Subject: FW: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT #74

Subject: SW BIODIVERSITY ALERT #74

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              SOUTHWEST BIODIVERSITY ALERT #74
                           5/15/97          

          SOUTHWEST CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
           silver city, tucson, phoenix, san diego
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1.  MEDIA: DENIAL OF UNLOGGING PETITION A MISTAKE?

2.  MEDIA: SALVAGE SALE SUFFERS FROM LACK OF SNAGS

3.  ENVIROS FACE 45 WATER & POWER LAWYERS IN HOOVER DAM HEARING

4.  USFWS: FOUR MORE CALIFORNIA CONDORS RELEASED

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DENIAL OF UNLOGGING PETITION A MISTAKE?

Logging rule means ``no saw, no stumps, no sale''

By Scott Sonner, Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The Clinton administration is still considering
environmentalists' plea for a rules change that would allow them to
bid on national-forest timber sales to protect the trees rather than cut
them.

A May 4 letter saying their request had been denied is in error, an
official said today.

Agriculture Undersecretary James Lyons confirmed that the letter
bearing his signature was sent to a lawyer for the environmentalists
in Portland, Ore. It says the government is denying the petition to
change the rule, which requires winning bidders on Forest Service
timber sales to actually log the sites.

But in an interview with The Associated Press this morning, Lyons
said the letter was a draft that had been prepared by Forest Service
officials for his review.

He said he returned it to the agency, seeking changes before a formal
decision is made.

``I did not check off on the letter nor did my office authorize its
release,'' Lyons said.

``It was prepared by people in the timber shop at the Forest Service,''
he said.

He denied the letter reflected his view of the matter.

``I don't know what the circumstances were that led to this unfortunate
mistake, but I intend to get to the bottom of it,'' Lyons
said.

Conservation groups in Arizona, Oregon and Washington state had
petitioned the USDA for the change so they could try to outbid
loggers for tracts in national forests.

Lyons, who oversees the Forest Service, said in the letter distributed
by the petitioners this week that he was rejecting the request to
legalize ``non-harvesting bids,'' partly because it would be a waste of
the money spent to determine environmental impacts of the proposed
logging.

``While we find your proposal interesting and novel, we do not
believe it is feasible,'' said the letter bearing Lyons' signature that was
sent to attorney Peggy Hennessy.

The conservationists reacted angrily to the letter on Wednesday.

``The government just hung a big sign on the entrance to our
national forests. It reads, `No Saw, No Stumps, No Service,'' said
Mitch Friedman, executive director of the Northwest Ecosystem
Alliance in Bellingham, Wash.

Lyons said today he was alerted by USDA press officers Wednesday
night that the letter apparently had been mailed by mistake.

``We have not rendered a decision on this petition yet. It is still under
review and the position statement included in the letter does not
represent administration policy,'' Lyons told AP.

`Unfortunately, while we are still looking at the issue, a draft letter
was somehow released,'' he said.

``It was auto-penned, so it had my signature on it. But in fact, I never
signed it,'' he said.

The draft letter said the Forest Service spends significant amounts of
money to assess the environmental consequences of logging.

``It would be a wasteful use of public monies and contrary to the
public interest to make such a substantial investment, only to later
decide at the bidding stage not to proceed with the project,'' the letter
said.

In addition, some timber sales are intended to reduce fire risks and
improve wildlife habitat conditions in addition to providing commercial
timber for saw mills, it said.

``If a sale were awarded to a non-harvesting bidder, other benefits of
that sale would also be forgone.''

Non-harvesting bidders also might enjoy ``an unfair advantage over
bidders who are capable of and intent on harvesting because
non-harvesting bidders would have few, if any, operating or
personnel costs,'' the letter said.

Friedman, a former activist for Earth First!, submitted the high bid --
$15,000 -- for a timber sale on the Okanogan National Forest in
Washington state last year.

It was rejected based on the Forest Service rule.

``The government seems to view logging our national forests as a
public service,'' said Kieran Suckling, executive director of the
Arizona-based Southwest Center for Biodiversity, which also signed
the petition to change the rule.

It costs taxpayers much more money to log national forests than to
keep them standing, said Ken Rait, conservation director of the
Oregon Natural Resources Council in Portland, Ore.

``As a taxpayer, it doesn't make me feel any better that my forests
were looted along with my wallet,'' he said.

Chris West, vice president of the Northwest Forestry Association in
Portland, Ore., said his group urged the administration to keep the
rule.

``I don't think anybody in their right mind would be willing to allow
someone who has no intention of fulfilling the contract to be awarded
the work,'' West said.

