Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, on behalf of three conservation groups, filed suit today to prevent a timber sale in a roadless area on the Shoshone National Forest. The sale, according to the groups, is inconsistent with the Clinton administration's Wild Forest Initiative to protect roadless National Forest lands.
"The Shoshone is thumbing its nose at the Clinton administration's efforts to protect roadless National Forest lands," said Tim Stevens of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. "This timber sale is completely inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the roadless initiative."
The lawsuit challenges logging at Double Cabin near Dubois, on the border of the Washakie Wilderness Area in Wyoming. The area is home to lynx and grizzly bears, both threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, and the goshawk, a bird that according to several scientific studies is an indicator species of forest health. The Double Cabin sale is especially disturbing in light of the Shoshone's authorization of nearby oil and gas development and logging. When added to the impacts of those projects, the Double Cabin sale spells trouble for wildlife in the area.
"Roadless lands are critically important to fish, elk, grizzly bears, and other wildlife," said John Spahr of Sierra Club. "We are deeply concerned about harm to sensitive wildlife in an area that offers world-class hunting and fishing – and one of the last refuges to rare species such as grizzly bears and lynx," he concluded.
The Shoshone originally planned to build roads to access the timber sale in 1998. However, last year the Clinton administration announced a temporary halt to road-building in National Forest roadless areas, as it devised a permanent policy to protect roadless lands. The Shoshone then revised the Double Cabin timber sale to require logging with a "log forwarder," a type of oversized off-road vehicle, without disclosing or analyzing the environmental consequences of that change.
"They couldn't do it with a road, so they decided to skirt the Roadless Initiative with special giant-wheeled logging equipment," said Dan Heilig of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "The environmental impacts of such heavy equipment in the woods and across the Wiggins Fork can be serious – but the Forest Service didn't bother to consider them."
"The Shoshone proposed and analyzed logging with roads," said Sanjay Narayan, an attorney for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "Then they switched horses mid-stream, and now plan to use ORV logging machines. But they never disclosed that switch to the public or looked at its environmental consequences."
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund filed the complaint on behalf of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club, and Wyoming Outdoor Council.