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Judge Allows Fuelwood Gathering to Resume
The judge’s Order makes it clear that personal use firewood permits can be issued by the six national forests that previously had been directed by the regional office of the Forest Service not to issue those permits. The judge also ordered the Forest Service to respond to WildEarth Guardians’ request to enter into “mediation to further define the scope of the Court’s injunction.”
“We are grateful that the judge granted our request,” stated John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians. “As soon as the injunction was issued, we engaged the Forest Service to discuss how the injunction would be implemented without causing an interruption in this season’s fuelwood gathering. The Forest Service refused to speak with us, and instead chose to create an unnecessary panic. Had the agency consulted with us instead of manufacturing a crisis, all this unnecessary conflict and anxiety could have been avoided,” Horning added.
On September 11, Judge Raner Collins, in the District of Arizona, ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service have long shirked their responsibilities to ensure that Forest Service management activities are making progress towards recovery of the Mexican spotted owl, a threatened species protected under the Endangered Species Act. His ruling halted all timber management actions on six national forests in New Mexico and Arizona including all the national forests in New Mexico and the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
“The judge found that the Forest Service needs to be held accountable for more than two decades of foot-dragging in connection with its duties under the Endangered Species Act,” stated Steve Sugarman, the attorney representing WildEarth Guardians. “For years, WildEarth Guardians unsuccessfully sought to convince the Forest Service that litigation could be avoided if the Forest Service would only follow its own management plan for the Mexican spotted owl. The injunction is the inevitable and the foreseeable result of the Forest Service’s stubbornness to fund and implement its own management plan.”
“I’m heartened by the news that citizens in rural communities across New Mexico and eastern Arizona now have access to firewood to heat their homes and cook their food,” added Horning.