GET READY TO GO DOWN TO THE BISCUIT - LOGGING MAY START BY JULY 10
Timber sale awarded amid efforts to stop it
The Associated Press
link to www.theolympian.com
GRANTS PASS, Ore. - A timber sale in a national forest roadless area has been awarded to a logging contractor, despite efforts by conservation groups and the governor to stop it.
The Mike's Gulch timber sale was awarded Tuesday to Silver Creek Logging Co. of Merlin, Ore., after a federal judge in Medford decided it could go forward while he hears a lawsuit arguing the U.S. Forest Service should consider new scientific information, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest spokeswoman Patty Burel said.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in San Francisco has not ruled on a motion from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and conservation groups to stop logging in Mike's Gulch until two other lawsuits challenging the Bush administration's new roadless rule can be heard.
One of the lawsuits was filed by the states of Oregon, Washington, California and New Mexico, and the other by a coalition of 20 environmental groups.
The governor's office and conservation groups have complained that the Bush administration is pushing through the sale when it had assured them it would keep protections in place until states had worked out with the Forest Service whether to log in roadless areas. Kulongoski has said he wants to keep logging out of roadless areas in Oregon.
The Bush administration has maintained that Mike's Gulch is part of the salvage and restoration effort following the 2002 Biscuit fire, and that because the logs will be flown out by helicopter, no new roads will have to be built.
Silver Creek owner John West said he likely will begin logging July 10, after filing his bond and downpayment with the U.S. Forest Service and doing preliminary work. That work includes upgrading existing logging roads leading to the helicopter landings outside the roadless area and cutting trees that pose a danger to workers. The work would take two to three months and employ 50 to 70 people.
West agreed to pay $300,052 for 9 million board feet of timber in the South Kalmiopsis Roadless Area that was burned by the 2002 Biscuit Fire.