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06/10/2009

Old Growth Forests Near Grand Canyon Won't Be Logged

Several weeks ago the U.S. Forest Service made a sound decision when they halted their plans to log old-growth forests in Arizona's Kaibab National Forest.  The Kaibab is a 1.6 million acre forest that borders both the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.  It is also home to the largest breeding population of goshawks in the lower 48 states, despite having much its habitat destroyed by past logging efforts.  In 1996, as a result of this destruction, the Forest Service adopted special measures under the Kaibab Forest Plan to avoid having the goshawk listed under the Endangered Species Act.

Grand canyon

This past March, however, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diverstiy filed an appeal against a 26,000-acre timber sale in the forest.  The sale, while intended to thin the area to reduce the wildlife possibility, did not comply with requirements under the Kaibab Forest Plan to protect the larger and older stands of ponderosa pine forest.  Not only are these stands of old growth prime goshawk habitat, they are also more resistent to fire.  The Forest Service appears to have listened to the appeal and has suspended the plan.  They agree that more research must be done to determine the logging plan's projected impacts on the goshawk's habitat and best practices to mitigate those impacts.

Stacey Hamburg of Sierra Club's Grand Canyon Chapter says, "It is time for a project that focuses on restoration, protection of wildlife, and preserving the limited old growth that remains.  By reversing its deceision, the Forest Service now has an opportunity to do that."

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