Subject: FW: SW Biodiversity Alert

Subject: SW Biodiversity Alert


Southwest Center for Biological Diversity

The Southwest Region of the U.S. Forest Service withdrew its first
attempt to implement a salvage rider timber sale on 12/7/95.  The Coronado National Forest
had planned to jump start its long dormant logging program with a Rescissions Act salvage sale in
the Chiricahua Mountains.  The Forest signed a decision notice to proceed with the sale despite
a standing court injunction agaist commercial logging on all 11 Southwestern National Forests
until ESA consultation is completed on the Mexican spotted owl.  The Coronado attempted to use
the salvage rider to override the injunction, but under the terms of a recent stipulated
agreement, the Forest Service can not to challenge the injunction or attempt to release any further
timber sales.  

The Southwest Center threatened to sue the Coronado on 12/8/95 for
violating the salvage rider (lack of public notice) and move for contempt of court charges if the
Forest did not withdraw the sale.  The sale was withdrawn on the 7th.

Despite language in the salvage rider designed to overule court
orders, the Forest Service was afraid of challenging Judge Muecke's order.  Earlier this year,
Muecke ruled that a USFWS attempt to use the Hutchinson ESA moratorium to circumvent his order
to designate critical habitat for the Mexican spotted owl was unconstitutional.  Rather
than risk such a judgement on the salvage rider, the Forest Service withdrew the timber sale.

As a result of the court injunction and stipulated agreement, no
salvage rider sales have been implemented in the Southwest, nor will they be until the injunction
is lifted.  Latest word is the injunction may last into March. 

On December 1, 1995, the two groups filed suit against the Tonto
National Forest for denying the College's application for a special use permit to maintain the
historic Grantham Cabin and orchard as an educational facility.  Instead, the Forest Service ordered the
College to destroy or remove the cabin by December 15, 1995. 

Prescott has owned the Cabin, but not the land for 10 years and has
used it conduct classes in ecology and ethnobotany.  Despite the fact that the Tonto grazes more
than 2.5 million acres of public land for private profit, it argued that "multiple use"
mandates precluded the dedication of .5 acres to ecology educational.  The Forest Service, meanwhile
designatedPrescott College as the number one wilderness study institute in the country

On behalf of the Southwest Forest Alliance, the Southwest Center has
released a paper establishing that overgrazing, not fire suppression, is the primary
cause of excessive tree densities in forests of the inland West.  Numerous studies going as far back as
the 1920 have shown that overgrazing causes tree overstocking by removing native grasses.  The
grasses normally outcompete pine seedlings preventing their establishment and growth. 
The grasses also serve as the primary fire vector.  Fire was essentially eradicated from
western forests with the advent of livestock grazing- long before active fire suppression.

The Forest Service regularly avoids any discussion of the effects of
overgrazing, prefering to blame fire suppression.  In their version of the story, frequent low
intensity fires kill small trees while leaving large trees unharmed.  When fire is suppressed, too
many little trees survive and the forests become thickets.  But where did all of these little trees
come from in the first place?  Not from fire suppression.  Numerous studies have shown that in the
absense of livestock grazing, western forests can go for nearly 100 years without fire with no sign
of excessive tree encroachment.  Tree encroachment is only possible when native grasses
are removed. 

Every study which has attempted to assess the relative importance of
fire suppression and overgrazing, has determined the overgrazing is the primary cause of
high tree densities.

Contact the Southwest Center for a copy of the report .

A recent study of University of Nevada ecologist, Dr. Peter Stacey,
has shown that Mexican spotted owls will temporarily leave the area of a large wildfire, but
will return to nest the following year.  Studies have found similar behaviour in Northern spotted owls.

A second study published in the most recent issue of Conservation Biology, documents use of burned forests by numerous birds in Montana.  Some
species selected for burned area.  The pre-burn structure of the forest greatly affected
post-burn use, indicating that salvage logging of burned old growth or mature forests is
particularly damaging.

The metapopulation structure of Northern goshawks has been a
contentious issues in the Southwest Center filed ESA petitions to list the Western and
Southwestern goshawk populations as endangered.  The Fish and Wildlife Service has argued that the
populations are not isolated and hence not listable under the ESA.  A recent study of goshawks
throughout the West, however,  has found a "surprising" degrees of genetic homogeneity among birds
of the Kaibab Plateau of northern Arizona, indicating a high degree of isolation.  The more
isolated populations are, the more prone they are to extinction.  Poplulations prone to local
extinction, require unfragmented forests in order to increase recolonization after local extirpation.