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Danger tree removal on hold

Lawsuit blocks USFS logging

The Willamette National Forest has withdrawn plans to log fire damaged trees along federal roads.

Last August, the Willamette 2020 Fires Roadside Danger Tree Reduction decision had authorized the felling of fire-killed or injured trees which the agency said posed a danger to roads and people traveling along them across about 404 miles of road affected by the Holiday Farm, Beachie Creek, and Lionshead fires that occurred in 2020.

Officials said the purpose of the project was to provide for access and improved safety along Forest System roads within the fire burned areas and would reopen them as quickly as possible for public and administrative use.

The felled trees would have been used for a variety of purposes. Some would have stayed on-site to reduce the risk of sediment run off and provide wildlife habitat, some may have been used for restoration projects as fish and wildlife habitat logs, while others would have been sold to local mills to become wood products, offered through permits for firewood to the local community, or given to Tribes for cultural use.

On August 18, 2021, four environmental interest groups filed two lawsuits against the Forest Service challenging the Danger Tree decision memo. In the complaints they claimed violations under the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act.

Following the complaints, motions for preliminary injunction to forestall the implementation of the project were filed and heard by the District Court of Oregon on September 17th and November 3rd, 2021, respectively.

United States District Court Judge McShane issued an opinion and order on November 5th, 2021, granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction and enjoined the Forest Service from felling any trees with a likely or low failure potential and from removing any felled trees.

With the withdrawal, David Warnack Willamette Forest Supervisor, said he’d decided it was, “In the best interest of the public to limit the continued time and expense associated with ongoing litigation surrounding this project.”

Warnack said work to safely restore public access to areas burned in the 2020 Labor Day fires would continue to be top priority. “Upon withdrawal of this decision, my staff will conduct another review of the purpose and need of this project and will consider a new approach to addressing this important issue,” he added.


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