What's What in the Battle for the Biscuit
Below is an overview of the major issues and legal concepts at play in the Biscuit timber sale controversy. A "Who's Who" in the controversy is available here:
A digital version of this will be available shortly.
What's what? Biscuit Fire: Set by a strike of lightning, the Biscuit fire occurred during the 2002 fire season and stretched across the heart of the Siskiyou Wild Rivers area, burning around 500,000 acres. This was the largest fire in North America that year. Forest Service scientists quickly pointed out that Biscuit burned in a mosaic and performed needed biological functions including reduction of fuels.
Within months the Bush administration, led by Mark Rey, began planning the largest logging project in Forest Service history. The Biscuit logging plan (deceptively titled the Biscuit Fire Recovery Project by the government) encompasses about 20,000 acres (31.25 sq miles) and a proposed cut of 372 million board feet- this is equivalent to 74,400 logging trucks. This includes about 9,000 acres (14 sq miles) of "protected" old-growth reserves. The biscuit logging project is the first to threaten roadless areas since the Roadless Area Conservation Rule was created and would cause about 48,000 acres (75 sq miles) of roadless areas to be ineligible for future wilderness designation due to road fragmentation. The logging plan for the area would leave just 1.5 legacy trees ("snags") per acre - a virtual clearcut.
promote the idea that logging "fixes" a forest: if a forest has burned, logging will help it re-grow; if a forest is at risk of burning, logging will help prevent it. The truth is that forests have repeatedly burned and regrown in these mountains for millennia, and the burned trees - and all dead trees - perform significant roles in any healthy forest. Commercial logging magnifies fire-risk by removing larger, fire-resistant trees, increasing fire ignition sources, leaving behind flammable slash, and cultivating hotter, drier, stands of smaller trees.
Legacy Trees are standing dead trees (a.k.a. snags), and play a critical role in ecosystems. The entire life cycle of a tree is measured in terms of its years as a live standing tree, as a legacy tree, and as a fallen tree. Why are "dead" trees so important to life? They:
Return biomass to the land.
Store and slowly release nutrients to the recovering forest.
Retain moisture throughout the dry season.
Provide shade and favorable sites for the germination and early growth of seedlings.
Provide unique habitats for a great variety of creatures on land and in rivers.
Stabilize stream banks, and promote quality salmon and aquatic habitat.
Non-violent direct actions are tactics used to express public discontent with the way representatives and the powers that be. Direct actions ignore unjust laws, directly stopping a destructive practice or building something positive. In the Biscuit, forest defenders are using a variety of direct action tactics to halt and stall logging:
Soft-blockades: People sitting or standing on logging roads, often linking arms, and refusing to move.
Lockdowns: People locked to each other, to a vehicle, or other heavy object, with the use of a variety of locking devices.
Bipods and tripods: free standing structures or platforms supported by poles and/or ropes and occupied by a person to blockade a road or bridge. The idea is that the person must be killed or removed passing a blockades site.
Legal / Science Terms
A Closure is an area where the Forest Service denies public access to land that would otherwise be accessible to expedite logging, prevent protests, and restrict monitoring of logging activities. Fiddler Mountain has a 14 mile road closure. Closures of this sort have in the past been found to be unconstitutional restriction of 1st Ammendment rights.
The Northwest Forest Plan (NFP) was adopted in 1994, during the Clinton administration. It is a design for ecosystem management and rural community economic assistance for federal forests in western Oregon, Washington, and northern California. Since the Bush administration has come into power the NFP has been hacked down to size, with corporate timber interests getting a huge wish list of requests met. Protections for rare species, salmon, forested waterway, fire-prone areas, old-growth forests, and roadless forests areas created by the NFP and other regulations have suffered, as downgrades of the laws allowing for public participation in forest management.
Forest land designations, set up by the NFP and other Forest Service protocols:
Matrix areas -- timberlands set-aside under the Northwest Forest Plan expressly for timber production. This is the sacrifice zone, and includes a huge amount of old-growth forests.
Matrix Sales in the Biscuit: Horse - cut 2004 by Silver Creek Logging; Indi - cut 2004 by East Fork; Flat Top - cut 2004/2005 by Silver Creek Logging; Briggs cedar - cut 2005.
