Some timber cutting has resumed in the Southwest's national forests, Christmas trees and all. An Oct. 19 agreement reached between environmentalists and the Forest Service frees up about 30 million board-feet of timber for harvesting.
The negotiations came after a federal
judge in August halted logging on national forests in Arizona and
New Mexico until the Forest Service updates its management plans to
protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl (HCN, 9/4/95).
The agreement resolves a contentious dispute
over the injunction. Agency officials initially interpreted it to
restrict all logging, including harvesting for firewood and
Christmas trees. The Phoenix Gazette ran a Sept. 1 front-page story
complete with a picture of a dejected Christmas tree cutter.
Environmentalists countered with their own publicity, saying they
only sought to stop projects that affect the spotted owl. "Our suit
was about the timber industry," says Kieran Suckling of the
Southwest Center for Biological Diversity. "What (the Forest
Service) did was close down all projects ... in order to create
The agreement, which allows about
1,000 non-commerical projects and 15 commercial ones to proceed,
will have little impact on the spotted owl, Suckling says. Forest
Service spokesman Art Morrison says as part of the deal the agency
will not appeal the court-imposed injunction, which still covers
some 70 million board-feet of timber.