Congressman Calls for Investigation of Logging in Tree Reserve
WASHINGTON An Oregon congressman called Monday for an investigation into how the Forest Service allowed 16 acres inside a rare tree reserve to be logged as part of a salvage harvest following a 2002 fire.
The tree-cutting inside the 350-acre Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area in southwestern Oregon was discovered by environmentalists last month, after an approved timber sale was completed.
The Forest Service has said employees of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest mismarked the area where the logging took place, although just who did it or how the mistake happened has not been determined. Normally trees are marked with stapled tags and paint to show the boundaries of timber sales and reserves within them.
"Given the large size of the illegal harvest, ... I find it difficult to understand how this could have been a casual oversight," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore.
DeFazio asked Phyllis Fong, inspector general of the Agriculture Department, to determine who approved expansion of the so-called Fiddler timber sale into the Babyfoot area; when the decision was made; and how the decision was reached. The Forest Service is part of the Agriculture Department.
Forest Service spokeswoman Patty Burel said she had not seen DeFazio's letter. Burel blamed the logging error on a lack of communication and inadequate oversight, but said the agency is "committed to looking at this situation and preventing it in the future."
Barbara Ullian, conservation director of the Siskiyou Project, an environmental group that discovered the damage, said the incident demonstrated the importance of allowing the public to monitor logging operations in national forests.
The Forest Service closed the area to the public in March after protesters attempted to block logging roads and sit in trees.
The Siskiyou Project counted 290 stumps inside the botanical area, including one that measured 3 feet in diameter and was more than 230 years old.
The July 2002 fire, the largest in Oregon history, burned more than 500,000 acres and cost $153 million to control.
Source: Associated Press