Judge lifts injunctions on Oregon salvage logging of nation’s worst 2002 wildfire Source: ENN,01 September 2004
By Joseph B. Frazier, Associated Press
PORTLAND, Oregon A federal judge has lifted injunctions that had temporarily barred salvage logging from the site of the nation’s worst wildfire in 2002, but the legal battle is not yet over.
The U.S. Forest Service said logging could start now in theory, but environmentalists’ lawyers said they would try to stop it, pending an appeal.
The Biscuit Fire, which burned across some 500,000 acres in southwestern Oregon, has led to one of the larger timber salvage sales of modern times.
U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan ruled on Aug. 20 against Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, which had sought to stop the logging because the Forest Service had left it up to the salvage buyers to determine which trees to mark for cutting.
The Seattle-based Western Environmental Law Center and Earthjustice also sought to prevent the salvage cutting and had won similar injunctions in consolidated cases that were lifted Monday.
Hogan’s ruling vacated an Aug. 3 preliminary injunction blocking harvest on five sales totaling 46.6 million board feet in old-growth forest reserves. It came after the Forest Service decided it, and not the buyers, would mark which trees to cut and which to leave standing for wildlife.
John Fertig, a Forest Service forester in timber sales, said most of the trees already have been marked, and salvage could start in a matter of days barring further injunctions. In some cases, he said, cutting could start immediately.
Appeals would focus on previous court losses, primarily the question of whether logging is appropriate in areas set aside to protect old-growth timber, said Kristin Boyles, a lawyer for Earthjustice in Seattle.
“The tree-marking issue is within the Forest Service’s ability to solve,” she said.
On July 13, 2002, lightning started four fires in the Klamath Mountains. They combined into the Biscuit Fire. Over the next two years, the Forest Service is selling 370 million board feet of timber from 19,465 of the burned acres.