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E-M:/ IMPORTANT: please use new version if possible, CE press release(fwd)



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Enviro-Mich message from Frank Ambrose <fambrose@bloomington.in.us>
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If you havent heard....
This will protect several places in most all National Forests. The Hoosier
probably does not have any of these sales, but the Huron-Manistee,
Hiawatha, and Ottawa definitely have several sales each. It is just a
matter of whether or not the operators have completed them yet.
 
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October 5, 1999

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 			contacts: Andy Mahler, Heartwood, 812.723.2430							  	              Matt Kenna, Attorney, 970.385.6941										  Jim Bensman, Heartwood, 618.259.3642

FEDERAL JUDGE HALTS LOGGING ON NATIONAL FORESTS

Benton, IL -  A Federal District Court judge from Illinois issued an injunction on Friday, October 1, 1999, canceling all timber sales on National Forest lands where the US Forest Service used a loophole to avoid environmental review.
This is the first time a federal judge has issued an injunction on the entire National Forest system. All Forest Service timber sales issued since September 16, 1998, under a provision called "Categorical Exclusion," were halted by the Court.
The Forest Service routinely used their "Categorical Exclusion" regulations to avoid the full environmental analysis normally required by federal law. Timber sales of up to a million board feet were illegally authorized under this provision. The Forest Service divided large timber sales into many small ones in order to sidestep public scrutiny and continue their logging program. 
Since the Forest Service used Categorical Exclusions not just locally, but nationwide, Federal District Court Judge Gilbert specifically ruled that "...any remedy ordered must also be national in scope." The decision continues, "...the Court believes that the continued application of this unlawful Categorical Exclusion does pose a potential danger both to the environment and to public health."
This decision affects National Forests from Alaska to Florida. Heartwood estimates the decision by Judge Gilbert will halt logging on more than 110,000 acres of National Forest land.
"The judge's ruling confirms what we have been saying all along," said Andy Mahler, Director of Heartwood, a regional forest protection network. "The US Forest Service has engaged in a pattern of illegal activity designed to increase logging, regardless of environmental damage, public opposition, and applicable law.  These sales are just the tip of the iceberg.  The entire timber sale program is illegal and should be stopped."
The decision states: "The Court cannot discover any meaningful analysis providing support for the [Forest Service's] conclusion that the Categorical Exclusion of timber harvests of this magnitude would not have cumulative effects on the environment."
"The Forest Service seized an opportunity to increase timber cuts while avoiding environmental and public review," said Mahler. "They attempted to expand harvest volumes by rewriting the rules governing Categorical Exclusions." Judge Gilbert called it, "...a classic example of an arbitrary decision... especially in light of the overwhelming opposition from both federal and state sources as well as the general public."
The lawsuit was brought by Heartwood, Jim Bensman, and Mark Donham .  Heartwood is an organization dedicated to the health and well-being of hardwood forests from Appalachia to the Ozarks and from the Great Lakes to the Deep South.
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Editor's note: The legal reference is: Heartwood, Jim Bensman, & Mark Donham v. United States Forest Service, No. 98-CV-4289-JPG (S.D. IL September 28, 1999) slip op at 33. Copies of this decision are available through the Heartwood office, 812-337-8898, http://www.heartwood.org.




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