Environmental groups sue over Klamath logging plan

SACRAMENTO - Two environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service in an attempt to block logging of large trees in the Klamath National Forest.

The Environmental Protection Information Center of Garberville and Ashland, Ore.-based Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center sued in federal court in Sacramento this week over the 1,026-acre Westpoint timber sale above the lower Scott River.

"The Klamath National Forest is actually targeting the big fire-resistant trees for logging, and leaving the brush and small diameter material which are the greatest fire risks," said KS Wild conservation director George Sexton.

Cutting bigger trees is permitted under the Northwest Forest Plan negotiated during the Clinton administration, said service spokesman Matt Mathes. The plan contained a compromise recognizing the economic needs of communities that traditionally depended on logging large trees, he said.

Logging would be on 53 parcels in two general areas: on Scott Bar Mountain east of the Lower Scott River, and in the headwaters of Middle Creek, near the northeast corner of the Marble Mountains Wilderness.

The lawsuit alleges the plan would increase fire risks while breaking up wildlife habitat and destroying old growth forest. Among species endangered would be the rare California Siskiyou Mountain salamander, the groups said.

Sexton contrasted the plan to the nearby Scott Bar Mountain Vegetation Management Project, also on the Scott River, where the service recently cleared small material from 360 acres and burned another 1,800 acres.

But the Westpoint sale also will improve fire management by clearing out small trees and brush as well as larger trees, so that prescribed fires can be used there as well, said Klamath forest spokesman Brian Harris.

The Scott is a tributary of the Klamath River, site of an ongoing battle between farmers, fishermen and Indian tribes over chronically scarce water.