As proposed, the Beaver Creek Project, which is in a watershed of the same name about 15 miles northwest of Yreka in Siskiyou County, would harvest 5.9 million board feet of timber from 1,354 acres and generate $541,000 for associated watershed upgrades.

The Klamath National Forest supervisor decided the project would not significantly affect the environment, and the Forest Service thus determined it was not required to prepare an EIS. A coalition of conservationists, including the Klamath Forest Alliance, challenged the agency's assessment in its lawsuit filed 16 months ago.

Damrell, noting the Forest Service's "express finding that the project will likely adversely affect the (Northern) Spotted Owl," wrote in his 48-page order that that fact, "combined with the lack of current survey data, uncertainty regarding the efficacy of mitigation measures, and the effects on critical habitat raise substantial questions."

The judge further found that "short term impacts to the (Hungry Creek subwatershed) will occur, and those impacts appear significant and highly uncertain."

The Forest Service "acknowledges the project will increase the runoff risk for the Hungry Creek SW above acceptable thresholds for three to five years after the project is implemented," he wrote. Damrell also faulted the Forest Service's failure to conduct (population) surveys for ... sensitive species or explain why such surveys could not be conducted," and he labeled its performance "arbitrary and capricious."

Consequently, he stated, under federal precedent, "population surveys should have been performed."

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.

Judge Blocks Klamath Logging Plan
By Don Thompson, Associated Press
October 15, 2004

SACRAMENTO (AP) A federal judge has blocked logging proposed for the Klamath National Forest in Siskiyou County, chiding the U.S. Forest Service for its review of the environmental damage that would result.

The service should have done a full environmental review and done a better job projecting the impact on wildlife and forest conditions, ruled U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr.

He barred any logging until a review is completed.

The forest service wanted to log 1,354 acres along Beaver Creek northwest of Yreka, selling enough timber to generate more than $500,000 to improve the watershed.

The Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath Forest Alliance and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center sued in Sacramento federal court last year after the service decided it did not need to conduct a full environmental damage assessment of the cut near the Oregon border.

Damrell said the service should have done the full review particularly after finding there would be some impact on 500 acres of northern spotted owl habitat, and would increase erosion into Hungry Creek for at least three years.

Cynthia Elkins of EPIC said the project would have removed nearly all of the remaining old growth timber in an already damaged watershed, and the erosion could hurt salmon and steelhead.

Much of the area around the proposed cut is privately owned and has suffered from logging and grazing, she said. She said the service should also examine the cumulative effects of other planned timber cuts in the area.

The timber cut was proposed under Democratic former President Clinton's 1994 Northwest Forest Plan to both protect old growth forests and provide logging jobs, said service spokesman Matt Mathes. The service has been doing its best to meet both goals, he said, though he couldn't comment directly on Damrell's decision.

"President Clinton intended for us to cut larger trees in Northern California as well as to protect older trees and the wildlife that depends on them," Mathes said. "It's not an easy job. But the idea was to not leave these small towns high and dry."

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.