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Group Says Forest Service Should Exempt Trail Maintenance, Christmas Tree Permits
Guardians wrote in its letter to the Department of Justice that it believes Christmas tree cutting, trail maintenance work, native ceremonial uses of the forest and various “thinning” projects should never have been subject to and should now be released from the injunction.
On October 1, 2019 the conservation group also sent a strongly worded letter to New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich asking them to “urge the Forest Service to sit down with us to start resolving the appropriate scope of the injunction” and provide the necessary federal funding for the Forest Service to conduct the required monitoring of Mexican spotted owl at issue in the case.
Both letters rebuke the Forest Service for its lack of cooperation and communication, explaining that “had the Forest Service deigned to communicate with us about the [personal firewood] issue, any and all public anxiety regarding the matter could have been easily avoided through a quick and timely stipulation presented to the Court. Instead, the Forest Service elected to whip up public anxiety and concern through a “doomsday” public relations strategy intended to obfuscate the agency’s responsibility for the current situation.”
“We are extremely concerned about the Forest Service’s unwillingness to communicate or cooperate with us, and instead play politics with people’s lives and livelihoods,” stated John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. “We have identified a number of additional activities like Christmas tree permits and trail maintenance that, we believe, could be excepted from the injunction because they are not likely to harm the owl or its habitat. We would like to come to a mutual agreement with the agency and seek the Court’s immediate approval. Unfortunately, they simply refuse to engage.”
Activities identified in the letters include, but are not limited to, trail maintenance, medicinal plant gathering, tribal ceremonial activities, and Christmas tree cutting. In addition, the letters request “an expedited discussion” about thinning projects of small diameter trees in pinion-juniper woodland and at least some components of ongoing and proposed “restoration” projects and projects in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).
“We continue to urge the Forest Service to step-up and work with us to ensure that projects necessary for the protection of life and property can move forward while we work together on a mutually agreeable solution for the recovery of the Mexican spotted owl,” stated Steve Sugarman, attorney for WildEarth Guardians. “Silence and scare tactics are not in the best interest of the people of New Mexico, our forests or our iconic species. Communication, cooperation and accountability are what’s needed.”