The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today lifted an emergency injunction that had been in place since September to protect old growth forests in the Siskiyou Wild Rivers Area during the ongoing Biscuit litigation. The district court, however, will hear arguments in the case on March 22, 2005, and it is not clear whether any logging will occur before then.
“We still believe the proposed logging in old-growth reserves and roadless areas is illegal, and we will still have our day in court,” said Rolf Skar, campaign director of the Siskiyou Regional Education Project. “Logging is proceeding on timber sales outside old growth reserves and we have not tried to stop it. We now just hope the timber companies do the right thing and hold off logging these ancient forests over the winter until a judge has a chance to hear the entire case.”
“Giving the timber industry the green light to log these ancient trees will result in tons of soil washing into Oregon’s wild rivers, and there is no way this will be good for salmon or the local people who rely on, or enjoy, these endangered fish,” said Elaine Wood, a retired school teacher who lives near the fire area.
The Biscuit fire swept through large portions of the Siskiyou National Forest in 2002, and the Forest Service initially anticipated a moderate level of logging outside of old growth reserves and roadless areas. The government, however, dramatically changed course and proposed the largest timber sale in its recent history, including substantial logging of old growth and large roadless areas. Conservationists filed suit in July to stop the immediate logging of old growth reserves, and the Ninth Circuit granted an emergency injunction in September 2004, to protect these areas while the case proceeds. Today’s one-page decision lifts the emergency injunction and could allow logging to proceed.
“We knew the order stopping these sales was temporary. Even now, however, the federal government could stop the controversy by withdrawing its plans for extensive logging of old-growth forests where clean rivers flow, wildlife flourishes, and people hike and paddle. So far, however, the government has refused to take this balanced and responsible step,” said Earthjustice attorney Todd True.
Conservationists have also challenged the proposed logging in inventoried roadless areas, but none of these sales have been auctioned or awarded at this time. Meanwhile, substantial logging has already been completed in the “matrix” areas, outside of the old growth reserves. Matrix areas are timberlands set-aside under the Northwest Forest Plan expressly for timber production.
Logging threatens Fiddler Mountain.
One of the old growth reserves that is now again in imminent danger from logging is in the Fiddler Mountain area, a popular recreation site for people in the area. Recreational trails, including one of the most scenic trails in the Siskiyous, will be converted to logging unit boundaries or roads to haul logs. Fiddler Mountain also contains bubbling springs and streams that flow into the Wild and Scenic Illinois River, a major Pacific Coast salmon river. For more information go to: http://www.siskiyou.org/campaign/information/FiddlerMtn.pdf (pdf file — will open in a new window)
Plaintiffs include: Pacific Rivers Council, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Siskiyou Regional Education Project, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Oregon Natural Resources Council, Sierra Club, and American Lands Alliance and Defenders of Wildlife. Plaintiffs are represented by Earthjustice and the Western Environmental Law Center.