Burning down the woods

  • Firefighters, Horseshoe fire near Flagstaff last May

    Sean Openshaw/Ariz. Daily
  An Arizona timber company that accidentally burned 8,000 acres on the Coconino National Forest last year will be allowed to bid on a salvage timber sale in the burned area.


The fire began in May 1996, in a smoldering slash pile left by Stone Forest Industries. The fire burned 8,000 acres north of Flagstaff and cost taxpayers more than $2 million to put out. Although Stone Forest Industries has admitted it was responsible, it didn't pay a dime; its contract with the Forest Service absolved the company of responsibility.


But allowing the company to bid on a 4 million board-foot salvage timber sale in the burned area burns Kieran Suckling, a staffer with the nonprofit Southwest Center for Biological Diversity. He compared the salvage sale to "mugging a burn victim. It's a terrible, terrible precedent to allow multinational timber corporations to set timber schedules through their own negligence," he said.


According to Allen Funkhouser, a Forest Service official who led a team investigating the fire, Stone Forest was innocent of negligence and arson. "In this case they followed all the procedures," Funkhouser said.


No one intentionally allowed the fire to spread, agreed Steve Bennett, Stone Forest Industries regional manager. Bennett said he called in a second investigating team from the company's headquarters in Columbia, S.C., which also found no evidence of arson.


That doesn't soothe Suckling. "I don't care if they went in with helicopters and X-rayed it," he said. "The bottom line is these guys burned down the forest."


The Southwest Center has temporarily stopped the sale with an appeal to the agency's regional office, arguing that allowing logging violates a newly amended forest plan. The plan requires salvage sales to leave 5 to 7 trees per acre for goshawks and endangered spotted owls, the Southwest Center says, and the Forest Service was planning to leave none.


Scott Ewers, a timber specialist for the agency, said the new plan doesn't apply to the salvage sale because the burned area is "a biological desert" and not goshawk or spotted owl habitat. Even if it were suitable habitat, Ewers said, the sale is exempt from the amended rules because the fire occurred before the new rules were in place.


Suckling said he expects he'll have to sue to stop the sale.


Meanwhile, the Forest Service doesn't want salvageable lumber to rot. "If we don't cut them in the next year, the product value goes to waste," Ewers said. "And the American public demands wood products for their homes and other uses."





*Jason Lenderman





High Country News Classifieds
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, WILDLANDS AND WILDLIFE PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-wildlands-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Wildlands and Wildlife Program Director Location: Portland or Eugene,...
  • DISCOUNT SOLAR PANELS
    New w/25 year warranty. Shipped anywhere in the lower 48. Minimum order of 10 units. Call, text or email for current prices. .50-.80/ watt
  • SWEET MOUNTAIN HOME
    3.8 acres in pine and fir forest on a year round creek. Custom home, 2x6 framing, radiant heat, wrap around decks and established berry patch....
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!