PRESCOTT, Ariz. (CN) – A 25,000-acre, old-growth logging project near the Grand Canyon violates federal law and threatens an already harried population of northern goshawk, environmentalists claim in Federal Court.
The Jacob-Ryan logging project on northern Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau, near the Grand Canyon’s forested North Rim, will harm the raptors’ preferred old-growth forest habitat in a region sorely lacking in large and aged trees, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The northern goshawk, with a total estimated population in Arizona between 3,000 and 10,000 birds, is classified by the U.S. Forest Service as a sensitive species.
“Due primarily to past logging, large trees greater than 16 inches in diameter at breast height presently comprise only 3 percent of ponderosa pine forests in the Southwest region,” according to the lawsuit. “The remaining large trees and old-growth forests are ecologically important for a number of wildlife species including the goshawk. The Jacob-Ryan logging project would log hundreds of large, old-growth trees, including trees over 180 years old.”
When the Forest Service approved the logging project in January – the agency’s fifth attempt to get the project going since 2003 – it failed to consider the threat logging poses to the goshawk population, the environmentalist group claims.
Changes in the way the agency measures forest canopy cover has allowed more and older trees to be logged in the Southwest, to the detriment of goshawk habitat, the group claims.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the logging project and compel the Forest Service to go through the process of amending the Kaibab Forest Plan before implementing “its new direction for goshawk management.”
The Kaibab Plateau holds one of the most concentrated populations of goshawks in North America, according to the complaint, but the birds are in trouble.
“Goshawk reproduction on the Kaibab Plateau has been highly variable over the past 15 years, and the data show a significant decline from 1991 to 2005,” the lawsuit states. “Goshawk reproduction is currently not sufficient to replace adult mortality on the Kaibab Plateau.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is represented by Marc Fink in Duluth, Minn.
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