DENVER (CN) – The 10th Circuit has cleared the path for thinning and controlled burning in 3,585 acres of old-growth forest in Utah’s Dixie National Forest.
The ruling rejects a challenge by the Utah Environmental Congress, who claimed the U.S. Forest Service approved the project without considering its impact on animal species that rely on old-growth forest, such as the northern goshawk.
Environmentalists also claimed the Forest Service failed to properly analyze the environmental impact of road salt on the project’s main road and the construction of firelines for controlled burning.
The Forest Service designed the project, called the Barney Top Resource Management Project, to stop the spread of destructive spruce beetles and to thin the levels of old-growth trees, which are more susceptible to the beetles.
The three-judge panel said the project would actually improve the goshawk’s foraging habitat in the long run by control a spruce beetle infestation that has reached “epidemic levels” since it was first discovered in 2000.
The project’s 643 acres of thinning, sanitation and salvage harvest will reduce the goshawk’s 5,400 acres of foraging habitat in the project area by about 78 acres, the court noted, but the birds will experience the long-term benefit of healthier forests.
The judges concluded that they were satisfied with the Forest Service’s impact analysis of road salt and firelines.