Late Successional Reserve (LSR) -- land set aside within the Northwest forest plan to be habitat for plants and animals that require old growth to survive such as the northern spotted owl, which despite these meager protections, is still experiencing rapid population decline. The purposed biscuit salvage plan would decimate around 9,000 acres of "old-growth reserves" much of which is still green trees. This massive attack on LSRs is likely to influence forest policy regarding old-growth reserves throughout the entire Northwest.
LSR Sales in the Biscuit: Fiddler - in the process of being cut by Silver Creek; Berry - purchased by CLR; Chetco - purchased by CLR; Hobson - purchased by Greg Liles; Lazy - purchased by Greg Liles; Steed -purchased by CLR; Wafer - purchased by CLR.
Inventoried Roadless Area (IRA) -- land protected by the Roadless Rule during final months of the Clinton administration, to stay wild and untouched. Since Bush took office, timber companies have been given the power to begin dismantling the only policy providing protection for the little roadless areas we have left. The Wild Siskiyou region has the largest concentration of intact, roadless forests and watersheds on the Pacific Coast outside of Alaska. About 13 square miles of IRA are proposed to be cutting the biscuit timber sale, which could set a precedent of dismantling roadless area regulations in forests across the nation.
IRA Sales in the Biscuit: Mike's Gulch - the first IRA sale is scheduled to be auctioned in a couple weeks!
Roadsides -- Roadsides are becoming a free-for-all for logging in recent years throughout the National Forest system. Roadside Salvage are trees on the side of roads the Forest Service has declared to be a "potential threat" to public safety because of their chance of falling onto the road. They then have the opportunity to "salvage" log them to keep timber interests happy while still keeping the public "safe".
Port-Orford-cedar Root Rot is a disease that are spread to the Port-Orford-cedar through infected soil and water transfer, with logging equipment a well-documented and primary cause. This non-native disease is lethal to the rare Port-Orford and affects its roots, rapidly killing the tree. Logging would occur in 21 drainages in four Roadless Areas that are currently uninfected with the Phytophthora lateralis (P.lateralis). This could transfer this easily spread disease throughout this roadless region and threaten the vitality of these unique trees.
Federal District Court - the first level of courts that legal challenges to logging on National Forests go to. See Judge Michael Hogan in "Who's Who" for more information.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is this court is a panel of judges and is the highest underneath the Supreme Court in our regions judicial system. Cases appealed from Federal District Courts go here. The 9th Circuit is based in San Francisco.
A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) is a short and temporary halt on a given activity until a court can make further rulings on its legality.
A Preliminary Injunction (PI) lasts longer than a TRO, and requires the judge to evaluate the merits of the case more carefully. The fundamental question in both a TRO and a PI is the same: "will irreparable harm be done to the in the interim before the trial can even be determined". If the answer is determined to be "yes" than they can be granted.
Lawsuit #1 involves the Siskiyou Project, KS Wild, American Lands, Sierra Club and the Oregon Natural Resources Council, The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, and Pacific Rivers Council. Earthjustice and The Western Environmental Law Center are the legal firms representing. This lawsuit, amongst many issues, is based upon violations of the NFP and Roadless Rule inherent in the logging plans. This lawsuit only applies to LSR and IRA portions of the Biscuit, and disregards the Matrix areas. Although the 9th Circuit had placed an injunction on logging in these areas in Summer 2004, it was lifted in January with virtually no explanation by a group of right-wing underling judges.
Most recent updates (Late March 2005): the District Court was to begin arguments in the case on March 22, 2005, but has asked for more information from the attorneys, delaying the beginnings of proceedings until at least April 8th.
Lawsuit #2 involves the Cascadia Wildland Project, National Forest Protection Alliance, Native Forest Network, and Klamath Forest Alliance. This lawsuit, amongst many issues, is based upon broken logging protocols in regards to the Port-Orford Root Rot fungus. It was filed much more recently, and affects all areas with the Biscuit, including the Matrix.
Most recent updates (Late March 2005): an application for a TRO by the plaintiffs was denied. Now lawyers are seeking a PI. The trial itself is not set to begin for a while.
There is also another, more minor environmentalist lawsuit, as well as a timber industry lawsuit demanding more logging that is stumbling around.
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