SAN FRANCISCO - September 12 - A federal judge has shut down a 2000-acre commercial logging project in Giant Sequoia National Monument because the federal government relied on outdated science to justify a controversial the timber sale.
Judge Charles Breyer issued a preliminary injunction late Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, blocking a timber sale known as the Saddle Project while the case is still pending. "Balancing the serious environmental harms which could occur absent preliminary relief with the serious questions that remain as to the merits," wrote Judge Breyer, "the Court finds that a preliminary injunction is warranted."
The timber industry and U.S. Forest Service had argued that the logging was urgently needed for fire prevention, but Judge Breyer noted in his decision that the agency "waited five years to execute this contract because of unfavorable timber prices."
In the six years since the 'Saddle Project' was initially approved, the project area became part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument, and future commercial logging was outlawed. The Bush administration, already under fire for its broad attempts reopen Giant Sequoia to commercial logging, had tried to "grandfather" that project into the Monument boundaries, and the Forest Service began logging the area in late July. Conservation groups charge that the Forest Service has not taken a hard look at the likely environmental harm that the extensive logging will cause, utilizing the significant research and analysis conducted since the project was proposed in 1999.
Pat Gallagher, Sierra Club Director of Environmental Law, said, "This timber project directly conflicts with the purpose of National Monument status. Judge Breyer's decision helps ensure that the Giant Sequoia Monument will be protected and can continue to inspire visitors for generations to come."
Deborah Reames, acting as co-counsel said, "The court agreed that the conservation groups had a strong case and that all logging should be halted until the court determined whether the sale was legal. Further commercial logging of the Sequoia National Monument would have set a dangerous precedent, so this is a very good decision for anyone who loves these trees and this park."
Giant Sequoia National Monument boasts two-thirds of all the Sequoia redwoods in the world. The Bush administration's plan for Giant Sequoia as well as the Saddle Project specifically includes logging of healthy trees of any species as big as 30 inches in diameter or more - trees that size can be 200 years old or more.
Sierra Club lawyers represented Tule River Conservancy and the Sierra Club. Earthjustice represented Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and Center for Biological Diversity. John Muir Project attorneys represented Sequoia Forest Keepers and Earth Island.
Read the court order here: http://www.earthjustice.org/news/documents/9-05/SequoiaPI.pdf