AWR Blog

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Utah Environmental Congress and Native Ecosystems Council are pleased to announce that the Dixie National Forest has withdrawn the planned Iron Springs Vegetation Reduction Project in response to their Administrative Appeals to the Regional Forester.

“The Forest Service made the right decision in pulling back from this illegal timber sale,” said Mike Garrity, the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “The National Forest Management Act requires the agency to ensure that there are viable populations of wildlife in the forest after they log,” Garrity explained. “In this case the agency simply wasn’t following the law.”

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of cutting units, a good bit of which is old growth Spruce and proposed Wilderness, we are glad that this project was withdrawn” said UEC’s Kevin Mueller, who added “now we need to see that this sky-island of forest and its critical wildlife habitat is permanently protected.”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 several hundred acres of old growth forest,” said Johnson, explaining that this old growth forest is important nesting habitat for goshawks.

“Timber corporations and the Forest Service have already logged most of the old growth in this country. Goshawks are listed as a ‘species of concern’ because of declining population 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 July 3, 2101 that Dixie National Forest Acting Supervisor Kevin Schulkoski withdrew the Iron Springs Vegetation Improvement and Salvage Project Decision Notice in a letter dated June 25, 2012 — the very day the groups appealed the timber sale.

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