For Immediate Release
Old-Growth Logging Project Near Grand Canyon Halted in Victory for Conservation and Goshawks
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - For the second time in a decade, the Center for Biological Diversity
and Sierra Club have halted a U.S. Forest Service plan to log
old-growth forests north of Grand Canyon. The Kaibab National Forest
reversed its approval of the 26,000-acre Jacob Ryan timber sale, first
planned in 1998, admitting in a letter
received by the Center this weekend that, "The decision and analysis do
not demonstrate compliance with direction in the Kaibab Forest Plan,
agency policy, direction and supporting information regarding
cumulative effects, and 1996 northern goshawk requirements."
The Forest Service letter responds to, and agrees with, a March 30 appeal filed by the Center and Sierra Club that asserted the project would violate forest plan requirements to maintain goshawk habitat where large and old trees predominate. The decision,
now reversed, included mitigation measures to retain trees larger than
18 inches in diameter and older than 130 years, regardless of size. But
independent tree-age coring conducted by the Center verified that the
Forest Service had planned to violate those measures by marking trees
up to 200 years old to be cut.
"This is a victory
for wildlife and old-growth at the gateway to Grand Canyon National
Park," said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center for Biological
Diversity. "But there remains a need to safely restore natural fire to
the forests at Jacob Ryan."
While the groups
welcome the reversal, they question why the Forest Service abandoned
the entire project rather than agreeing to thin only smaller trees. The
groups' appeal explicitly supported and encouraged thinning young trees
smaller than 12 inches in diameter and returning natural fire to the
forest, recognizing that such measures are necessary to restore "some of the last, best old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the Southwest," according to Lininger.
"I cored trees 200 years old marked for cutting at Jacob Ryan, and
that's not acceptable," he said. "But there's no reason we can't thin
young, small trees and restore fire while also protecting wildlife."
This was the agency's third attempt to implement the project since
planning began in 1998. The first attempt was also halted by a Center
for Biological Diversity administrative appeal; the second attempt was
voluntarily withdrawn by the Forest Service. The latest iteration was a
smaller than the previous one, and the first of the three to
voluntarily limit the size or age of trees to be removed.
"We are pleased the Forest Service recognizes that they are on the
wrong track with this timber sale," said Stacey Hamburg, Grand Canyon
campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "It is
time for a project that focuses on restoration, protection of wildlife,
and preserving the limited old growth that remains. By reversing its
decision the Forest Service now has an opportunity to do that."
The Kaibab Plateau hosts the largest breeding goshawk population in the
lower 48 states, but past logging in the forest removed large areas of
habitat. In 1996, the Forest Service adopted protective measures for
the raptor to prevent its listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The Forest Service's reversal occurred on the same day that the Center and Sierra Club filed a separate appeal
challenging plans to log more than 9,000 acres of forest burned by the
2006 Warm Fire, immediately southeast of the Jacob Ryan project area,
including critical recovery habitat for the threatened Mexican spotted
Photos of the Jacob Ryan project area,
including old-growth trees aged by the Center and marked for logging by
the Forest Service, can be downloaded here.
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