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Environmental group calls logging plan a clear cut

Capital Press 10/28/08

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. (AP) - The Forest Service calls Low Meadow a restoration project. The Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center says it's a clear cut.

Either way, trees, some four feet in diameter, are coming down as part of a 3.5 million board foot cut in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

The cut is in an inventoried roadless area, a key watershed for salmon, said George Sexton of Ashland-based environmental group KSWC. "So it's always disappointing to us when the Forest Service says, 'We're going to clear cut it.'"

"The Northwest Forest Plan didn't say everything had to be managed as old growth or owl habitat," said John Williams, forester for the Gold Beach Ranger District. "It recognizes these meadows are an important component of the landscape."

The sale, purchased by South Coast Lumber of Brookings, sat for more than 10 years. It was stalled first by court hearings, then by the Biscuit Fire in 2002, which burned about 5 percent of the trees in the sale, Williams said.

KSWC and others sued to stop the sale, but in 2007 a federal magistrate ruled that the Forest Service didn't need to update its National Environmental Policy Act analysis.

In August, a three-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling that the impact of the project was covered in the Biscuit Fire environmental impact statement, and allowed the harvest to proceed.

The 200-acre sale is near the Chetco River, a thriving salmon and steelhead river.

When the helicopter logging project is done it will look like a clear cut "with some big trees left in it," about eight per acre, Williams said.

He said meadows have shrunk because of fire suppression the past 100 years, and restoration is vital for wildlife habitat.

"On the Siskiyou side of the forest less than 1 percent is in meadow habitat and we're losing it quickly," Williams said.

While no trees more than 40 inches in diameter at breast height were supposed to be cut, some are because of growth since the plan was made in 1997.

"What prompted our frustration was that in district court the Forest Service attorney said it wasn't a clear cut, and no trees over 40 inches would be harvested," Sexton said.

Sexton e-mailed photos of logs to Rogue River-Siskiyou Supervisor Scott Conroy, saying: "Truth is indeed in very short supply on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest," referring to an op-ed Conroy wrote in 2007 calling "truth a casualty" in claims against the Forest Service during the Biscuit Fire salvage.

Sexton says he believes those favoring logging along trails near the Kalmiopsis want to prevent expansion of the wilderness.

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