For Immediate Release, July 10, 2014


Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity: (415) 436-9682 x 302;
Rachel Fazio, John Muir Project of the Earth Island Institute, (530) 273-9290;

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Woodpeckers, Owls From Logging in Sierra Nevada

Forest Service Projects Would Cut Thousands of Acres of
Burned Forest That Is Crucial Wildlife Habitat

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity and the Earth Island Institute today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over its continued failure to protect post-fire wildlife habitat from outdated and destructive logging practices. Specifically, today’s lawsuit challenges the agency’s plans to cut over 5,000 acres of burned trees in the Tahoe and Sierra national forests. The areas at issue provide crucial habitat for wildlife such as California spotted owls, imperiled black-backed woodpeckers, bats, bluebirds and many other species that use the fire-killed trees and native shrub patches that fires create.

“These public lands that the Forest Service plans to log are homes for many birds and other animals, and they should be left that way,” said Center Attorney Justin Augustine. “The burned trees and the post-fire shrubs give these animals nesting and denning areas, as well as prolific amounts of food that many species rely on. If these places are logged, all that will remain is a sea of stumps.” 

For decades there’s been a severe deficit of post-fire wildlife habitat in the Sierras due to the Forest Service’s fire-suppression policies as well as the agency’s unrelenting quest to log burned forest when fires escape suppression. These outdated policies directly contradict a substantial body of scientific research showing that burned forests are not destroyed but, rather, are essential to numerous wildlife species that thrive in, and depend upon, intensely burned forest. Unfortunately, specific legal protections still do not exist to ensure such areas are conserved rather than logged.

The projects being challenged would destroy thousands of acres of mature and old forest simply because the areas were affected by fire and trees were killed. But these burned areas, called “complex early seral forests,” created by fire are every bit as ecologically important as unburned old-growth forests, if they are left unlogged. A recent report by the Center for Biological Diversity and the John Muir Project explains how fires are essential for maintaining biological diversity in California’s Sierra Nevada ecosystem and how logging in burned areas causes irreparable harm to wildlife and the forest.

“The Forest Service is proposing to essentially clearcut thousands of acres of the rarest and most important wildlife habitat on our national forests in order to pad their own budget,” said Dr. Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist with the John Muir Project. “What the Forest Service is doing here is every bit as ecologically destructive as clearcutting thousands of acres of old-growth forest.”

To learn more about our work to protect public lands and wildlife, click here.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 775,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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