Stopping one of the largest logging projects in California’s history

last updated July 21, 2023

Large, burned trees in a forest with wildflowers growing nearby. Photo by Kimberly Baker, Klamath Forest Alliance.

Burned trees provide many ecological benefits for forest regneration, wildlife habitat, and more. Photo by Klamath Forest Alliance.

In July 2023, Crag filed a lawsuit on behalf of Klamath Forest Alliance, Sequoia Forestkeeper, Conservation Congress, Earth Island Institute, American Whitewater, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Environmental Protection Information Center challenging a U.S. Forest Service logging project to remove hundreds of thousands of trees in Northern California that will cause significant environmental harm to public lands, wildlife, and wild and scenic rivers. The plan, known as the Region 5 Post-Disturbance Hazardous Tree Management Plan, would allow the Forest Service to cut and remove trees in 9 national forests, making the proposal likely the largest logging project in California’s history.

Mosaic burn in Northern California. Photo by Klamath Forest Alliance (500x500)
Someone measuring the circumference of a large, burned tree. Photo by Klamath Forest Alliance (500x500)

Mosaic burn patterns in forests like this one show that even within one forest, trees are in very different conditions. On the right, a volunteer measures the circumference of a still standing burned old growth tree. Photos by Klamath Forest Alliance.

Fueled by climate change, California has experienced large forest fire seasons in the last several years. In the wake of the 2020 and 2021 fires, the Forest Service authorized post-fire logging on over 400,000 acres of public land, including along trails, roads, and near facilities. Despite the Forest Service’s suggestion that the goal is to remove dangerous “hazard” trees from roads, almost 75% of the 5,700 miles of roads of proposed logging are along low-traffic, backcountry roads that people rarely use.

Our clients represent thousands of Californians, and they appreciate the need to help keep our national forests safe from hazards after big fires. However, rather than taking a narrowly tailored approach that balances the tradeoffs between heavy-handed logging and the impacts on wildlife habitat, carbon storage, watershed function, climate change, and water quality, the Forest Service greenlit one of the largest logging projects in California’s history–largely behind closed doors. And that’s why we’re taking the agency to court!

Our Forest Defense work

At Crag, our Wild program attorneys have worked for years to stop unlawful logging projects in forests after fire – and together, we’ve won big victories. Whether it’s stopping 4,000 acres of logging in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, or halting post-fire logging near Breitenbush, our post-fire legal work has not only stopped several unlawful logging projects, but has reaffirmed our values of integrity, environmental protection, and community advocacy.

Crag will continue to support conservation organizations on the front lines to defend our forests, wildlife, and the communities who use them. 

Two of Crag’s Wild program attorneys, Oliver and Meriel, standing in front of an old growth tree. 

What’s at stake

The impacts of this unlawful logging project are huge. From damaging ecologically critical areas, removing habitat for imperiled wildlife, degrading our water quality, to cutting community voices out of the process, we must hold the line.

Wildlife habitat: Standing trees (both alive and dead) within fire footprints, the area of forest where a fire has passed, provide significant ecological benefits. The California project area provides habitat to hundreds of species of flora and fauna including species protected by the Endangered Species Act such as the northern spotted owl, Pacific marten, Yosemite toad, and Yellow-legged frog to name a few.

Pictured: Northern Spotted Owl, Pacific Marten, Yellow toed frog. Photos CC BY 2.0

Pacific Marten looking at camera in tree. Public domain photo by Dona Hilkey
Mountain yellow legged Frog. Photo by CDFW Inland Desert Region staff. CC BY 2.0

Natural forest regeneration: In addition to animal wildlife, post-fire logging significantly impacts the natural regeneration of plant life. Logging operations can introduce invasive plant species that spread aggressively in the fragile post-fire ecosystems, often outcompeting native plants and disrupting the cycle of forest regeneration. The removal of snags, seed trees, and new seedlings during logging operations also prevents the post-fire forest from naturally reestablishing forest growth.

Water quality: Commercial logging of this scale poses significant threats that degrade water quality. Cutting down and hauling away the remaining trees after a forest fire can cause soil erosion and landslides that dump sediment into nearby streams and rivers. Unfortunately, the Forest Service’s logging plan project area includes a total of 379 subwatersheds and 32 wild and scenic designated and eligible rivers – many of which will be negatively impacted by large scale logging.

Public Participation: Even more concerning, the Forest Service has continued to misuse regulatory statutes to authorize logging projects without public comment. For logging projects of such magnitude, public participation is not only a crucial step in forest management but required by law. Crag and our clients value public involvement and the inclusion of community voices. We will continue to hold the Forest Service accountable for how it manages our public lands.

Team Effort

We’re proud to represent Klamath Forest Alliance, Sequoia Forestkeeper, Conservation Congress,  Earth Island Institute, American Whitewater, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Environmental Protection Information Center in this case.

  • Klamath Forest Alliance is a grassroots community organization based in Orleans, California. We are centered in the heart of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, located in Northern California and Southern Oregon. Our mission is to promote sustainable ecosystems and sustainable communities and our goal is to defend and protect the biodiversity, wildlife, waters and old growth forests of these wild and rugged watersheds.
  • Sequoia Forestkeeper is a conservation organization whose mission is to protect and restore the ecosystems of the southern Sierra Nevada – including both the Sequoia National Forest and the Giant Sequoia National Monument – through monitoring, enforcement, education, and litigation.
  • The Conservation Congress is a grassroots nonprofit conservation organization that works to protect National Forest lands and native wildlife in northern California.
  • Earth Island Institute is a 501(c)3 international environmental organization and fiscal sponsor to more than seventy-five projects working in the areas of conservation, wildlife protection, climate change solutions, women’s environmental leadership, Indigenous communities, sustainable agriculture and food systems, community resilience, environmental justice, and more.
  • American Whitewater is a national non-profit 501c(3) river conservation organization with approximately 7,000 members and 85 local-based affiliate clubs, representing whitewater enthusiasts across the nation. American Whitewater’s mission is to protect and restore America’s whitewater rivers and to enhance opportunities to enjoy them safely. 
  • The Center for Biological Diversity works to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.
  • Environmental Protection Information Center is grassroots 501(c)(3) non-profit environmental organization that advocates for the science-based protection and restoration of Northwest California’s forests, rivers, and wildlife with an integrated approach combining public education, citizen advocacy, and strategic litigation.

Learn more about the environmental harms caused by post-fire logging here.

Read about our past cases and victories challenging post-fire logging projects:


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