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Salvage logging injunctions lifted (08/31/04) Seattle P-I

Judge lifts Biscuit fire logging-stop order

Judge lifts Biscuit fire logging-stop order

The state attorney general appeals federal approval of cutting burned trees in roadless areas
Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Logging may proceed in older forest reserves charred by the 2002 Biscuit fire in Southwest Oregon, after a federal judge lifted an order that had stopped the cutting.

U.S. District Judge Michael Hogan had suspended the logging after agreeing with environmental groups that the U.S. Forest Service was unlawfully allowing loggers to decide which trees to cut.

Now he will allow the work to advance, after U.S. Forest Service officials told him they would individually mark trees loggers must leave behind. Activist groups said Monday they would submit an emergency motion asking the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to again halt the logging.

Hogan signed his decision Aug. 20, but it took about a week to be entered into the court record.

Word of his move came at the same time as another development involving Biscuit timber. At the request of Gov. Ted Kulongoski, Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers appealed a federal decision to allow the logging of burned trees on roadless lands.

The state's appeal accuses the Forest Service of ignoring the governor's concerns about the cutting and violating a court decision that upheld Clinton administration protections for roadless lands.

It says the Forest Service attempted to "slip" the logging "through over the State of Oregon's objections."

The amount of planned logging in the roadless areas "remains too high and too ambitious," the appeal said. Cutting burned trees will compromise the wilderness values of the roadless areas, it said.

Oregon Department of Justice officials could recall only one other instance in the past decade where the state had appealed a federal action involving an environmental issue. The other case involved a Native American tribe taking forest land in trust, spokesman Kevin Neely said.

"The governor believes decisions need to balance the needs of the economy with the needs of the environment, and he doesn't think the Bush administration's decision has done that," spokeswoman Marian Hammond said.

The state did not question other logging planned outside the roadless areas, either in the older forest reserves or on lands designated for commercial cutting.

The appeal will be decided by Regional Forester Linda Goodman. The Forest Service has said it would not sell any timber in the roadless areas, perhaps the most controversial element of planned Biscuit logging, until such appeals are settled.

The decision by Hogan affected only six timber sales in reserves set aside under the Northwest Forest Plan to protect wildlife, such as threatened northern spotted owls, that prefers older stands. Environmental groups said logging could damage the habitat and compromise wildlife by removing dead trees that also have ecological value.

Hogan rejected several other arguments the groups made in addition to the one involving marking of trees. Attorney Marc Fink of the Western Environmental Law Center said the groups would immediately ask the appeals court to again halt the logging until they could appeal Hogan's ruling against them on the other arguments.

Michael Milstein: 503-294-7689; michaelmilstein@news.oregonian.com

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