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"Scorched-earth policy" continues
-- Lawsuits and appeals stop timber health near Klamath River.
-- This is called, "scorched-earth" policy of wacko environmentalists, said Richard Hartshorn.
By Liz Bowen, assistant editor, Pioneer Press, Fort Jones, California 11/2/04
FORT JONES – Six years and $600,000 worth of environmental assessments were not enough for three environmental organizations that brought lawsuits and appeals against the Beaver Creek Project on the Scott River District.
Apparently, the environmental assessments, which measure several feet thick, were also not enough for U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. who ultimately blocked the timber-thinning project.
Klamath Forest Alliance, led by Felice Pace, the Environmental Protection Information Center, called EPIC, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands sued the Forest Service and ultimately won, when Judge Damrell ruled in their favor three weeks ago. The project had been in litigation since June of 2003.
Enviro groups sat at the table
Klamath National Forest employees are disheartened by the decision. The project was part of a cutting-edge collaboration called Klamath Provincial Advisory Committee (PAC), which brought a broad spectrum of groups to the table to find agreement. For two years, negotiations were held during the Klamath PAC meetings. The goal was to avoid the strangling and stalling lawsuits. But, PAC did not accomplish its goal.
The Beaver Creek Project began in 1998, under President Clinton’s Northwest Forest Plan. But, appeals and lawsuits slowed the project.
Federal judges are managing the forests
"It’s outrageous," said U.S. Congressman Wally Herger of Judge Damrell’s decision. He fingered "liberal judges" that are making laws that affect forests and natural resources, who in actuality know little about real science and nature. Reasonable and fair-minded judges should be appointed he added.
Ray Haupt, ranger of the Scott River District of the Klamath National Forest, said that science really doesn’t change, "but there is an ever-changing landscape of court cases."
Haupt admits he is disappointed that the collaboration of the Klamath PAC didn’t work. He also invested years of work into the process. For six years, employees of the Scott River District have worked on this project. Haupt estimates $600,000 has been spent on the Beaver Creek Project. Now he is done.
In the present climate, where the judges rule against management, Haupt said he sees no sense in spending any more of the public’s money.
After the 24 months of discussion, analysis and public scoping, the only thing that changed on the Beaver Creek Project was a modification. Some of the tractor work was changed to hand work. But, the modification was not enough for the three enviro groups.
Beaver Creek was logged in 1920s
Beaver Creek is a small tributary to the Klamath River near the Oregon border. The project area included 975 acres on land that was heavily logged in the 1920s by the railroad.
The definition of "old growth" is also ever changing. The trees marked for thinning were under 100 years old.
The project explained that this was for forest health, which did include logging of re-grown trees. Thinning of the forest stands and under-burning was expected to provide fire protection for the watershed. Funds from the harvested timber was to be used to rock surface environmentally-friendly roads, which provide public and firefighter access to this remote area.
As part of the public scoping, 51 individuals and organizations were contacted by the Forest Service regarding the project in March of 2000. Five comment letters were received. Those concerns were analyzed and assessed and addressed during the Klamath PAC meetings.
This is scorched-earth policy
Jim Ostrowski, timberlands manager for Timber Products, is frustrated by Judge Damrell’s decision. According to Ostrowski, the Forest Service project would have reduced fire risks that could now affect their lands.
"It is just a shame to see a good project shut down," said Ostrowski.
Another neighbor, who has worked hard to protect his 55 acres of forest from catastrophic fire by thinning the trees and removing brush, is Richard Hartshorn. He is irate.
"Eventually it will all burn and it will be a total disaster," said Hartshorn. "With the right conditions and the wind blowing in 100 degree heat and low humidity, you will see a million-acre holocaust in Siskiyou County. It is called the ‘scorched-earth’ policy of the wacko environmentalists," Hartshorn finished.
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