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[cdt-l] Timber sale on the CDT
I saw this story in the New York Times and was wondering how much it's going
to affect my hiking experience next year. Not that I'm a fan of walking
through miles of scorched earth and deadfall, I'm sure I do not like the idea
of skiddahs and chainsaws disturbing my wilderness experience.
Anyone here know if the sale and salvage of timber is on or near the CDT,
and/or if protection of the trail and safety of hikers in this area is being
considered by the FS? When would something like this take place?
Thanks for any insight,
Bush administration cleared the way today for a gigantic sale of trees
charred last year by fires in a national forest in Montana and Idaho,
prompting two environmental groups to go to court to challenge the move.
The administration action is a victory for the timber industry, which has
pushed for salvaging of the wood, from the Bitterroot National Forest, before
it rots or cracks and loses its value. The administration says it intends to
use the proceeds from the sales to restore some of the forest's watershed
areas by replanting trees, closing roads and protecting stream beds.
Officials also say quick removal of the timber will help prevent fires next
More than 300,000 acres in the forest burned in the fires last year. Some
environmental groups argue that removing the wood will disrupt the natural
cycle of decomposition and promote runoff of sediment that could harm fish.
And they are worried about the method of today's decision, essentially, just
the signature of an administration official, eliminating the public appeal
process and forcing opponents to lodge their protests in court.
They are seeking an injunction in Federal District Court in Missoula, Mont.,
to block the sale, which the government has set to begin at noon on Wednesday.
The plan calls for logging 181 million board feet of timber from more than
46,000 acres of ponderosa pine trees that are dead or dying because of the
fires. The sale, which covers 30 sites within the forest, amounts to one of
the biggest salvage logging operations in the nation's history.
The decision, announced and put in effect as of today, was signed on Sunday
by Mark Rey, under secretary for natural resources and environment in the
Agriculture Department and a former timber industry lobbyist.
Mr. Rey said he agreed with Dale Bosworth, chief of the United States Forest
Service, "that immediate implementation of the projects will reduce
unacceptable risks to public safety, private property and the national forest
He and Mr. Bosworth have said there is no need to go through the customary
45-day public appeals process because the timber needs to be salvaged quickly
and because environmental groups are already planning to sue. Mr. Rey said
the decision to bypass the appeals period was legal.
Mr. Rey was expected to announce the decision last Friday but postponed doing
so, telling reporters he wanted to review how the salvaging would affect
downstream land and the local economy. He said the Forest Service had
estimated that the projects would generate 4,000 jobs and pump more than $75
million into the economy. While he was not disputing those figures, he said,
he wanted to make sure that a "significant portion" of that money would help
the local economy.
In today's four-paragraph announcement, he provided no details about the
economic effects, saying only that "these restoration projects provide
significant local economic benefit opportunities."
He did discuss the process, asserting that the method of decision did not set
a precedent and was "an exception and not the rule."
But environmental groups said the action set a dangerous precedent.
"This is the first step down a slippery slope of shutting the public out,"
said Bob Ekey, the Northern Rockies director of the Wilderness Society. "We
fear they are going to do away with appeals on controversial projects in the
future. They haven't indicated what the threshold is that they'll use, and
why this is the exception and not the rule."
Mr. Ekey said the scope of the plan was excessive, with the number of board
feet being more than all timber logged in the Bitterroot over the last 15
"Some restoration projects in this are good, but we don't want them to use
those good restoration projects as an excuse to go in and do more damage to
the landscape through logging," he said.
Doug Honnold, a lawyer with EarthJustice, a nonprofit law firm representing
the two environmental groups going to court, the Wilderness Society and
American Wildlands, is seeking an immediate injunction to block the sale. He
said the Department of Justice lawyers had agreed not to start the sale until
"It buys us 36 hours," Mr. Honnold said. "But if the Forest Service is not
willing to allow the public to take administrative appeals, we will take that
issue to a federal judge and let him decide."
His legal argument is focused solely on the appeals process and does not take
up the environmental issues.
The service filed its first draft environmental impact statement on May 24
and a final one on Oct. 10. It then modified its proposal and issued its
decision today. The only formal comment period was in May, "long before the
real nuts and bolts of what they were planning to do was disclosed," Mr.
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