For Immediate Release, November 15, 2013

Contact:  Jay Lininger, Center for Biological Diversity, (928) 853-9929

Sky Islands Threatened by Sweeping Rollback of Environmental Protections in
1.8-million-acre Coronado National Forest

Draft Forest Plan Will Hurt Wildlife, Rivers, Old Forests

TUCSON, Ariz.— The U.S. Forest Service released a draft management plan today that would eliminate longstanding protections for Arizona’s wildlife, rivers and streams on the 1.8-million-acre Coronado National Forest. The revised forest plan will dictate which activities— from recreation to logging and mining to designating areas for protection — are allowed on every acre of the forest for years to come.

“We’re disappointed the Forest Service proposed the exact opposite of what Sky Island forests need,” said Jay Lininger with the Center for Biological Diversity, which has worked to save endangered species in the area for almost a quarter-century. “The draft plan strips away a crucial, longstanding requirement to maintain healthy, viable populations of wildlife.”

In addition to slashing protections for species like threatened Mexican spotted owl, the plan also severely reduces or eliminates restrictions on damaging activities like logging, mining, road construction, and other industrial uses of the forest.

The plan would harm rare streams, rivers and wetlands, including the biologically precious San Pedro and Gila rivers. The Coronado’s beautiful and rare waterways are used by many people in nearby cities, like Tucson and Phoenix, for recreational activities like hiking and camping, and are also critical for rare and threatened birds, fish and mammals, including endangered jaguars.

Because of Center legal action, the Forest Service was compelled in 1996 to amend forest plans in all 11 national forests in Arizona and New Mexico, including the Coronado, to include protective standards for spotted owls based on scientific findings, including a biological opinion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that unrestricted logging in owl habitat would jeopardize the species’ survival.  

“This forest plan will do nothing to benefit the environment and may hasten the extinction of wildlife in the Sky Islands,” Lininger said. “We’ve lost so much already — we can’t abandon what little is left. It’s our duty to future generations.”

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