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Know the West

Injunction shakes forests

  Federal judges sided with environmentalists in July, ruling that the U.S. Forest Service has failed to make good on its promise to protect endangered species in Southwestern forests and streamside areas.


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a six-week ban on over 20 timber sales and barred grazing on 11 Southwestern forests. The July 25 injunction will remain in place while judges consider charges that the Forest Service has not complied with forest plans revised last year to protect the Mexican spotted owl, the southwestern willow flycatcher and other species (HCN, 2/3/97).


The Forest Service told ranchers Aug. 1 that the court decision would affect roughly half of the 1,365 grazing allotments in the region. But almost one month later, the cows are still in the forests. Agency officials say they need time to determine which grazing allotments will be affected by the injunction.


The agency's "glacial pace" is its way of buying time, says John Horning of the advocacy group Forest Guardians. "They realize they have major violations of the Endangered Species Act, but they don't want to kick the cows off mid-season."


"Just taking all the cows off doesn't make any sense," counters the Forest Service's Pat Jackson. "(Environmental-ists) seem to think you snap your fingers and change the world overnight. It just doesn't work that way."


The Forest Service was to have decided by the end of August which grazing permits will change. If the agency doesn't act quickly, says Horning, his group will be back in court. "The remedy is pretty simple," he says. "They just need to get the cows out of riparian areas."


*Greg Hanscom