Forests worth fighting for

  • Controversial timber sales map

    Diane Sylvain

Note: This article is a sidebar to a feature story.

While acts of civil disobedience have captured much of the media spotlight, environmentalists throughout the West have also waged countless smaller battles - by letter, lawsuit and protest - since the passage of the salvage rider. Here are some of the region's most contentious sales to date. Misery, China Left and other colorful names usually come from creative combinations of place names:


There haven't been many outright protests in Arizona, says Peter Galvin of the Southwest Forest Alliance, but environmental groups have sponsored "show-of-force" tours of the Bridger Salvage Sale (1), a proposed sale in the Kaibab National Forest near the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Activists elsewhere are waiting to hear about $8,000 worth of bids they placed on the Rustler Salvage Sale (2) in the Coronado National Forest and are preparing for a flood of salvage sales if an injunction against logging in Mexican spotted owl habitat is lifted this fall. Activists predict several acres will be logged then, including Mount Graham (3), also in the Coronado, and perhaps the Horseshoe Fire (4) in the Coconino National Forest. "The Forest Service is itching to make up for lost time," says Galvin.


Other than the action at Headwaters, a long-standing protest site on private land in Humboldt County, California environmentalists haven't practiced much civil disobedience this year. That's because there haven't been any terribly ecologically damaging sales logged since the rider, says Paul Spitler of the Western Ancient Forest Campaign. But plenty are slated: The campaign recently released a report listing 28 of the worst California sales under the rider, seven of which are now delayed due to a directive from Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman concerning salvage sales in roadless areas. Five to watch: the Pilot Creek Sale (1) in the Six Rivers National Forest, the Canon Sale (2) in the Klamath National Forest; the Misery Sale (3) in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest; the Blands/Steel Salvage Sale (4) in the Mendocino National Forest; and the Poison Spring Salvage Sale (5) in the Modoc National Forest. Some are outright salvage sales while others are "Option 9" sales from Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan, which were released under the rider.


Despite the arrests of five activists who locked themselves together on the roof of the Republican headquarters in Denver, and the ongoing protests at a privately owned ranch near San Luis, Colorado has been fairly quiet. But activists say they're expecting more action soon: Hot sales are the South Wagonwheel Salvage Sale (1), one of six salvage sales in the White River National Forest planned within a few miles of the Flattops Wilderness; the Illinois Creek Salvage Sale (2) in the Gunnison National Forest, recently withdrawn because of Glickman's directive; and several sales in the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest such as the Bear Gulch Salvage Sale (3), a 2.2 million board-foot sale that environmentalists say will disrupt deer, elk and cutthroat trout habitat.


"It seemed like the intent of the (Glickman directive) was to take controversial sales off the list," says Larry McLaud of the Idaho Conservation League. "It pretty much did that in Idaho." According to activists, several of the biggest and baddest sales - Fish Bate (1), White Pine (2) and West Papoose (3) in the Clearwater National Forest, the Upper Swiftwater (4) and the Middle Fork (5) in the Nez Perce National Forest, plus four in the Panhandle National Forest - were all pulled back because of the Agriculture Secretary's memo. However, two more in the Panhandle - Barney Rubble's Cabin (6) and Skookum (7) - are still planned and could become a future site of protests. McLaud says there have been some visible protests in Idaho, most notably the blockade at Cove-Mallard (which is not a salvage sale), a demonstration of some 20 people at the Forest Service district office handling the Barney Rubble's Cabin sale and several Boise gatherings. But many environmentalists warn that the directive is only a temporary break since the sales will be offered again as regular sales; Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, has also asked the agency to exempt several sales from the directive. "This is just a little reprieve until the death sentence finally comes," says Barry Rosenberg of the Inland Empire Public Lands Council.


Like the rest of the Northern Rockies, Montana was hit hard by the salvage program. There were no forest blockades but two large demonstrations were held in Bozeman against the Hyalite II Sale (1), a 4.5 million board-foot sale planned in a popular recreation area just south of the city. "Sometimes you have to bring the fight into the city to bring it into people's living rooms," says Michael Bader of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. That sale, along with the Middle Fork Ecosystem Project (2) in the Flathead National Forest, have now been pulled back due to Glickman's directive or other concerns. But, according to activists, many of the worst sales were too far along to be canceled. One of those is the Wagner-Atlanta Sale (3), a 7.4 million board-foot sale in the Helena National Forest which is now being logged. Activists had planned a blockade there, but those plans fell through after too many protesters were arrested at Cove-Mallard, says Rob Ament of American Wildlands. Environmentalists are also concerned about two sales in the Kootenai National Forest, the North Fork Fire Recovery Sale (4) and the South Fork Yaak Sale (5), two sales they say will harm the area's grizzly population.


The main sale to watch in Nevada is the Genoa Sale(1) in the Toiyabe National Forest, a salvage sale slated at some 10 million board-feet. When the area was logged back in the late 1800s, landslides devastated the small community of Genoa just east of Lake Tahoe. This time, town residents are organized: They recently presented the Forest Service with a petition showing that 350 households opposed the sale, says John Hennigson of Concerned Citizens of Genoa. Hennigson's group also brought in four outside consulting firms; each study concluded the steep slopes and location just above town made the timber sale too hazardous. The area also contains rare remnant populations of sugar pine. Hennigson says he doesn't know of any other contentious sales in the state: "We have only two trees in Nevada," he quips, "and they're going to take both of them."


