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Malheur National Forest salvage
Herald and News 12/12/04
Portland AP -- A federal judge has ruled that an old-growth tree cannot be logged unless it is dead, even if it is in the process of dying.
U.S. District Judge Garr King sided with conservation groups Friday when he issued an injunction ordering a halt to a U.S. Forest Service plan to log over 200 acres of old-growth trees in an area of the Malheur National Forest burned in the 2002 High Roberts fire.
By law, old-growth trees that are over 21 inches in diameter cannot be logged, unless the tree is dead.
Conservation groups had charged in two lawsuits filed last month that the Forest Service had mislabeled trees marked for cutting as 'dying," when in fact many of them were still green.
In his opinion issued Friday, Judge King wrote: "Although the Forest Service categorizes the marked trees as 'dying,', the plain meaning 'live' is still living, in other words, 'not dean.' "
Attorneys representing the Forest Service could not immediately be reached for comment.
In court, Ralph Bloemers, an attorney who represents the League of Wilderness Defenders, showed pictures of large green pines which were marked for logging. He contends that the Forest Service's guidelines for assessing tree mortality are flawed.
According to Andy Stahl, executive director of the pro-conservation Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, the judge's ruling will have a far-reaching impact on logging east of the Cascades.
He said the Forest Service often sells stands to timber companies based on whether trees will die, rather than whether they are already dead as a result of burning or insect infestation.
King's ruling may bring that practice to an end, he said.
In July 2002, the High Roberts fire burned nearly 13,535 acres of the 388,000-acre Malheur National Forest.
The High Roberts salvage was approved this September, when forest managers approved removing 2.6 million board feet of dead trees on 209 acres.
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