Environmental Groups Sue To Halt Southeast Timber Sales

July 14, 2000

Michael Johnsen

Environmental groups are suing the U.S. Forest Service to prevent the agency from allowing logging in national forests across the Southeast United States. Amoung the groups in the coalition is the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund. The Associated Press reperts that Eric Huber, an attorney for EasrthJustice, claims the Forest Service suspeded logging only in the 11th Circuit Court's jurisdiction of Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The Court's ruling in February 1999 halted the Forest Service's Southern Region 8 from approving seven timber sales in the Cattahoochee National Forests.

The coalition claims the Forest Service is ignoring the stay of timber sales. The Court ruled that the Forest Service had failed to comply with laws which would require the Forest Service to study the impact of logging on certain plants and animals. The agency had suspended 25 pending timber sales in the Chattahoochee until it reviewed its specie-monitoring program.

If successful the lawsuit will halt 86 logging projects in seven national forests. Timber companies have begun eyeing eastern forests as the northwestern forests, more commonly the domain of loggers in recent years, begin to dry up. Most of the forests on the east coast are second or third generation forests, many not more than 80 years old. These forests, with their young, smaller trees, would be sent to chipmills to produce particle board and other temporary wood products.

Industry may face even more pressure as environmental groups and the public resist logging on the densely populated east coast. Recreationalists are more frequent per mile in the eastern forests, thus increasing their value as a recreational commodity and challenging the less-economical logging interests. Also, established logging communties faded long ago in the east, when the last major logging pushed ended about 80 years ago. But this doesn't deter major logging companies which have already begun clearcutting in eastern forests in West Virginia and other Appalacian states. Parties interested in this issue are encouraged to become engaged in the public process to voice their opinions on logging east coast National Forests