For Immediate Release: February 19, 2004
Conservation Groups Challenge Bush Administration Old Growth Timber Sale Overlooking Grand Canyon National Park
Phoenix, Arizona -- Two conservation groups today challenged a risky Bush administration proposal to log old growth forest less than three miles from the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The groups contend that the Forest Service's proposed East Rim timber sale in remote areas of Kaibab National Forest would harm rare wildlife, create an increased risk of fire, and illegally log within designated old-growth forests as well as the Grand Canyon Game Preserve, a protected area set aside by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for the benefit of wildlife. The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Sierra Club in the District of Arizona's Phoenix courthouse.
"This timber sale shows the direction in which the Bush administration is taking America's National Forests," said Sharon Galbreath with the Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter. "There is a better way. The Bush administration should be funding projects that protect communities at risk from wildfires, not logging old growth trees in a remote area of the backcountry near the rim of the Grand Canyon."
Under the guise of increasing forest health and decreasing fire risk, the Forest Service proposal would permit the logging of at least 8 million board feet of timber --enough to fill 1,800 logging trucks-- 48 miles from the nearest community, including tens of thousands of large, fire-resistant trees. The plan also includes extensive logging within popular camping and recreation sites overlooking Grand Canyon National Park, as well as areas directly adjacent to the heavily visited Saddle Mountain Wilderness Area.
While the Center and Sierra Club both strongly support legitimate fuels reduction measures such as thinning small trees and prescribed burns, especially in areas near at-risk forest communities, the East Rim project instead logs many of the largest, most fire-resistant trees in one of the most remote forest areas in the state of Arizona.
The North Rim, particularly the Kaibab Plateau area where the sale is located, has always been a paradise for a wide variety of wildlife. President and sportsman Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed by the area that in 1906 he designated it the Grand Canyon Game Preserve, and demanded that it be "set apart forever for the use and benefit of our people as a whole and not sacrificed to the shortsighted greed of a few." The East Rim timber sale is located entirely within the boundaries of the Preserve.
"Theodore Roosevelt would be appalled by the continued logging of old-growth on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, an area he attempted to protect nearly 100 years ago," stated Brian Segee, Southwest Public Lands Director with CBD. "Unfortunately, the Bush administration would rather sell our natural heritage to the highest bidder than honor the vision of the Republican party's greatest conservationist."
The groups contend that the Forest Service violated the law in planning the East Rim Sale by failing to protect habitat for several species of wildlife, including the northern goshawk and the Mexican spotted owl, listed under the Endangered Species Act. The densest breeding population of northern goshawks in North America exists on the Kaibab Plateau. The Plateau has also been designated a National Natural Landmark for the protection of the Kaibab squirrel, a magnificent species naturally found nowhere else on earth.
"The East Rim timber sale will further reduce the quality and quantity of rare habitat for key wildlife species," said Aaron Isherwood, an attorney with Sierra Club. "The planned logging flies in the face of established needs for these species and ignores a recent court decision that found the Forest Service broke the law in establishing guidelines for the northern goshawk which have allowed increased logging of old growth and large diameter trees."
To date, 95 percent of the old growth in the Southwest has been logged. Approximately 90 percent of the remaining trees in Southwest's forests are 12 inches in diameter and smaller.
"For more than two decades we have witnessed the incremental destruction of rare Southwest forests a few thousand trees at a time. No amount of creative accounting or rhetoric by the Bush administration can change the sad reality of what is happening on the ground," said Sandy Bahr with the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club.
The Southwest Forest Alliance, a coalition of conservation organizations, has released a new paper addressing the myths used to justify continued logging of scarce old growth and large trees in the Southwest. Titled A Scientific Critique of the Myths and Misconceptions of Logging Old Growth and Large Diameter Ponderosa in the Southwest, the paper can be found at www.swfa.org.