Appeal Challenges Old-growth Logging Near Grand Canyon

(Below is the press release from the Center for Biological Diversity.  Click here to download a copy of the appeal.  Photos of the Jacob Ryan project area, including old-growth trees aged by the Center and previously marked for logging by the Forest Service, can be seen and downloaded here. – mk)


Photo:  Center for Biological Diversity ecologist Jay Lininger displays the core of 180-year-old ponderosa pine marked for logging at the Jacob Ryan timber sale. Center photo.

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.— For the third time in a decade, the Center for Biological Diversity and Sierra Club today administratively appealed a 25,000-acre timber sale that is slated to log old-growth trees and forests on the Kaibab National Forest near Grand Canyon’s north rim.

Approved in January, this is the Forest Service’s fifth iteration of the Jacob Ryan timber sale since 2003, each plan seeking to log old-growth trees and forests. The Center and Sierra Club blocked two earlier iterations of the sale; the Forest Service voluntarily withdrew two others.

“This forest needs a limited amount of small-tree thinning to safely reintroduce natural fires, but for a decade the Forest Service has rejected common sense and opted instead to cut down old trees,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center. “The Jacob Ryan timber sale makes a mockery of forest restoration and exposes the need for leadership and reform within the Forest Service.

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Today’s appeal challenges logging of old-growth trees and argues that logging will not retain sufficient forest canopy to support the rare northern goshawk — a woodland raptor. A source population of goshawks lives on the Kaibab Plateau, where Jacob Ryan is located.  According to a Forest Service report, goshawks are “vulnerable to extirpation or extinction in Arizona.”

“It is just outrageous that the Forest Service is proposing for the fifth time to log these old growth and large trees, when we have so little remaining,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “The old growth and large trees make up less than 3 percent of our forests and are a critical component of healthy forests and essential for wildlife species such as the northern goshawk. In a real restoration project, they would be the centerpiece, not slated for logging.”

In its last failed attempt to implement the timber sale, the Forest Service in 2009 admitted violating its own management plan in response to a Center appeal. Center staff documented old-growth trees marked for cutting, despite bogus claimsby the Forest Service that it would protect old growth.

4 Comments

  1. “The old growth and large trees make up less than 3 percent of our forests”

    Which is probably the amount that was on the landscape in these dry forest types prior to settlement as previously suggested in the blog post prior to this.

    Doesn’t look like they are high grading that stand in the photos by any means. Save big trees for big trees sake? And on the save note, these groups scream that forests should be managed at a landscape scale. Mind boggling really…

    180 years is not that old. What definition of old growth are they using anyways?

    • Smokey: As you know, for most of the past century, 200-years was the minimum age for “old-growth.” Some forest scientists wanted the number bumped to 300-years or 400-years, in large part because so many 200-year old stands had come of age in the 1900s that they were becoming considered more middle-aged than “old.” Then logging after WW II took care of that problem, and 200-years went back to be the standard. 120 to 180 year old stands were considered “mature second-growth.”

      In the 1990s, “diameter screens” started becoming important to political activists, and their cohorts began arguing for an 80-year old “replacement” old-growth strategy. Kind of like kids going to college and then beginning to collect social security upon graduation, which type of perspective may have influenced their thinking. And next, the sapling yearning to become replacement old-growth, and the snag doing its best to become compost instead of lumber before the next fire hits: a non-declining even flow naturally functioning ecosystem in which all species are present, all age classes are represented, and people are banned.

  2. I’m sure I could find a 12″ dbh tree that could be called “old growth”, too. No one cries when a suppressed old tree is cut. The tree in the picture could easily have other factors which caused it to be marked. The tree might have VERY poor crown ratio. It might be loaded with mistletoe. It might be growing underneath another HUGE pine of the same age.

    I HAVE seen the devastation of the Warm Lake Fire, though (another example of Let-Burn’s “good intentions” gone horribly bad). There were few survivors/seed sources left. I have also seen the undisturbed portions of the Kaibab Plateau. They do look in need of management but, I don’t have a good handle on what they might need. Chances are, there is an excess of old trees, with poor form, and poorer health, along with the understory trees. Is there really anything wrong with restoring old growth densities to a more sustainable level, with warmer and drier conditions currently in effect?

    Also, the CBD seems not to care one iota if goshawk and owl nesting habitats are destroyed by catastrophic wildfires, like the Biscuit and Wallow Fires.

  3. I’d encourage people to look at the pictures. Indeed, it seems to be “thinning” the old growth, in one of the pictures. I can’t say whether they were good marks, or not, without seeing the crowns. Many years ago, we used to have a “high-risk” guideline that says if you think the tree is going to die in the next ten years, you mark it. The bark on those trees makes me think the trees are pretty decadent. One thing is for sure, you don’t need an increment borer to know those trees are bona fide “old growth”.

    It is a very hard thing to teach, that ability to take, or leave that “extra tree”. Early in my career, I had the experience of marking a patch of old growth that somehow was missed during the previous year’s prep stage, then seeing it after it was cut and skid two weeks later. It really was an eye-opener to see the results of our choices. I was very happy to point out the trees I decided to leave. The others on the marking crew didn’t have a lot to say about the upheaval. The trees were bigger than on the Kaibab but, I would hope they would have surgical precision in directional felling, careful skidding, and proper slash treaments.

    CBD selected their picture subjects well but, I don’t doubt that the Forest Service is using forest health as their need and purpose for the project. I’m sure a Judge will tire of discussions of spatial distributions of old growth, and the concepts of “native forest”.

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