Aug. 22, 2006 – In the face of public outcry, legal challenges and direct-action protests, the US Forest Service is plowing ahead with a controversial logging project in Oregon.
The commencement of logging earlier this month on part of the pristine South Kalmiopsis Forest marked an unprecedented commercial incursion on the countryâ€™s "roadless" areas â€“ over 58 million acres of wild land previously shielded from industrial activity. The Bush administration repealed Clinton-era protections for roadless areas in 2005.
On August 8, as loggers rolled onto a roadless tract in Kalmiopsis known as Mikeâ€™s Gulch, they encountered a blockade orchestrated by the grassroots environmental group Oxygen Collective. The group reported on its website that organizer Laurel Sutherlin dangled from a lashed log suspended over a bridge in order to stop traffic, and was later arrested. Police arrested an additional 11 protesters that week after the activists blockaded Forest Service headquarters in Medford, Oregon.
Forest authorities are now denying the public road access to Mikeâ€™s Gulch as the Silver Creek Timber Company continues clear-cutting the area, which is expected to be fully culled within several weeks. The local conservation group Siskiyou Project said it had petitioned the Forest Service for special access in order to monitor the logging activity, but the group was denied.
Forest authorities are now denying the public road access to Mikeâ€™s Gulch as the Silver Creek Timber Company continues clear-cutting the area.
Pointing to recent community hearings and protests indicating broad opposition to roadless logging, Siskiyou Project campaign director Rolf Skar told The NewStandard: "It just seems like the Bush administration doesnâ€™t even want to hear from the publicâ€¦ Theyâ€™ve already had their minds made up on how things are going to go here in Oregon."
In recent months, trees in Mikeâ€™s Gulch and another roadless area known as Blackberry have been auctioned off by the Forest Service as "salvage" timber, damaged in the Biscuit forest fire of 2002. Environmentalists say that while post-fire logging may generate marginal public revenues, it severely disrupts the ecosystemâ€™s natural recovery process.
Plaintiffs in pending lawsuits challenging the roadless policy â€“ including 20 environmental groups and the states of Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico â€“ had sought an injunction against the logging in a San Francisco federal court, but the judge did not act on the request.
Several states, meanwhile, are undertaking a special petition process, established under the administrationâ€™s new policy, to individually reinstate protections for their roadless areas.