GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Loggers went to work without interference Tuesday at the site of a 2002 forest fire, felling old-growth trees after the U.S. Forest Service closed off the area to keep out protesters.
Citing safety concerns for loggers and protesters alike, officials in the Siskiyou National Forest on Monday closed the 700-acre area and roads leading to the timber sale. Protesters had impeded loggers going to work.
Forest Service spokesman Tom Lavagnino said a crew of loggers had no trouble getting to work Tuesday, and rangers had not spotted a tree sitter who logging opponents said was in a fir tree.
Protesters are trying to stall the harvesting of trees killed by the fire in old-growth forest reserves until federal judges can rule on two lawsuits challenging the timber sales.
Forty-three arrests have been made since a federal appeals court injunction barring the logging was lifted March 7.
Tom Link, timber program manager for the forest, said he was happy work could continue.
“We realize there is a lot of litigation involved in this, and there are more decisions yet to be made by the courts,” Link said. “So we’ll just continue to do what the court directs us to do.”
Also Tuesday, a federal judge in Eugene denied the latest request from environmentalists to halt the logging.
Judge Michael Hogan said environmentalists had raised serious questions, including a suggestion that the Forest Service did not properly ensure it was meeting its own guidelines for preventing erosion and protecting fish and wildlife.
But the judge also said the Silver Creek Timber Co. stood to lose $190,000 a week if logging is halted, and contractors working for the company would lose $322,500 a week.
Meanwhile, three of 27 protesters being held in the Josephine County Jail said they were on a hunger strike to protest jail conditions and the criminal charges against them.
Sheriff’s Lt. Howard Banks said six inmates had filed grievances. He said he could not confirm whether protesters claiming to be on a hunger strike were eating.