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Stopping the Wild Buck Timber Sale

The Center for Biological Diversity has worked for more than a decade to stop old-growth forest logging in the “Jacob Ryan” project area on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in northern Arizona.

Edward Humes

Map of the Jacob Ryan project area. View a larger map.

In 2013, the Center discovered that a U.S. Forest Service project, known as the “Wild Buck” timber sale, will log and sell more than 1,000 old-growth trees that provide habitat for the northern goshawk, a species vulnerable to extinction in Arizona.
North Rim forests are prime habitat for a wide variety of animals because they feature trees that are hundreds of years old.

Northern goshawks in particular rely on forests with these old-growth trees for nesting and hunting.
The Forest Service admits that one of the primary threats to goshawks is the removal of older, larger trees. Unfortunately, most old-growth ponderosa pine forests in the Southwest have already been logged; the North Rim is one of the only areas where old growth is still relatively abundant.

The Forest Service assured the public that “little more than 1 percent” of trees to be removed from the North Rim would be larger than 16 inches in diameter. But information the Center has gathered in the field shows that nearly 30 percent of trees to be cut in the Wild Buck sale — 78 percent of the total volume planned for chopping — are larger than 16 inches in diameter, including more than 1,000 ponderosa pines that have stood tall for nearly two centuries.

The Forest Service claims that logging big, old trees is needed to conduct proper fire management for forest restoration. But in reality this kind of logging is the last thing these forests need, since large trees are thick-barked and far more fire resistant than younger, smaller trees. True restoration would remove the hundreds of thousands of smaller trees that have encroached on the forest during a century of fire suppression.

The simple fact that the Wild Buck sale is planned points to a lack of public accountability on the part of the Forest Service, as well as showing that the agency’s insistence on having complete discretion over logging decisions is often detrimental to wildlife and precious, irreplaceable and rare old-growth habitat.


Edward Humes

Jay Lininger, a senior scientist with the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, stands in a North Rim Grand Canyon ponderosa pine forest outside of Jacob Lake. 

Photo by Center for Biological Diversity. View more images.

The Center has been fighting to stop the logging of old-growth forests in Arizona for more than a decade. In partnership with the Sierra Club, we've used every possible legal strategy to prevent the Wild Buck timber sale from taking place.

Working with multiple stakeholders of various political stripes, the Center also helped draft strategic guidelines for forest thinning in Arizona as part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (commonly known as the "4FRI" project). This initiative was supposed to be a historic agreement between conservation groups, local communities, timber companies and the Forest Service that would guide and govern restoration of northern Arizona’s national forests. The Center collaborated on this initiative to ensure that small, young trees that present the greatest fire risk are thinned, while larger, older trees are protected due on their natural fire resiliency and their necessity as habitat for sensitive species. But the Forest Service ultimately dismissed the collaborative strategy of this potentially groundbreaking initiative.

While the Wild Buck timber sale isn’t part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative because it was planned before this project , it is located on the Kaibab National Forest, which will be a part of the 4FRI project, and the timber sale is still being presented as positive for restoration, even though it is not.

While the Forest Service has publicly claimed to be working toward a collaborative agreement through the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, it has continued to undermine its credibility by developing projects like Wild Buck. Stopping this sale will simultaneously protect rare old growth and send a strong message that the public will not allow the Forest Service to shirk its responsibility to the American people to protect our forests and the wildlife that need them for survival. We must have accountability and transparency on our national forests, and the Center is working to make sure we do.


Northern goshawk photo courtesy Flickr/Rainbirder