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June 13, 2005

Erik Ryberg, Center for Biological Diversity (520) 623-5252 x308
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter (602) 253-8633


Conservation groups today received notice that the Forest Service has withdrawn a decision to log old-growth forest on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon near Jacob Lake, Arizona. The Center for Biological Diversity, the Southwest Forest Alliance, and the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club appealed the Jacob Ryan timber sale decision last March. The project would have logged old growth across about 17,000 acres of national forest land and cleared a 100 foot swath of trees on each side of Highways 67 and 89A, under the justification that it would "improve" the scenic quality of the forest-lined drive by reducing what the Forest Service called a "monotonous" and "tunnel-like" driving experience.

"We are delighted the Forest Service has agreed with us and reversed course on this project," said Erik Ryberg of the Center for Biological Diversity, who authored the appeal. "We hope the Forest Service will move ahead with legitimate thinning in wildland-urban interface areas and leave the backcountry old-growth alone."

"The problem with this project," said Sandy Bahr, Conservation outreach director for the Sierra Club - Grand Canyon Chapter, "is that it would log some of the last, best habitat for old-growth dependent wildlife, without addressing legitimate fuel buildup problems. It was clear to us that this was just another commercial old growth timber sale on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, targeting the best and biggest trees."

The groups' appeal also challenged the highway thinning portion of the project, which would have removed old growth and trees up to 40 inches in diameter from one-hundred feet along each side of the highway that goes to the Grand Canyon National Park.

Ryberg contends that some of the best wildlife habitat remaining in the area is along the road. "For decades they have been logging this place, just out of view of the highway, and leaving the trees along the road alone. Now those stands along the roadside have the biggest trees remaining," he said.

The Deputy Regional Forester, Abel Camarena, reversed the decision and ordered the Kaibab National Forest to re-analyze the impacts of the project and issue a new decision that adequately addresses the issues raised by the appellants, noting particularly the logging along the highways and the impacts to soil productivity from the planned logging.

Southwest Forest Alliance Executive Director, Sharon Galbreath, called Camarena's decision to uphold the groups' appeal a major victory for the forest. "Over 60,000 old growth trees have been destroyed on the North Kaibab in the last seven timber sales. The Forest Service's rejection of this project is a real victory and a positive step towards protecting the last 5% of old growth that remains."

The Center for Biological Diversity is an environmental organization based in Tucson, Arizona dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of biodiversity, native species, ecosystems and public lands. The Sierra Club is one of the oldest grassroots conservation organizations in the country with nearly 13,000 members in Arizona. The Southwest Forest Alliance is a coalition of organizations seeking to protect the southwest's remaining old growth.


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