Thanks to Terry Seyden for this..
In our previous pieces here and here on this litigation, I wondered a bit why the power users in Phoenix, and the townspeople of the Village of Ruidoso should suffer because of an issue between WEG and the FS on monitoring. Apparently, WEG did see it the same way. Good on them.
I still don’t understand the mechanics of how power line maintenance could harm the owl, maybe someone can enlighten me.
Group Won’t Interfere With Thinning
By Rene Romo / Journal South Reporter on Tue, Jan 17, 2012
LAS CRUCES — Despite winning a federal court order last week halting three forest-thinning projects to avoid harm to the Mexican spotted owl, WildEarth Guardians will not stand in the way of urgently needed work to reduce fire danger, a spokesman said.
The Jan. 5 court order halted two tree-thinning projects in Arizona and, in New Mexico, a project known as Perk-Grindston aimed at reducing fuel loads by tree removal and controlled burns on about 5,000 acres of the Lincoln National Forest on the south and west sides of Ruidoso.
Treating the forest west or southwest of Ruidoso is a high priority because winds that generally blow to the northeast could carry a wildfire into housing developments.
Ruidoso’s municipal forestry director Dick Cooke said while “a good portion” of the Perk-Grindstone project approved in mid-2008 has been completed, more work remains. The village also has treated about 80 acres of land within city limits.
“There’s been quite a bit done, but there’s still much to do,” Cooke said. “I would say the risk of wildfire on that side of the village is still high.”
In Arizona, some of the work halted involved removing hazards from tree growth along power lines. A tree that fell across power lines in late June was blamed for sparking the Las Conchas Fire, which burned more than 156,000 acres near Los Alamos and destroyed dozens of homes in the Cochiti Canyon area.
Bryan Bird, a program director for WildEarth Guardians, said the organization is negotiating with government attorneys and the Forest Service “to assure that the maintenance of the power lines will continue without harming the owl” and before the start of the owl’s breeding season in March.
“They (the Forest Service) need to get started immediately on that, and we understand that and we are being flexible in that matter,” Bird said.
In the Ruidoso area, Bird said, WildEarth Guardians is working to ensure the injunction halts only work that could affect nesting sites “so the Forest Service can continue with thinning where it doesn’t hurt the owl.”
WildEarth Guardians alleged in the 2010 suit that the Forest Service had failed to monitor the population of the Mexican spotted owl as required by a 2005 agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Bird said without maintaining counts of the owls, the impact of thinning projects on the owl cannot be determined.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal