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For Immediate Release, June 8, 2010

Contact:  Jay Lininger, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929
Sandy Bahr, Sierra Club, (602) 253-8633
Kim Crumbo, Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, (928) 638-2304

Logging of Grand Canyon Old-growth Forest Proposed for Fifth Time in 12 Years
Forest Service Rolls Back Habitat Protections for Wildlife

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— For the fifth time in 12 years, the U.S. Forest Service has proposed to log old-growth trees in the Kaibab National Forest near Jacob Lake, north of the Grand Canyon. Each previous attempt by the agency to log the centuries-old trees in the area since the project was first proposed in 1998 has been successfully fought off by the Center for Biological Diversity via comments, appeals and the threat of litigation.

“It’s been 12 years and three different presidents, but the Forest Service has learned nothing,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center. “The Forest Service needs to focus on safely restoring natural fire rather than logging irreplaceable old-growth trees.”

Last year the Forest Service’s approval of the logging project was reversed following an appeal filed by the Center and the Sierra Club. The primary reason for the reversal was impacts on the northern goshawk, a predatory raptor that nests and fledges young in old-growth ponderosa pine forests. Its largest breeding population in the continental United States occurs between the Grand Canyon and the Arizona-Utah border, including in the Jacob Ryan project area. According to a new Forest Service report, the population is declining and the goshawk is “vulnerable to extirpation or extinction in Arizona.” 

The Forest Service’s now-reversed 2009 decision approving the project was supposed to have limited logging to trees younger than 125 years old and smaller than 18 inches in diameter at chest height. However, field surveys by the Center revealed that the Forest Service had marked trees up to 200 years old for cutting. The Forest Service’s new proposal, affecting about 25,000 acres of forest, eliminates these age and size restrictions on cutting and would log some of the forest’s largest and oldest trees.  

“The Forest Service appears intent on logging old growth no matter that so little remains, even as it admits that the goshawk is in serious trouble,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “We expect an alternative focused on active forest restoration that leaves old-growth trees and habitat intact.”

Kim Crumbo, the conservation director for Grand Canyon Wildlands Council, agreed. “Over 40 years ago the Forest Service urged protection of the North Kaibab as one of the largest and best examples of a climax old-growth community in the Southwest,” he said. “Unfortunately, projects like Jacob Ryan threaten old-growth habitat.”

The new Forest Service proposal comes as the agency revises its management plan for the Kaibab National Forest to drop habitat protections for wildlife. A draft plan circulated in the spring would repeal goshawk protections first adopted in 1996 that were designed to forestall listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act. Similar rollbacks of wildlife protection rules have been proposed for other national forests in the Southwest.

“The Obama administration promised change, but the change we’ve seen from the agency’s regional office has thus far been in the wrong direction.” added Lininger.

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