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Know the West

Salvage law haunts Utah

  Salvage law haunts Utah

When Forest Supervisor Janette Kaiser announced plans for a huge salvage timber sale on central Utah's Manti-La Sal National Forest in August, environmentalists thought they'd seen a ghost. The sale was approved under a law they thought long dead: the salvage logging rider. Now, they hope a recent agency decision will lay the law to rest for good.

Kaiser's South Manti sale had its roots in the early 1990s, when the Forest Service started plans to cut hundreds of acres of spruce trees that were being killed by bark beetles. The goal was to prevent catastrophic forest fires and allow the forest to regrow by removing dead and dying trees, says the agency's Don Fullmer.

In 1995, Congress passed the salvage logging law, and the Manti-La Sal completed six salvage sales under a quick environmental assessment. The law expired in December 1996, but in August, Supervisor Kaiser announced plans to sell another 22 million board feet of timber under the salvage EA.

"It's insane," said Dick Carter of the High Uintas Preservation Council. "There was no public review."

The Forest Service was required by law to complete an extensive environmental impact statement for the plan, according to Amelia Jenkins with the Wild Utah Forest Campaign. She maintained that salvage logging is unnecessary because bark beetles are an important part of the forest. "By impeding the progress of the beetle, we might seriously be impeding the forest of tomorrow," she said.

Jenkins, Carter and the Southwest Center for Biological Diversity appealed the sales. And on Nov. 7, Deputy Regional Forester Jack Troyer reversed Kaiser's decision. "If the bark beetle does its thing on a large scale, do I think it's good? No," he says. "Most people don't like to see gray forests." Still, he maintains the sale needs a closer look and further public comment. The Manti-La Sal should complete the environmental impact statement in a matter of months, he says. "You can expect to see this proposal in the future."

Send comments or questions to Janette Kaiser, Forest Supervisor, Manti-La Sal National Forest, 599 W. Price River Drive, Price, UT 84501, 801/637-2817 or call Amelia Jenkins at the Wild Utah Forest Campaign, 801/539-1355.

*Greg Hanscom