The plan is being pushed through with minimal environmental analysis and only one opportunity for public comment, also known as a categorical exclusion (CE), purportedly to “avoid litigation.” But by attempting to avoid litigation, the Four Beetles South project is instead inviting it. If the final decision on the project were unfavorable, only filing a lawsuit in federal court could change its course.
In order to use a CE, projects must meet an exacting set of requirements. It must: be a restoration treatment; maximize the retention of old-growth and large trees; use the best available science while maintaining ecological integrity; and it has to be developed and implemented through collaborative process. Four Beetles South fails to meet those requirements.
This “forest health” project is purportedly aimed at making the forest more resilient to insects and disease and is necessary to stop beetles from killing trees. The agency claims it is mimicking beetles by killing trees but it is just capturing the monetary value. In essence, the Forest Service wants to kill the trees to protect the forest, but without trees and snags, there is not forest to protect.
Deforestation, e.g. even-aged logging, has caused an extreme fire hazard throughout our forests, is the leading cause of the 6th great mass extinction of wildlife and directly attributes to global warming. Instead of protecting our forests, the Forest Service is moving forward to make a quick buck and meet timber targets. It’s time agency planners, who are supposed to be serving the public and caring for the land, get with the 21st century.