Remote road proposed for logging. Photo by Ralph Bloemers.

Forest Service’s aggressive post-fire logging project is wrong approach for recovering  forests.

On August 18, Crag filed a new lawsuit alleging that the Willamette National Forest violated a series of environmental laws in approving a major post-fire logging project in the footprint of the 2020 Holiday Farm, Beachie Creek and Lionshead fires. 

Filed on behalf of Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild and Willamette Riverkeeper, the lawsuit challenges the Forest Service’s use of a “categorical exclusion” to commercially log along hundreds of miles of roads encompassing thousands of acres of the forest. Categorical exclusions (CEs) are reserved for projects that have been found not to cause significant environmental impacts, either individually or cumulatively. Invoking a CE allows the Forest Service to avoid a careful and searching review of the project’s environmental impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). 

In this case, the CE applies to road “repair and maintenance,” which includes routine activities such as pruning roadside brush and cleaning culverts—not thousands of acres of commercial logging. In fact, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals already has ruled that the Forest Service cannot use this CE for projects of this scale. 

Unfortunately, the Forest Service doubled down, arguing that it can bypass NEPA to cut “danger” trees. Yet, even according to the agency’s own guidance, most of the targeted roads for this project are “low priority,” and most of the trees slated for logging pose no imminent risk. 

In its rush to approve the project, the Forest Service locked the public out of a major decision affecting thousands of acres of their public land. Drinking watersheds and native fish and wildlife like northern spotted owls and salmonids are put at risk. At the same time, the aggressive logging project jeopardizes recovery of fragile post-fire landscapes.

Read OPB’s article to find out more.

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