Kulongoski petitions for protection

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced Friday afternoon that he would seek a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in San Francisco to stop Uncle Sam from moving forward with the Mike's Gulch salvage sale.

The request is based on the Bush administration's adoption of the 2005 regulations that repealed the 2001 Clinton administration roadless rules, but gave governors 18 months to petition for continued protection of roadless areas in their states. Petitions must be filed before December.

"This timber sale, coming four years after the Biscuit Fire occurred, is unneeded and unwise," Kulongoski said in a prepared statement. "Opening this particular roadless area to salvage logging now — when we are in the process of preparing a petition to the federal government on the proper management of those areas — contradicts the assurances the Bush Administration has made that the governors' opinions on such issues will be respected."

Oregon, along with Washington, California and New Mexico, earlier this year filed suit in federal court over the repeal of the 2001 roadless rule and the adoption of the 2005 rule. Oral arguments in that case are expected Aug. 1.

In addition, the Siskiyou Regional Education Project, along with the Eugene-based Cascadia Wildlands Project and other environmental groups, has also requested a temporary restraining order in U.S. District Court in Medford.

That request is based on new information that has surfaced which includes studies showing the burned areas are regenerating naturally following the 2002 Biscuit fire, explained Chip Dennerlein, executive director of the Siskiyou Project.

Forest Service surveys indicating that the burned areas are understocked with new young trees are wrong, he said, noting he also believes the agency made a mistake in concluding no new information has surfaced regarding the salvage project.

"I think we have a good chance in court," he said. "All you have to do is walk on the ground. . . .I think there is substantial new information to reconsider."

Lesley Adams, outreach coordinator with the Ashland-based Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, agreed.

"This isn't about burned forests anymore," she said. "This is about roadless areas. The majority of Americans want roadless areas protected."

She believes the Bush administration has lied about its roadless area plans, citing a Sept. 15, 2005 letter by Mark Rey, Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment for the Department of Agriculture, to the New York Times in which he wrote "We are providing interim protection to roadless areas, pending the development of state-specific rules provided for in our 2005 rulemaking."

In a related development, Oregon's 4th District Congressman Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, took Rey to task in a letter to Rey earlier this week, reminding him of the 2005 letter.

"I note, in the event that you are not aware, that you have not yet developed a state-specific rule for Oregon," DeFazio wrote in asking that the federal government back off on the Mike's Gulch sale until the state has its say.

Although Forest Service officials have maintained the Biscuit project has been delayed by litigation, Adams and others say the agency, pushed by the timber industry, dropped its original plan to harvest 100 million board feet of salvage and replaced it with a plan that calls for some 370 million board feet. That increase prompted their opposition, they say.

The Forest Service should be concentrating on projects that unite communities, not tear them apart, Adams said.

"They can and should be working toward the common ground that exists," she said. "They should be developing projects that employ people, have strong environmental protections and provide wood projects that unite our communities."

Dominick DellaSala, a forest ecologist who heads the World Wildlife Fund's Southwest Oregon office, said there would have been no roadless salvage if the agency had stayed with the smaller harvest.

"The Bush administration said they would not enter the roadless area until the governors had a chance to have their say," he said. "They lied. Now they are rolling over state government."

"This is where you have to quote Abraham Lincoln, who once said, 'I didn't say my opponent was a liar. I observed that he doesn't seem to know the difference between the truth and a lie," Dennerlein said.