Long-standing disputes between environmentalists and local Hispanics over firewood cutting, locally owned mills and the Mexican spotted owl (HCN, 12/25/95) make forest protests in New Mexico difficult at best. In August, Sam Hitt of Forest Guardians found himself hanged in effigy - for the third time - during a tour of La Manga (1), a green sale that includes 500 acres of towering old-growth ponderosa pines. The second most controversial sale is the HB (2) sale on a 10,000 foot-high peak in the Gila National Forest. It burned on the same day that President Clinton signed the salvage rider into law. Environmentalists believe the fire was intentionally set and have charged Forest Service officials with letting the fire burn to justify salvage logging in a roadless area (HCN, 3/4/96). Though the sale was pulled after Glickman issued his directive, environmentalists fear it may be one the agency exempts. "If the Forest Service proceeds with that sale," warns Galvin, "there will be a blockade similar to Warner Creek." A third sale that has environmentalists fuming is the proposed Dome Sale (3), a salvage sale in a roadless area that will harvest some 140,000 trees charred during last spring's fire in the Santa Fe National Forest.


Oregon's year of protest began with a bang, thanks in part to a sale that didn't fall under the salvage rider. The Sugarloaf Sale (1) was a green timber sale that President Clinton's Northwest Forest Plan failed to protect. But because it was being cut as the president signed the rider, it became mired in the salvage-rider debate. Activists staged protests that resulted in hundreds of arrests; attention then moved to a half-dozen old-growth sales authorized by the rider on the west side of the Cascades including Roman Dunn (2) near Eugene, Tobe West (3) near Corvallis, Enola Hill (4) on the flanks of Mount Hood, the First and Last (5) sales in the Umpqua National Forest, China Left (6) in the Siskiyou National Forest, and Red 90 (7) and Horse Byar's (8) east of Salem. Oregon was ground zero for the salvage logging rider, activists say, not only because of the number of controversial sales, but also because of the sophistication and energy of the state's environmental community.


Utah recently experienced its first Earth First! protest at the federal building in Salt Lake City. Although only a few dozen people showed up, quite a few timber sales have raised the ire of Utahns, says Mark Clemens of the Sierra Club. The largest is the South Manti Salvage Sale (1), described by activist Dick Carter as a "very stupid and arrogant sale." At 70 million board-feet, it's the largest Forest Service timber sale in the history of Utah; according to the Western Ancient Forest Campaign, it ignores logging levels for the Manti-La Sal National Forest. But according to Carter, the worst sale is the Round Park/Lost Creek Sale (2), a 26 million board-foot salvage sale next to designated wilderness in the High Uintas. Two other contentious sales are the Roadshed Sale (3) in the Ashley National Forest, a 9 million board-foot sale in goshawk habitat, and the Chimney Park Sale (4) in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, a smaller sale that will harvest one of Utah's rare ponderosa pine stands.


Washington got an early taste of civil disobedience last winter when more than 100 protesters were arrested at the Caraco Cat (1) and Rocky Brook (2) sales on the Olympic Peninsula. Environmentalists have also staged several rallies in Seattle and one protest at the office of Rep. Norm Dicks, a Democrat who activists say was instrumental in passing the rider. Environmentalists have fought sales in conservative and rural eastern Washington through more mainstream tactics, even bidding on one sale called Thunder Mountain (3). "Then the eye of the storm went south and hovered over Oregon," says Mitch Friedman of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance. Friedman adds that Washington got a further reprieve when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals canceled 45 percent of the Northwest's green timber sales (known as 318 sales) to protect the threatened marbled murrelet. Many worry the storm will soon return: Friedman says several Option 9 sales in the Gifford-Pinchot National Forest, such as the Walupt (4) and 20/35 (5) sales could become hotbeds of activism if the agency proceeds as planned this fall.


The two main sales that concern environmentalists in Wyoming are the Ellsbury (1) and Gravelbar (2) sales in the Shoshone National Forest. Both of these sales have been through agency somersaults: They were originally offered as green sales but shelved because of environmental concerns. After the rider passed, they were reissued as salvage sales. Then, after Glickman's directive, they were pulled again, though it only took the agency a few weeks to reissue them as green sales. Environmentalists say the sales will destroy important habitat for grizzly bears and cutthroat trout.

For more information ...

Western Ancient Forest Campaign released a July report that describes 266 of the most controversial timber sales offered under the salvage rider. For a copy of America's Forests at Risk, contact WAFC at 1101 14th Street NW #1400, Washington, D.C. 20005 (202/789-2844 ext. 291). Another report specifically covers the Northern Rockies: For a copy of Protecting Your Public Lands, contact the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, P.O. Box 8731, Missoula, MT 59807 (406/542-0050).

Elizabeth Manning, HCN assistant editor

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