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Groups File Appeal to Halt Largest Commercial Logging Operation on National Forests in New Mexico

July 13, 2004
John Horning, (505) 988-9126, ext.153
In This Release
Public Lands, Wildlife  
#EndTheWarOnWildlife, #EndangeredSpeciesAct, #WildlandsForWildlife
Santa Fe, NM – July 13. WildEarth Guardians, Wild Watershed and Carson Forest Watch filed an appeal to the regional office of the U.S. Forest Service to halt logging proposed in the Tusas Mountains northwest of Santa Fe that would pollute waterways and harm sensitive wildlife. The Agua Caballos logging project on the Carson National Forest would violate the National Forest Management Act, Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act and harm the Northern Goshawk and Abert’s squirrel and many other species of wildlife, according to the groups’ appeal.

The logging plan calls for the removal of 6.4 million board feet of trees, which is the equivalent of nearly 1,300 fully loaded logging trucks. Commercial logging would occur on nearly 4,000 acres while other activities, such as pre-commercial thinning, would affect another 3,000 acres. In addition, the sale would allow nearly 40 miles of new, reconstructed or temporary roads to be built.

“This is another in a long line of examples of the reckless forest policies from the Bush Administration,” said John Horning, WildEarth Guardians’ Executive Director. “Contrary to the Bush Administration’s claims this project has nothing to do with promoting forest health or protecting the public. It’s about giving away the public’s timber at fire sale prices and driving wildlife to extinction-plan and simple.”

The groups’ appeal alleges that the Agua Caballos logging and road building would violate the Clean Water Act by further degrading the Rio Vallecitos, a stream that is both a candidate for protection under the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act and at the same time polluted by logging, livestock grazing and road building. In fact, the New Mexico Environment Department, in comments on the project, said that the “logging project could negatively affect the Rio Vallecitos” and that “potential impacts to the Rio Vallecitos were not considered in depth.”

The Forest Service admits that more than 4,300 acres of the project area are subject to either “severe erosion hazard” or “moderate to severe potential for soil compaction,” thus the logging and road building would likely contribute more sediment to a stream that is already polluted.

“We should be protecting and restoring precious waterways on our national forests, not allowing further damage to them,” said Sam Hitt of Wild Watershed. “The Forest Service under the Bush Administration is taking a step back into the dark ages,” he added.

The environmental groups also contend the Agua Caballos timber sale continues a long-standing and illegal Forest Service pattern of permitting damaging activities in the absence of adequate population monitoring data about the status of native wildlife. Notwithstanding the fact that the basic provisions of the NFMA require the Forest to protect viable populations of native wildlife through population monitoring the Carson National Forest has failed to do so for all eight of the species of wildlife that are identified as “management indicator species.”

The Hairy woodpecker, Merriam’s turkey, Abert’s and Red squirrels are a few of the “MIS” on the Carson National Forest for which the agency has little or no population monitoring data.

For the few species for which the Forest Service has begun to gather population-monitoring data on a smaller scale, the initial information is bleak. For example, the Abert’s squirrel, which is closely associated with mature, closed-canopied ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer forest, may be at risk of local extinction, according to monitoring by the Carson National Forest in 2003. Notwithstanding the low population levels, the Agua Caballos timber sale would allow logging of nearly 1,200 acres of close-canopied forest used by Abert’s squirrels.

“This agency either blindly permits logging that would harm wildlife or ignores what little scientific information would urge caution or undermine logging,” said Horning. “We urge them to adopt a precautionary approach and not permit logging in the absence of wildlife population information or where initial information reveals that wildlife are in peril,” he added.

WildEarth Guardians, Wild Watershed and Carson Forest Watch have asked the Forest Service to withdraw the timber sale, develop a credible program to track the status of native wildlife and develop a plan to ensure clean up of polluted rivers and streams.

Other Contact
Sam Hitt, Wild Watershed, 438-1057, Joanie Berde, Carson Forest Watch, (505) 587-2848