Federal Government Unsure about Appealing Bitterroot Decision, by Gretchen Randall

BACKGROUND: A federal judge in Montana has barred the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from opening 46,000 acres of the Bitterroot National Forest to salvage logging, saying the USFS decision did not allow for public comment and thus violated the Forest Service’s own rules. The Forest Service said that the logging is necessary to remove dead trees remaining from the 2000 forest fires in that burned 307,000 acres in the Bitterroot. No decision has been made by the Bush administration whether to appeal the decision or open a public comment period.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Instead of applauding the efforts to speed up restoration of the Bitterroot National Forest, so-called environmental groups have sued to delay the clean up.

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: It would be wiser if environmental groups spent the donations they’ve received from hard working Americans on actually saving and restoring the forests rather than obstructing and delaying the work needed to keep our forests healthy. The fires that burned the Bitterroot National Forest were in the summer of 2000-over a year and a half ago – and still no restoration has been done.

DISCUSSION: The timber industry says the dead trees remaining after the massive forest fires in the summer of 2000 should be removed before they decay and become diseased. Most of the private and state forests have had restoration work done, which includes planting seedlings and restoring stream beds. The Forest Service estimates 4,000 new jobs would be created if its plan were put in place.

The lawsuit was brought by several environmental groups after Mark Rey, undersecretary of agriculture for natural resources, who oversees the USFS, decided to forego the formal appeals process. According to reports, Rey said the timber needed logging soon and he figured a lawsuit would follow any comment period anyway.

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