MISSOULA, Mont. (CN) – A Forest Service plan to sell timber on a burned section of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest ignores scientific debate over salvage logging and invokes a bogus “emergency situation” to begin immediately, environmentalists claim in Federal Court.
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Native Ecosystem Council claim that even though the government will lose money on the Rat Creek timber sale, the Forest Service is moving forward with it before the end of a 30-day public participation period that includes the groups’ administrative appeal.
The Rat Creek salvage sale, which would log 1,652 acres and build 7 new miles of roads, lacks an environmental impact statement to assess cumulative impacts of grazing, mining and past logging projects, according to the lawsuit. The project is planned in an area that has been “burned and repeatedly logged” despite scientific controversy over salvage logging, or post-fire tree harvest, the groups say.
The environmentalists say the logging would take out too many snags, or standing dead trees, which are used by wildlife as habitat or food sources, and are particularly important watch spots for birds of prey.
The groups say the environmental assessment and revised forest management plan, which includes the timber sale, failed to consider scientific debate over the ecological impacts of logging after fire. The logging plan would remove larger, fire-resistant trees, leaving behind smaller trees that increase the risk of a more intense burn.
The Forest Service made a spurious claim of economic grounds in declaring an “emergency situation” to begin the project before the end of the public participation period, the environmental groups claim. They say economic analysis shows that the plan will cost more to implement than any income received by a private timber company.
Plaintiffs, represented by Matthew Bishop with the Western Environmental Law Center, want the plan enjoined.