Federal Court Halts Klamath Old-Growth Logging

Federal Court Halts Klamath Old-Growth Logging

May 5, 2005

For more information, please contact: Scott Greacen, EPIC, 707-476-8340

Sacramento, CA — A federal district court today halted another old-growth timber sale on northwest Callifornia’s Klamath National Forest, telling the Forest Service it can’t ignore science which warns that cutting big trees can increase fire risks. With the Westpoint timber sale legally barred until the Forest Service prepares a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), conservationists have won three of their last four challenges to controversial old-growth timber sales in northwest California’s four national forests.

Erin Madden, attorney for the Ashland, Oregon based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, said the court’s strong legal opinion in the Westpoint case should help the Forest Service to better hear public opinion, which runs strongly against logging old-growth forests on our national forests. “Eventually the Klamath National Forest is going to get the message that logging old-growth forests is both illegal and unwise. The Westpoint timber sale would have harmed at-risk salmon and rare Northern Spotted Owls while increasing the risk of extreme wildfire.”

The Westpoint timber sale would have logged 1,026 acres in 53 units spread over two separate areas, one on Scott Bar Mountain east of the Lower Scott River, the other in the headwaters of Middle Creek, near the northeast corner of the Marble Mountains Wilderness. The Forest Service never revealed the total volume of timber the agency was planning to have logged under the Westpoint Environmental Assessment (EA).

The court said that the plaintiff groups raised “substantial questions” about the environmental impacts of the sale that were ignored by the Forest Service. Judge William Shubb of the Eastern District wrote that the Forest Service refused to acknowledge science highlighting the danger that old-growth logging would increase fire risks; unilaterally changed a Critical Habitat designation for the Northern Spotted Owl to allow logging; downplayed risks to sensitive species including the goshawk, wolverine, fisher, and marten; and refused even to consider an “obvious, viable alternative” that would not log in sensitive species’ habitat.

Scott Greacen of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), an environmental group with offices in Garberville and Eureka, California, said the district court’s opinion is a rebuke to a set of timber-driven priorities that go straight up to the White House.

“The Forest Service’s continuing efforts to log in old-growth forests miles from any towns in the name of wildfire prevention are seriously damaging the agency’s attempts to rebuild public trust. Here, in an area with too little old growth and too many roads, the Forest Service never even considered any options other than logging old-growth and building more roads on steep and unstable ground. It’s bad forestry, it doesn’t pass legal muster, and the American people deserve better from their public-land managers.”

Greacen said the Forest Service’s problems come right from the top. “Unfortunately, Westpoint is exactly the kind of project you have to expect from an Administration which has put the timber industry’s lobbyists and lawyers in charge of the protection of our precious natural heritage. They’re turning the clock back thirty years on environmental protection, and threatening our childrens’ future.”

Photos are available. The case, captioned EPIC v. Blackwell, was filed in federal district court in Sacramento. The case number is Civ-S-04-1027 WBS GGH.