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 hysteria."
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.