From: Jeff Barnard, Associated Press
Published June 29, 2006 12:00 AM

Oregon Timber Sale Awarded as Efforts to Stop It Continue

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 southeastern Oregon timber sale was awarded Tuesday to Silver Creek Logging Co. of Merlin, 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 yet to rule on a motion from Gov. Ted Kulongoski and conservation groups to stop the logging until two other lawsuits challenging the Bush administration's new roadless rule can be heard.

One of the lawsuits was filed by 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 in Mike's Gulch 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 a 2002 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 was likely to begin logging around July 10. He agreed to pay $300,052 for 9 million board feet of timber.

Roadless areas make up close to a third of national forests, and represent the last big source of untouched old growth timber in the country.

The sale is the first in a roadless area since the Clinton administration generated rules in 2001 putting 58.5 million acres of roadless areas around the country off-limits to most logging. The action was based on scientific evidence they were far more valuable as sources of clean water, and pristine fish and wildlife habitat, than as timber.

Source: Associated Press

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