Destructive wildfires along the California-Oregon border in recent years has the U.S. Forest Service pursuing projects to clear forests of burnt debris and trees that could feed future fires.
One of those projects included selling the rights to log old-growth trees in Northern California, until a federal judge halted the timber sale on Friday.
Environmental groups asked a federal court to halt the Seaid-Horse timber sale in the Klamath National Forest. They say it would violate the Northwest Forest Plan by clear-cutting protected old-growth trees and harming Coho salmon.
U.S. District Judge Troy Nunley issued a preliminary injunction to temporarily halt the sale, which included 1,200 acres of timber in Siskiyou County. Environmental groups will negotiate terms of the sale with forest service workers, who returned to work on Monday for the first time since the month-long partial government shutdown.
Western Environmental Law Group attorney Susan Jane Brown says old-growth trees in Northern California provide a habitat for threatened species such as the northern spotted owl. They’re also the most resilient in enduring wildfires.
“We could agree that cutting small trees is a good thing to reduce fire risk, but when it comes to cutting very large, very old trees, that's an entirely different matter,” Brown said.
She also said logging steep terrain would pollute nearby streams and rivers, threatening Coho salmon.
The Klamath National Forest Service wouldn't comment on ongoing litigation.