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MEDIA: SALVAGE SALE SUFFERS FROM LACK OF SNAGS

Northern Arizona Daily Sun
Friday, May 16, 1997

Agency hits snag on timber salvage
By Lukas Velush

        Timber salvage guidelines need to be clearer, the Coconino
National Forest admits as debate rages over how many dead trees
should be left standing from last summer's forest fires.
        Biologists believe the dead trees, called snags, are important to
birds like the endangered goshawk, woodpeckers, several species of
songbirds and other animals who make their homes in the branches
and trunks.
        Although the Coconino National Forest's own plans call for
leaving at least two snags per acre, its proposal to log 38 percent of
the 10,700 acres that burned in the Horseshoe Fire dips below that
threshold.
        The Horseshoe Fire, which burned about 20 miles northwest of
Flagstaff, is one of several huge fires that roared through northern
Arizona during the height of last summer's drought.
        The Southwest Center for Biological Diversity, which says even
two snags per acre is far too low, won't accept the Forest Service's
plans to dip below that level.
        "If they go forward with the current plan, we will appeal it," said
Peter Galvin, member of the Tucson-based Southwest Center.
        But the two-snag-per-acre requirement is only for forests that are
alive, said Scott Ewers, timber staff officer for the Coconino Forest.
He said there's no standard for how may snags ought to be left in
burned areas.
        "We would like to see a standard for catastrophic fire," Ewers said.
"We're probably going to do that, but right now we've got to get
these logs harvested before the wood deteriorates. We get the most
out of it if we can harvest the wood this season."
        But that interpretation doesn't fly with the Southwest Center,
which believes no harvesting should be done in the logged area
because of the threat to birds and other animals.
        Logging the area would also make it more prone to erosion and
make it tougher for new trees to take root, Galvin said.
        "It's like mugging a burn victim," he said. "The area has already
suffered. Now they want to go in and disturb it even further."  
Arizona Game and Fish also wants more snags left behind, but is less
vehement than the Southwest Center.
        "In some areas, they are going to remove all the snags that are
commercial and leave some snags, in some other areas," said Rick
Miller, regional habitat program manager for the state agency that
looks after wildlife in Arizona. "Our preference is to leave some
snags in every area."
        Although more research needs to be done, Ewers said burned trees
may have less value to wildlife than ones that die naturally because
they are much harder. Also, soft spots on which woodpeckers and
other animals thrive are often burned away.

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ENVIROS FACE 45 WATER & POWER LAWYERS IN HOOVER DAM HEARING

Two pro-bono lawyers for the Southwest Center for Biological
Diversity squared off against 45 corporate lawyers on May 15, 1997
at an oral hearing to decide a preliminary injunction request to lower
Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam by 22 feet.  High water levels at the
lake were determined to be "catastrophic" to the endangered
southwest willow flycatcher by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
biologists who officially declared the species would be jeopardized
by continued flooding of willows.

The gaggle of lawyers represented the Bureau of Reclamation,
Department of Interior, and water and power interests from CA, AZ,
NM, NV, UT, CO, and WY. More lawyers were present at the
hearing than at any remaining flycatcher population.

A decision on the injunction request is expected soon.

   ------     ---------     -----------


FOUR MORE CALIFORNIA CONDORS RELEASED

>From USFWS Press Release:

Four of the nine California condors being held atop the 1000-foot
Vermilion Cliffs north of the Grand Canyon were released [on May
14, 1997].  At 7:00 a.m., Peregrine Fund biologists lifted the door of
the condor pen and the birds cautiously hopped from their shelter and
onto the lip of the cliff.  As the last bird emerged, all four unfolded
their 9-foot wings to initiate their maiden flights. 

Peregrine Fund biologists, Mark Vekasy and Shawn Farry, reported
that "the four made a number of short flights and are now perched on
the talus slope near the base of the cliff."

The nine condors have been held in a netted adjustment pen since
shortly after they were transported from the Los Angeles Zoo to the
Bureau of Land Management administered cliff site on April 29,
1997.  The four most subordinate condors were selected for release
today with the hope that they will socialize more easily with the
existing birds.  The remaining captive birds will be released after
biologists evaluate their behavior, weather conditions and the results
of today's release.

The two-year old condors are the oldest to be released in the wild.
Since older, more mature birds could immediately soar greater
distances than their younger counterparts did when released last
December, biologists chose to release them in small batches.  "By
releasing these birds a few at a time, it will give them the opportunity
to gradually assimilate with the existing population.  The younger
condors have performed well since their release last  December;
these older birds could learn much from the existing birds as the two
groups begin to socialize" said Bill Heinrich, Species Restoration
Manager of The Peregrine Fund.  The Peregrine Fund is a non-profit
conservation  organization conducting the release in northern
Arizona.

Since December, the five original condors have greatly extended
their range.  They have soared below the north rim of the Grand
Canyon and been spotted over Lake Powell and Page, Arizona.
Each of the five condors regularly returns to the Vermilion Cliffs and
has inspected the new arrivals. Researchers will continue to monitor
the condors' movements and study how the groups interact and
assimilate.




Kieran Suckling                               ksuckling@sw-center.org
Executive Director                            520.733.1391 phone
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity     520.733.1404 fax
http://www.envirolink.org/orgs/sw-center      pob 17839, tucson, az 85731