One Year After Losing Court Battle, Forest Service Withdraws Controversial Red Star Timber Sale in California
February 15, 2006
More than one year after a federal judge invalidated the controversial Red Star logging project in a remote part of the Tahoe National Forest in California, the U.S. Forest Service has announced plans to officially withdraw the timber sale from consideration. In August 2004, Judge Morrison England, a President George W. Bush appointee, overturned the timber sale on the grounds that the logging operation would create a serious fire hazard rather than protecting communities at risk. The Bush administration had proposed the Red Star sale in Duncan Canyon, which contains one of the two largest, unfragmented groves of old-growth forest in the Tahoe National Forest. Nearly all other mid-Sierra forests in this 5,000 to 7,000-foot elevation range have been severely impacted over the last 150 years.
August 2, 2004
Judge Morrison England, Jr. has invalidated a timber sale in a remote, roadless area of California's Tahoe National Forest, known as Duncan Canyon, on the ground that the logging would create a serious fire hazard. True to form, the Bush administration had tried to justify the logging under the guise of fire prevention. But Judge England, who was appointed by George W. Bush, wasn't fooled by the Bush administration's deception.
Chief among the concerns about this sale was the amount of highly combustible “slash” debris (tree tops, branches, etc.) that would be left on the forest floor after the timber sale. Judge England wrote: “Even the Forest Service’s own studies indicate that over thirty to forty tons of small diameter fuel on the forest floor creates ‘extreme fire hazard’ as well as extreme resistance to control once a fire actually starts. By Defendants' own estimate, as much as 85 tons of flammable surface fuel, or more than twice that amount, will be present after the logging proposed by the Red Star Project has been completed.”
The Red Star case fits a broader pattern of Bush administration officials exploiting legitimate concerns about wildfires to give timber companies greater access to roadless and old growth forest areas. “This case is a disturbing example of how the Bush administration’s close industry ties seriously cloud its judgment and put people in harm’s way,” said Aaron Isherwood, Sierra Club attorney. “It’s unconscionable that the Bush administration is claiming to help communities while actually putting them at risk. The administration says it's trying to prevent fires, while at the same time proposing to log remote parts of the backcountry in a manner that would have created an extreme fire hazard. If hubris were an Olympic sport, the Bush administration would easily take the gold.”
August 1, 2003
The issue of raging forest fires is a challenging one throughout the West, and the Bush Administration has not been above using this issue as a pretext to increase commercial logging in old-growth and wilderness-quality forests. In contrast, a coalition of environmental groups, homeowners, local political leaders and some state governors have championed efforts to find real solutions to protect communities from fire. The heart of the coalition’s proposal is to redirect Forest Service monies to protecting communities from the “fuel” build-up caused by small trees and brush rather than to logging large, fire-resistant trees in distant backcountry regions. It was an especially sweet victory, then, when a federal judge recently halted a proposed logging project in the backcountry of the Tahoe National Forest because he concluded that, despite the Administration’s claim that the purpose of the logging was to help prevent fires, the proposed logging – according to the court – would actually increase the risk of catastrophic fire. This case highlights the Administration’s cynical efforts on behalf of the timber industry and failure to implement proven solutions to protect communities from fire.
Details and Documents:
Fighting Fire with Fire
RAW: The Uncooked Facts About the Bush Assault on the Environment
ISSUE #69, August 23, 2004.
Judge Bans Logging in Tahoe Site
August 23, 2004, by Bettina Boxall, Los Angeles Times.
Judge halts plan to log burn area near Tahoe
August 23, 2004, by Jeff DeLong, Reno Gazette-Journal
Bush Administration Timber Sake Creates Major Fire Risk, Judge Rules: Latest Court Decision Raises New Doubts About Bush Administration Forest Policy
August 23, 2004, Sierra Club Press Release.
See other "Promoting Resilient Habitats" cases.