For Immediate Release, February 29, 2008
Stacey Hamburg, Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, (928) 774-6514
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 310-6713
Destructive Logging Planned in Delicate
Burned Forest North of Grand Canyon
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.– In a Draft Environmental Impact Statement released today, the Kaibab National Forest plans to tractor-log 73 million board feet from 9,000 acres of forest recovering from the 2006 “Warm Fire” north of the Grand Canyon. Ignoring science and public concern, the agency chose the most destructive alternative and failed to analyze a natural recovery alternative for the area.
“The Forest Service says that this timber sale is necessary to promote recovery of the area and reduce future fire risk,” said Stacey Hamburg of Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “ But this project threatens recovery in an area that has already recovered magnificently on its own – with new aspen trees up to six feet tall by the end of last summer.”
The plan conflicts with published science on burned-forest recovery, which demonstrates that tractor logging impedes burned forest recovery and may increase rather than reduce future fire hazard. Conservationists submitted a bibliography of dozens of research studies on post-fire forest management for the Forest Service to consider in earlier stages of planning the project.
“Post-fire logging destroys soil, spreads weeds, damages habitat and natural tree regeneration, and can even increase fire hazard,” said Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, “all of which impair rather than help recently burned forests. Science doesn’t support the plan, and we don’t either.”
The Forest Service also maintains that the sale will bring much-needed revenue to the agency. But many timber sales are conducted at a financial loss to taxpayers, who pay for the administrative costs for trees to be cut and sold, trees to be replanted by the Forest Service, ecological damage, and other hidden costs. In spite of the cost to taxpayers, the Warm Fire Salvage Logging sale will provide only minimal economic benefit to local communities, and that only in the short term. “This timber sale is in close proximity to the Grand Canyon National Park, making it even more imperative that the Warm Fire area be treated in a manner that respects the integrity of the ecological systems,” said Hamburg. “The Warm Fire burn area can provide a great opportunity to study natural recovery in a southwestern forest – if the Forest Service will just allow it to recover.”
There are at least 159 communities in Arizona at high risk for wildfire, and not enough funds are available for forest thinning. “Every dollar spent logging burned forests at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is a dollar that could be spent in the Wildland Urban Interface,“ said McKinnon. “The Warm Fire Salvage is an incredible distraction of precious time and money.”