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Forest Service Using National Christmas Tree as Political Tool

October 4, 2019
John Horning, jhorning@wildearthguardians.org, 505-795-5083
In This Release
Public Lands   Mexican spotted owl
#PressStatement, #Rewilding, #WildlandsForWildlife
SANTA FE, NM – The U.S. Forest Service is now claiming that that the September 11th injunction on “timber management activities” stemming from a lawsuit addressing the Mexican spotted owl is threatening to prohibit the cutting of the national Christmas tree. This year the Capitol Christmas tree has been selected from amongst the many beautiful spruce and fir trees on the Questa Ranger District of the Carson National Forest in Northern New Mexico.

Last month, Raner Collins, a Federal District Court Judge in Arizona ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service have shirked their responsibilities to ensure that Forest Service management activities are making progress towards recovery of the Mexican spotted owl, a species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The judges’ order halted all “timber management actions” on all national forests in New Mexico and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.

The U.S. Forest Service interpreted the injunction broadly determining not that the agency should only halt all timber management actions but instead that it should; 1) halt all cutting of vegetation; 2) suspend any planned prescribed fire activities, and; 3) immediately suspend issuance of personal-use and commercial firewood permits.

WildEarth Guardians, understanding the negative impact the U.S. Forest Service’s interpretation would have on local communities, quickly filed a motion for clarification to exempt personal-use firewood from the injunction.  Within hours, the Forest Service agreed to the motion. On October 1st, 2019, Judge Collins issued an order exempting personal use firewood.  Now that the firewood controversy is over the Forest Service is claiming that the injunction, and WildEarth Guardians role in it, are endangering the national Christmas tree.

In response, WildEarth Guardians’ Executive Director, John Horning, issued the following statement:

“The real Grinch who stole the Christmas tree here is the Forest Service. But instead of stealing Christmas with a little dog wearing fake antlers they’re stealing it with fake arguments. Nothing about our lawsuit or the needs of the spotted owl would prevent the U.S. Forest Service from cutting down the national Christmas tree.  The Forest Service is peddling lies and untruths to manufacture a crisis to pit people against endangered species and the Endangered Species Act.

They’re adding every kind of unpopular policy outcome they can think of, whether firewood or Christmas trees, to make it look like that’s what this injunction is about. The injunction is about one thing: they didn’t do their job in protecting the spotted owl. All of this could go away if tomorrow they agreed to do their job. That job is simply monitoring the population of the spotted owl.

The Grinch dressed up as Santa Claus pretending to care about Christmas just like the Forest Service is pretending to care about our national forests. Nothing could be further from the truth.”