Injunction lifted in the Southwest

  A 16-month logging injunction on national forests in New Mexico and Arizona was lifted by a federal judge Dec. 4.


Judge Roger Strand ruled that the Forest Service had completed a biological opinion on how its forest plans would affect the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The decision means the agency can proceed with logging in the region, although forest officials say winter conditions in the mountains will limit most cuts until spring.


Environmentalists say the year-and-a-half stalemate was instrumental in getting the Forest Service to complete management guidelines that will protect what remains of the region's oldest trees.


"This injunction has given the forests a needed rest, and us a chance to show how the Forest Service has mismanaged public lands," says John Talberth of Forest Guardians, one of the plaintiffs.


Under the agency's new guidelines, no trees greater than 24 inches in diameter can be cut in the fir and pine forests preferred by spotted owls. And no commercial cutting is allowed within 600 acres surrounding spotted owl nesting areas. Timber industry officials say the guidelines will permanently hurt their industry.


But environmentalists say they are still concerned because the Forest Service will not follow its new guidelines for some 240 projects held up by the injunction. They have already brought another lawsuit to stop these projects, which include 80 timber sales. Agency officials contend the new guidelines apply only to future projects.


*Paul Larmer


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