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Forest Service wins key battle over project

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Forest Service wins key battle over project

Postby ERIC » Tue Jan 24, 2006 8:13 am

Forest Service wins key battle over project

By Jane Braxton Little -- Sac Bee Correspondent
Published 2:15 am PST Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Story appeared in Metro section, Page B1


QUINCY - A federal appeals court has ruled in favor of a U.S. Forest Service logging project near Meadow Valley, handing the agency a crucial legal victory in its efforts to implement federal legislation designed to provide jobs and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire.

In a decision filed Thursday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the Forest Service properly evaluated the environmental impacts of logging more than 40 million board feet of timber around the community five miles west of Quincy.

The ruling rejects an appeal filed by four environmental organizations seeking to force the Forest Service to study more fully the combined effects of the Meadow Valley and adjacent logging, much of it in the planning stages.

The judges said the Forest Service "took the requisite 'hard look'" at the cumulative effects of the logging - past, present and future. The agency's environmental study adequately analyzed the risks associated with logging debris, and the direct and indirect effects on the California spotted owl, the judges said.

The appeals court also found that the Forest Service did not arbitrarily or capriciously restrict the scope of its cumulative impacts review.

The ruling affirms a May 9 decision by U.S. District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. that found the agency's analysis of both specific and cumulative effects of the project adequate under federal regulations. England refused to halt logging during the appeal process.

Plumas Forest Supervisor Jim Peña said the recent ruling allows him to carry out the mandates of the 1998 Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act, inspired by a coalition of local timber industry, civic and environmental leaders.

"Tremendous amounts of work and effort have been accomplished in the planning and implementation of the Meadow Valley project. We are pleased to be able to continue this important work," Peña said.

Craig Thomas, director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, one of the plaintiffs, said he was disappointed by the decision. The Forest Service victory does not resolve the complex issues and the threat of environmental damage involved in the Quincy Library Group logging, he said.

"We need to do a better job of explaining the potential effects of the cumulative impacts and the harm they cause," Thomas said.

The appeals court ruling will not deter the environmentalists from filing additional legal action when they believe federal projects pose significant threats to forest ecosystems, he said.

"This is not a game. We are raising substantive issues of significant environmental harm," Thomas said.

The Meadow Valley project is part of the Quincy legislation's plan to log about 1.4 billion board feet of timber on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests in the northern Sierra Nevada. At least six other projects are in the planning process, most of them employing a controversial tactic that removes all trees less then 30 inches in diameter within plots up to 2 acres.

The environmental plaintiffs have challenged three projects in addition to Meadow Valley. They forced the Forest Service to revamp two of them, one on an appeal that was upheld by the agency's regional office.

The environmentalists lost a third appeal and are considering whether to file legal action, Thomas said Monday.

Plumas County Supervisor Rose Comstock called last week's appeals court decision "great news" for the Meadow Valley area, which she represents.

"This decision is truly a win-win situation for our local economy, the environment and the communities who are surrounded by national forests in need of management," said Comstock, a member of the Quincy Library Group.

FOREST PROJECTS
The Meadow Valley project was challenged in court. It is part of the Quincy federal legislation's plan to log about 1.4 billion board feet of timber on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests in the northern Sierra. At least six other projects are in the planning process - most employing a controversial tactic that removes all trees less than 30 inches in diameter within plots up to 2 acres.
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ERIC
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Postby hikerduane » Tue Jan 24, 2006 7:44 pm

"We need to do a better job of explaining the potential effects of the cumulative impacts and the harm they cause," Thomas said.

Thank you for finding the story.
Piece of cake.
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Postby AldeFarte » Wed Jan 25, 2006 1:06 am

Can't believe that came out of the ninth. Wonder who paid off. jls
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