PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, May 21, 2004 (ENS):
Conservationists are appealing a federal district court
decision to allow the largest timber sale in the eastern
United States to go ahead. The appeal claims the the
logging of 8,100 acres of native hardwoods in the Allegheny
National Forest is planned to clear the area for plantations
of black cherry trees.
The Allegheny Defense Project joined with Heartwood,
the National Forest Protection Alliance, the Sierra
Club, the Pennsylvania Environmental Network, Communities
for Sustainable Forestry and several individuals in
appealing to the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia.
The appeal claims that the U.S. Forest Service has
violated a provision in the National Forest Management
Act prohibiting the management of timber on national
forests primarily for financial incentives.
The conservation groups are challenging the Forest
Service’s decision to approve widespread clearcutting
and herbicide use as part of the East Side Timber Sale.
They say wildlife habitat will be fragmented by the
logging and road development.
The groups claim that in pushing conversion of native
northern hardwood forests, the U.S. Forest Service has
ignored forest health risks created by black cherry
“The Bush administration is turning its back
on ‘Healthy Forests’ by promoting the conversion
of native northern hardwood forests to a mono-crop of
black cherry trees,” said Phil Coleman, chair
for the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“The East Side Timber Sale serves the timber
industry and their export mills but it does not serve
wildlife or the public. The use of clearcuts and herbicides
to promote a mono-crop of black cherry trees violates
the concept of multiple use.”
Preferential management for black cherry creates "an
unprecedented forest health problem,” said Ryan
Talbott, forest watch coordinator with the Allegheny
Defense Project. “Forest Service scientists have
documented that stands dominated by black cherry are
more susceptible to defoliating insects, windthrow,
and plant biodiversity problems and less valuable as
"Large scale monocultures of black cherry trees
are unnatural, and cannot be maintained without heavy
doses of pesticides and chemical fertilizers,”
said Jim Bensman of Heartwood. "Why should U.S.
taxpayers subsidize the timber industry through the
destruction of a public resource initially intended
to protect water quality?”
President of the Pennsylvania Environmental Network
Bill Belitskus said, “The long term economic health
of northwestern Pennsylvania is not served by converting
one of its greatest environmental and tourist assets
into a monoculture of black cherry.”
The groups' appeal seeks to overturn a decision issued
by District Court Judge William Standish III on March
23, 2004, in Pittsburgh, which followed three years
of briefings and arguments which at various points resulted
in victories for both sides.
In the original recommendation in September 2002, Magistrate
Judge Ila Sensenich found that, “Plaintiffs have
produced an abundance of evidence that Defendants chose
the even-aged management system over other harvest alternatives
because it best fostered the growth of black cherry,
the most lucrative tree…”.
That decision was later withdrawn without explanation
and a new Recommendation was issued by Magistrate Judge
Sensenich on December 23, 2003, which found for the
Defendant Forest Service despite finding the adoption
of management for black cherry “troubling.”
The appeal comes one week before conservationists begin
their summer campaign to limit logging in national forests.
To launch the “Defending Forests, Defending Freedoms
National Summer Kickoff” members of the Allegheny
Defense Project will lead a media tour of Allegheny
forest areas at risk on May 26.
The conservationists are concerned that Agriculture
Secretary Ann Veneman used Earth Day "to promote
greater access for the timber industry" in the
Allegheny, Pennsylvania’s only national forest.
Veneman spoke to an audience at the Timberline Salvage
Project in Kane, Pennsylvania on April 22, hosted by
Kane Hardwood Company. She said, "Kane has undertaken
progressive efforts to sustainably manage its land while
also working with us on management activities to make
the forests and communities in Western Pennsylvania
healthy. This produces jobs and it helps grow the local
economy, and it does so in harmony with some important
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2004. All Rights