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Lawsuit Filed to Stop Siskiyou Roadless Area Logging
KFA Press Release
June 8, 2006

Mike's Gulch Roadless Area
Mikes Gulch roadless area logging sale. Photo by Rolf Skar.

A coalition aims to safeguard roadless forests adjacent to the renowned Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southwest Oregon

Today five conservation organizations filed a lawsuit and a request for a temporary restraining order in federal district court to stop a Bush administration proposal authorizing logging in inventoried roadless areas adjacent to the Kalmiopsis Wilderness in southwest Oregon. The organizations believe significant new information has surfaced since the July 2004 Biscuit Project Record of Decision, which requires the Forest Service to re-analyze the impacts of the logging proposal.

The new information includes a recent scientific study that documents the ecological impacts of post-fire clearcutting at the Biscuit fire area. In January 2006 Oregon State University researchers published a study in the prestigious journal Science that showed recent logging at Biscuit harmed forest recovery and increased the chances of future fires in the area.

“The government has turned a blind eye to this significant information that could seriously influence the outcome of this project,” says Josh Laughlin, Executive Director of the Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands Project, one of the plaintiffs. “Instead of seriously considering it, the Forest Service and Bush administration are rushing forward with a reckless clearcutting proposal that targets an American treasure—the 105,000-acre South Kalmiopsis roadless area.

Other significant new information that has surfaced since the Biscuit Project Record of Decision includes a economic analysis that highlights the taxpayer dollars lost thus far with the logging proposals as well as other ecological studies that document the negative effects of post-fire clearcutting on Siskiyou forests.

“Despite many new scientific studies conducted within the Biscuit fire area, and the Forest Service’s own staff members now arguing against continued post-fire salvage logging, the Forest Service continues to base it’s public land decisions on the whim of politics instead of current science. This project will continue to be a federal boondoggle.” Attorney Lauren Regan stated.

“These roadless areas are some of the most valuable wild salmon and steelhead habitat in the United States”, says Kimberly Baker of the Klamath Forest Alliance. “ This area has already begun to regenerate, logging would devastate old growth forests, damage water quality and key wildlife habitat in one of the wildest places of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion.

The Siskiyou National Forest plans to auction off the 350-acre Mike’s Gulch timber sale, located in the South Kalmiopsis roadless area directly above the Wild and Scenic Illinois River, to the highest bidder on Friday. Oregon Goverrnor Ted Kulongoski has adamantly opposed this proposal by writing to the Forest Service a number of times, urging them to hold off on the auction.

“This is a world-class landscape that has evolved with fire for millennia,” says Kimberly. “Once a roadless area is clearcut it can no longer qualify to be protected as wilderness.”

The Biscuit Project, the largest timber sale in modern history, was proposed after a massive wildfire burned across nearly 500,000 acres in southwest Oregon during summer 2002. More than half of the fire area was unburned or burned lightly.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include the Cascadia Wildlands Project, the WildWest Institute, National Forest Protection Alliance, Klamath Forest Alliance and Siskiyou Regional Education Project.

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.

Environmentalists Try to Block Logging
By Jeff Barnard, The Oregonian
June 15, 2006

MEDFORD -- Environmentalists asked a federal judge Wednesday to temporarily block logging of the first timber to be auctioned in a national forest roadless area since the Bush administration eased logging restrictions, arguing that new studies show the logging will kill young trees and increase the danger of wildfire.

Lawyers for the U.S. Forest Service countered that the 362 acres within the Mike's Gulch timber sale boundaries amount to such a small percentage of the 500,000 acres burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire and the 188,000 acres of roadless area on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, that it does not meet the test of irreparable harm needed to stop the logging.

U.S. Magistrate Owen M. Panner said he will rule on the request Wednesday, noting that the primary issue will be whether any harm that might be caused by logging on the tract in Southern Oregon is significant enough to justify the Forest Service starting the planning process over.

Panner's statement echoed a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week, refusing to stop the logging under a different lawsuit.

The Forest Service and the buyer of the timber agreed to hold off logging on the 362 acres until Panner rules next week. Of the 362 acres, 261 acres are in units that would be logged.

The timber was auctioned off Friday, regenerating a campaign by environmentalists to stop it despite several court rulings against them.

Roadless areas are tracts on national forests generally larger than 5,000 acres that have long been considered too remote and too rugged to be economical for logging. They were inventoried as part of a national survey of potential new wilderness areas, where logging is prohibited by act of Congress.

Attorneys for the environmentalists argued that several scientific studies have come forward since the Forest Service planned the Mike's Gulch sale that conclude logging after a wildfire kills naturally sprouting seedlings and leaves more fuel on the ground for future fires.

"The entire premise of this project has been rebutted by these scientific studies," attorney Marianne Dugan said in arguing for blocking the logging.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Odell said the primary purpose of the timber sale was economic and that replanting the area and reducing the future danger of wildfire were secondary.

"This really is a policy issue," he said.

Dugan countered that allowing the logging was "chipping away" at forest protections.

Meanwhile, the Oregon attorney general has yet to file a motion to block the logging based on a third lawsuit brought by the governors of Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico challenging the Bush administration's new rules easing logging restrictions in roadless areas, said spokeswoman Stephanie Soden.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski, who wants to protect all roadless areas in Oregon from logging, said last week that he would seek a temporary injunction in the case.

The Clinton administration generated rules that went into effect in 2001 putting 58.5 million acres of roadless areas around the country off-limits to most logging, based on scientific evidence they were far more valuable as sources of clean water, and pristine fish and wildlife habitat, than as timber.

But pressure has grown from the timber industry to open them to logging, as they represent the last big source of untouched old growth timber in the country.

The Bush administration has worked to generate more timber from national forests and overhauled the rules for roadless logging in 2004, giving governors the option to petition for protecting them or opening them to logging.

The U.S. Forest Service has characterized the Mike's Gulch timber sale as overdue rehabilitation for an area burned in the 2002 Biscuit fire, maintaining that it was developed during a window when neither set of roadless rules were in effect, so is not governed by either of them. It has also determined that the area is not likely to be judged suitable to be formally designated as wilderness.

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.