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Timber Sales Allowed

JAMIE BALL

A lawsuit filed by five environmental groups has been dismissed, allowing two controversial Tahoe National Forest timber sales to proceed.

The U.S. District Court in Sacramento refused to hear the lawsuit, which stated the Bullshead and Pearl sales in the Tahoe National Forest, along with two other regional sales, violated the Rescissions Act Logging Rider.

“The judge never ruled on the merits,” said Paul Spitler of the Western Ancient Forest Campaign, one of the groups filing the suit. “He said, yes, in fact, the rider suspends environmental laws, but your suit cannot be heard.”

The Bullshead sale, awarded Feb. 5 to Sierra Pacific Industries for $148,728, includes 10.2 million board feet of sawtimber and 1.7 million board feet of smaller trees, said Truckee Ranger Joanne Roubique.

Bullshead is located on Highway 89 between Truckee and Squaw Valley. Pearl is approximately three miles south of Sierraville in the Treasure Mountain area. The Pearl sale was awarded to Franklin Logging, a Northern California company.

Roubique stressed the sales would “improve forest health by removing dead and dying trees, thinning smaller trees in the understory and reducing the fuels,” and that it would “create a healthier ecosystem over the long term.”

Overall, 2,472 acres will receive treatment and thinning as part of the sales.

Spitler said “it seems like business as usual,” claiming the Forest Service promised not to give timber dominance over other parts of the program.

“It may be time to push for congressional action to bring accountability,” said Spitler.

The Forest Service said the average diameter of trees that will be thinned is 8 inches in the understory and 15 inches in larger trees. The largest and healthiest trees will be untouched.

In a letter, The Lahontan Regional Water Control Board said the Bullshead project “is likely to result in violations of state water quality standards.”

A December meeting between Sen. Diane Feinstein’s field representative, the Forest Service and environmental groups laid out modifications to the original sale, and was agreed to by the groups. As a result, one hundred acres were removed from the sale and stream protection zones were widened.

The Logging Act Rider allowed logging on Forest Service land found to be susceptible to fire or insects, while waiving environmental protections and citizen concerns.

The rider was set to expire Dec. 31, but James Lyons, Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, ordered a Dec. 13 directive prohibiting further sales under the rider.

The Bullshead sale, however, was advertised Dec. 13, therefore exempt from the directive.

The suit was filed Dec. 23 and dismissed Jan. 31.

The timber cutting should begin this spring, the Forest Service said.


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