contact; Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936
The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Utah Environmental Congress and Native Ecosystems Council are pleased to announce that the Dixie National Forest has withdrawn the planned Iron Springs Vegetation Reduction Project in response to their Administrative Appeals to the Regional Forester.
Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said, “The Forest Services decision to stop this proposed logging will save taxpayers over eleven million dollars and protect hundreds of acres of old growth forest which is important habitat for the endangered Mexican spotted owl. We hope the Forest Service finally will get the message and stop wasting taxpayers money proposing illegal logging of old growth forest in Utah.”
The proposed 8,306-acre timber sale project area—with 9 miles of new roads—is situated in the Dixie National Forest approximately 15 miles northwest of Escalante, Utah. Elevations of the area range from 9,000 feet to 10,750 feet and overlook the Grandstaircase Escalante National Monument.
“This timber sale was a rehash of the Griffin Springs timber sale” said Garrity, explaining that it was successfully stopped in 2006. “The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of environmentalists, finding the U.S. Forest Service didn’t follow the best available science when it determined the logging project wouldn’t harm the goshawk, which is a “sensitive” and declining species, and any decision about the forest must consider the effect on the species.”
“Involving a total of almost 8 square miles of cutting units, a good bit of which is old growth Spruce and proposed Wilderness, we are glad that this project was withdrawn” said UEC’s Kevin Mueller, who added “now we need to see that this sky-island of forest and its critical wildlife habitat is permanently protected.”
“I went on a horseback ride up there before I argued it,” said Tom Woodbury, the attorney in the seminal Griffin Springs ruling. “And I was bowled over by the size and age of the trees they were trying to get at. It was an island of old growth in a sea of logged and burned forests.”
The Forest Service had argued in the Griffin Springs case that clear-cutting wouldn’t harm the goshawk population, which has gone from 68 nesting pairs in 1982 to 30 or fewer in 2002, the last year measured. But the Court held in its opinion that: “The Forest Service presents no long-range scientific evidence supporting its assertion that the project will actually increase the number of northern goshawk in the Project area.”
“The 10th circuit ruled in 2006 that clear-cutting the trees would have been devastating to wildlife then and it would be no different now, especially on the high-elevation Aquarius Plateau,” said Garrity. “There are clear cuts in that area that were cut in the 70s that still haven’t grown back,” he said.
Sara Jane Johnson, PhD., is the Director of Native Ecosystems Council and a former Forest Service wildlife biologist. “The Iron Springs logging proposal would have destroyed almost 2000 acres of old growth forest,” said Johnson, explaining that this old growth forest is important nesting habitat for Mexican spotted owls and goshawks.
“Timber corporations and the Forest Service have already logged most of the old growth in this country. Mexican spotted owls are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and goshawks are listed as a ‘species of concern’ because of declining population and habitat so it makes no sense to stress them more by cutting down remaining old growth forests,” concluded Johnson. “They need to leave some old growth for dependent species like the goshawk. Otherwise, they drive them onto the Endangered Species List.”
The conservation groups were informed in a letter dated February 13, 2013 that Dixie National Forest Supervisor Angelita Bulletts withdrew the Iron Springs Vegetation Improvement and Salvage Project Decision Notice.