WNF ordered to halt timber sales

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 6, 2004

Before the cry of "Timber!" echoes through the hills again, a federal judge will have to determine if the Wayne National Forest violated any federal laws as alleged by two environmentalist groups.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott issued a temporary restraining order against the Wayne National Forest that prohibits all logging and other ground disturbing activities from continuing on four timber sales within Lawrence County.

The Markin Fork, Bluegrass, Greenville and Telegraph timber sales have all been halted until further notice.

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In response to a motion from representatives for the Buckeye Forest Council and Heartwood Inc., Judge Dlott ordered the stop pending an Aug. 18 hearing. The judge will hear arguments from both sides and determine whether to issue an injunction barring further action by the forest until the lawsuit has been decided.

Markin Fork and Bluegrass Timber Sales were suspended in 1997 but resumed in August 2003.

The other two "salvage sales" were planned more recently to reduce fuel components from damaged timber left standing and on the ground following, said Ironton District Ranger Gloria Chrismer.

"There is still a lot of damaged timber out there that continues to fall," Chrismer said. "We have done a lot of cleanup on the roads and trails in the past year and debris continues to fall. I don't expect that to end soon."

The lawsuit by the Buckeye Forest Council and Heartwood was brought against the Wayne and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last April alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. The Forestry Service contends that it followed all applicable laws and regulations.

"We hope to see this wrapped up soon," Chrismer said. "It is out of our hands. We just have to wait and see what happens."

Further details cannot be discussed while the matter is in litigation, according to forest service representatives.