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July 9, 2004
Documents move salvage sales forward
By PAUL FATTIG
Four records of decisions signed Thursday to salvage portions of the Biscuit fire pave the way for logging to begin within a few weeks.
But environmental groups say they will file administrative appeals to stop the process. Legal action may be next, they said.
The three documents signed by Scott Conroy, supervisor of the Siskiyou and Rogue River national forests, allow the first five sales on the Siskiyou forest to be sold at auction July 16.
The Siskiyou sales total 54 million board feet of fire-killed timber. Much of the half-million-acre fire, sparked by a lightning storm July 13, 2002, burned in the Siskiyou forest.
The Forest Service’s plan calls for salvaging 370 million board feet of fire-killed timber on about 19,400 acres.
"Our decisions are an investment in the land and people," Conroy said in a prepared statement. "We are investing in growing trees, protecting communities and old growth from wildland fire and capturing opportunities to provide jobs and wood for America."
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management also released a record of decision Thursday. It will allow 2.8 million board feet of timber to be salvaged on the 9,000 acres burned in its Medford District.
That sale, which will occur on 195 acres, is the only Biscuit fire salvage planned for the district, spokeswoman Karen Gillespie said.
On the Siskiyou, the first 11 timber sales have been granted an emergency exemption by Regional Forester Linda Goodman, meaning the sales outside of inventoried roadless areas will be available to log as soon as the unit is sold and awarded.
To decrease the chances that lawsuits will stop the logging this summer and fall, Siskiyou officials have divided the records of decision into three separate parts.
One is for some 4,500 acres of matrix lands that were designated for timber harvest under the Northwest Forest Plan. Another is for 6,750 acres of old-growth forest reserves. The sales in those decisions were given emergency status. The final is for 8,150 acres of inventoried roadless areas.
The timber would provide wood to build 24,000 moderately sized homes, create up to 6,900 jobs and generate up to $240 million in income, according to Conroy.
Timber firms may not be too enthusiastic about bidding, Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, told the Associated Press.
"Some of the things that need to be factored in by these companies are not only the deterioration of the quality of the wood but the risk of putting money down and not being able to operate, whether it be from court actions or civil disobedience and ecoterrorism," he said.
Congress gets 64,000-acre wilderness proposal
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman proposed to Congress late Thursday afternoon that the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area in the Siskiyou National Forest be expanded by more than 64,000 acres.
The announcement came on the same day the U.S. Forest Service approved decisions to move forward with its controversial plans to harvest fire-killed timber from the 2002 Biscuit fire in the Siskiyou forest.
The expansion is needed to continue to protect natural resources and wildlife habitat, according to the announcement.
"These lands have been noted for their outstanding wilderness characteristics for many years, and there has been long-standing public interest in providing greater protections in this area," she said is a prepared statement.
"The Bush administration is pleased to move this important proposal forward and will begin work with Congress this session to provide this designation," she said.
The expansion would be in five remote and largely roadless parcels, ranging in size from 1,000 to 34,000 acres, some of which were partially burned during the 2002 Biscuit fire.
When it announced its final environmental impact statement for the Biscuit fire salvage early last month, the Forest Service had said it supports increasing the 180,000-acre Kalmiopsis wilderness by some 64,600 acres.
However, any wilderness creation would require an act of Congress.
Siskiyou project plans to appeal logging
The Siskiyou Regional Education Project based in the Illinois Valley plans to file administrative appeals to halt salvage logging in the old-growth reserves and the inventoried roadless areas burned by the Biscuit fire, said executive director Don Smith. The group will be joined by several other groups in the appeals, he said.
If the appeals are unsuccessful, litigation might be necessary, he said.
"We’d prefer not to do that, but we’re put in a very difficult position," he said, noting that litigation drains resources, funds and staff time.
He also is concerned the decisions could spark a summer of unrest in the form of protests.
"This is an unnecessary conflict," he said. "If the Forest Service had taken a more moderate stance, we could have avoided all of this."
Dominick DellaSala, forest ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund office in Ashland, agreed.
"This is the worst possible decision we could have received for an area widely regarded as one of the most important national forests in the country," he said, citing the region’s ecological values that he says will be threatened by the planned salvage.
When the Forest Service originally proposed salvaging some 90 million board feet of timber from the burned area a year ago, the WWF and other environmental groups were encouraged, he said, noting that salvage could have already been under way.
That changed when a timber industry-sponsored report prompted the agency to increase the salvage, he said.
"I don’t think this is about logs or about jobs," DellaSala said. "This is election-year politics being played out in a swing state as this administration attempts to mobilize its base."
Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at email@example.com
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