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For Immediate Release, October 21, 2011

Contact:   Jay Lininger, (928) 853-9929

Appeal Halts Illegal New Mexico Logging Plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday won an appeal challenging the 11,000-acre  “Bonito” logging project near Ruidoso. In an Oct. 19 letter to the Center, the Forest Service conceded that its approval of the logging violated the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act by:

  • Defying forest canopy cover requirements of the Lincoln Forest Plan;
  • Failing to maintain old-growth forest as required by the plan;
  • Overlooking impacts to forest soil with moderate and severe erosion hazard.

The Forest Service had approved the logging even though its own analysis showed that it would remove more forest canopy than its own rules protecting northern goshawk and Mexican spotted owl allow. The agency also tried to remove more large trees than its own rules allow in old-growth-deficient forests.

“We support active management to restore forests and protect communities,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center. “But in this case, the Forest Service was going after large trees while thumbing its nose at its own rules. Logging large trees damages wildlife habitat and increases — rather than decreases — fire hazard.”

Bonito is the third major project approved by the Lincoln National Forest since November 2009. The Jim Lewis and South Guadalupe projects, combined, will thin and burn 55,563 acres to reduce wildfire hazard and restore historic forest conditions. Of the three projects, only Bonito drew an environmental appeal.

“In its other projects, the Forest Service has safely reduced hazardous fuels while protecting large trees and canopy for wildlife,” Lininger said. “This time around, foresters bowed to radical anti-environmental politicians by targeting large trees.”

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) has complained that litigation and endangered species have prevented logging in the Lincoln National Forest, and has introduced legislation, H.R. 1202, to suspend all environmental laws for all logging on all national forest land.

However, litigation is rare on the Lincoln, and the Forest Service has treated hazardous fuels on nearly 40 percent (421,000 acres) of the 1.1 million-acre national forest in the past 10 years. George Ellinger, owner of Ellinger Logging in Alamogordo, N.M., debunked Pearce’s bogus logging rhetoric in the Alamogordo News on April 24.

“There’s a misconception that there’s no logging going on,” he said. “Pearce came down and did a big talk with everybody, but he’s not talking to anybody who knows anything.”

Ellinger also said of colleagues in the timber industry: “The guys who are really griping to Pearce are the ones looking for a handout. They want it given to them for free.”

Thursday’s appeal ruling requires the Forest Service to do a new environmental analysis to comply with its own policies protecting wildlife habitat and old growth.

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