Updated: Aug 1
EPIC and our allies have filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service challenging California’s largest timber sale in modern history: the Region 5 Post-Fire Hazard Tree Project. The R5 Project seeks to log nearly 6,000 miles of roads and trails—enough distance to go from Los Angeles to New York City and back—and a total of more than 417,000 acres. As stated in our complaint, "even at the regional scale, each zone’s logging/vegetation management footprint, at 187,880 acres (North), 131,066 acres (Central Sierra), and 98,262 acres (Southern Sierra), would likely be the largest in California’s history." EPIC is represented by the Crag Law Center. Read our complaint here.
The vast majority of the total acreage comes from poorly maintained and lightly used “Maintenance Level 2” roads, generally punched in by the Forest Service in a different, bygone era to facilitate large-scale timber removal from our public lands. Many of the roads targeted for treatment are in disrepair and have been identified for future closure; it will require significant public expenditures just to access these roads for any hazard tree logging operations. The Forest Service hasn’t offered any compelling need to conduct operations on these roads.
The Forest Service has also rushed the required analysis for this logging, thus prompting our lawsuit. Ordinarily under NEPA, large and impactful projects require an environmental impact statement to evaluate the potential impacts to the environment. Federal law requires the Forest Service to carefully balance the tradeoffs between heavy-handed logging operations and other important values, including protecting wildlife habitat, promoting carbon storage, and preserving water quality. But here, the Forest Service made a closed-door decision to take an over-inclusive approach, and refused to consider any alternatives.
EPIC attempted to resolve outstanding issues with the project through our “objection,” however our concerns were largely dismissed by the agency.
Read more about the R5 project and our work to safeguard federal forests on our blog.