Friday, January 25, 2013

Judge: Thinning on North Kaibab legal

The Kaibab National Forest can proceed with its plans to thin and conduct prescribed burns on about 25,000 acres north of the Grand Canyon over the objections of two conservation groups, a federal judge ruled Tuesday. The groups questioned whether the Forest Service properly analyzed risks and benefits of its formula for prescribed forest thinning, and U.S. District Judge Paul Rosenblatt ruled that it had. The area in question is about 39 square miles located near Jacob Lake, or north of the 40,000 acres accidentally burned in 2006's prescribed-burn-turned-wildfire on the North Kaibab Ranger District, called the Warm fire. It's a defeat for the Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity, which have raised objections over the age and size of trees to be thinned since 1998. Those groups asserted that the scale of thinning the Forest Service had proposed on the Kaibab Plateau is not beneficial to the northern goshawk, a bird the forest service considers a "sensitive" species (not federally listed as threatened or endangered), and submitted data to support that view. The Forest Service weighed that data, then set it aside in favor of what its own expert had said about how dense or sparse the forest could be in areas where the goshawk live. The plans allow for logging of ponderosa pines 16 inches and larger in diameter (with no upper size limits), though the Forest Service says it will only account for fewer than 2 percent of the trees to be cut...more

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