Portland, OR, USA — A federal judge on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch attempt by forest activists to block logging of roadless forests burned by the 2002 Biscuit fire, saying they were rehashing points that have already been decided.
However, it may not be the last word. Gov. Ted Kulongoski planned his own attempt to halt the cutting of about 640 acres by seeking a court order today, a spokesman said.
Kulongoski contends the cutting will undermine his goal of protecting all 2 million acres of roadless national forest lands in Oregon from logging anddevelopment.
He plans to petition the Bush administration to put roadless lands off-limits. The petition is required under a Bush administration rule that replaced Clinton administration roadless protections struck down by a federal court.
Mark Rey, under secretary of agriculture, said Wednesday that cutting a few hundred acres of the 500,000-acre Biscuit burn would not interfere with the governor’s options. The logs will be removed by helicopter, and no roads will be built.
The moves came on the same day that the Bush administration accepted petitions from the governors of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia seeking protection for roadless national forests in their states. The acceptance of the petitions opens the way for development of a rule that will officially set aside the roadless lands.
Rey said drawing up the rule would include public comments that could lead to changes in the final protections.
He said acceptance of the governors’ requests shows the administration can work with both Republican and Democratic governors to provide cooperative environmental protections.
In the court decision on the Biscuit cutting Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Owen Panner said environmental groups that sought to block the logging had little chance of succeeding. However, he said the Forest Service should wait until Monday to make final the two timber sales to allow time for an appeal.
He said the case hinges on a philosophical difference over whether burned forests should be logged or left to recover on their own. But he said the Forest Service decision to cut some of the burned trees has stood up to repeated court challenges.
“Salvage logging will yield income and benefit loggers and others in the wood products industry, in a region of Oregon where there often aren’t many other good-paying jobs,” Panner wrote. “The public interest is probably benefited and, if damaged, it is very slight.”