July 18, 2008

Plan to Remove Burned Trees Barred: Judge Says Forest Service Project Needs More Study

By Talia Sampson, Ventura County Star, Calif.

Jul. 18--A federal judge has blocked a U.S. Forest Service plan to have commercial loggers remove trees burned on 1,000 acres in Los Padres National Forest during the 2006 Day fire.

U.S. District Court Judge George H. Wu ruled last week that the Forest Service could not move ahead with the project as planned without more environmental review of the potential effects, but it could take steps to allow some foresting, such as salvaging trees in an area of less than 250 acres.

John Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, said the environmental group filed suit in February because of concerns that commercial logging would lead to damaging soil erosion.

"We recommended they use Forest Service crews to cut down the trees and then leave them in place, instead of allowing logging companies to come in and take them to the sawmill," Kuyper said. "Cut trees left in place do not cause ground disturbance, in contrast with commercial logging, which uses heavy equipment that leads to soil compaction."

Kuyper said commercial logging also often involves dragging the multi-ton trees to a central location, leaving "slide trails" that can cause erosion.

Kathy Good, a Los Padres National Forest spokeswoman, said the trees need to be removed because they could fall onto roads used by tourists and pose a safety hazard. She said the plan is to remove only those trees that are hazardous.

"The reason for bringing in a commercial logger is that we don't have the staff for the job and we hoped to have some use made of the trees," Good said.

Good said she could not comment on specifics of the judge's decision or plans.

Forest administrators were unavailable for comment Thursday because they were dealing with fires in Los Padres, she said.


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