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Judge clears last barrier to Biscuit fire salvage
Herald and News, AP 2/23/06

Grants Pass, Ore, - A federal judge has dismissed a legal challenge to logging trees in roadless areas killed by the 2002 Biscuit fire, but it remains questionable whether timber companies will want to buy burned trees rotting on the stump for nearly four years.

Following the recommendations of a magistrate, U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan in Eugene on Tuesday dismissed consolidated lawsuits that challenged logging in old growth forest reserves and roadless areas on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest.

U.S. Magistrate John Cooney in Medford had recommended dismissal last July after rejecting all the claims of environmental groups that the Forest Service had failed to adequately protect old growth forest reserves, roadless areas and fish habitat from the harm caused by intensive logging.

Sparked by lightning, the Biscuit fire burned 500,000 acres in the summer of 2002, making it the largest fire in the country that year.

It has since become a legal and political battleground - with the Bush administration and the timber industry on one side, and environmental groups on the other - over how best to restore the forest and habitat critical to the northern spotted owl and salmon.

"This ruling and the previous two court rulings had indicated the Forest Service clearly followed the law as it was proceeding with its ongoing Biscuit salvage sales," said Rogue River-Siskiyou spokeswoman Patty Burel.

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