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Removing Dangerous Trees From California Wildfire Blocked By Spotted Owl

U.S. Forest Officials have finally made the decision to allow loggers to remove trees left from an area hit by raging California wildfires last year, but environmentalists shot back, saying they will sue to protect the interests of the spotted owl.

The decision, released Wednesday, pits environmentalists against loggers over what is to be done with the dead trees still left over from last year’s blaze, the Associated Press reports. Scorching over 400 square miles of Yosemite National Park’s backcountry, Stanislaus National Forest and bleeding into other regions, the wildfire decimated 11 homes, costing around $125 million dollars to put out.

Supervisor Susan Skalski of Stanislaus National Forest stood by her decision to allow the logging.

“I did my best to balance all these important goals, with the intent of providing a decision that best serves the public interest. I realize that my decision will not please every member of the public,” she stated. Part of the reason for the move is for public safety, that is, ensuring that blackened and damaged trees don’t fall onto the roads and seriously injure people, but environmentalists pointed to the plight of the spotted owl as being a more worthy concern.

“This is an ecological travesty,” said Chad Hanson, a forest ecologist and founder of the John Muir Project, an environmentalist group. “It’s basically an extinction plan for the California spotted owl.”

Unhappy with Skalski’s decision, Hanson intends to drag the issue into court and to additionally file a federal petition requesting that the California spotted owl be listed as endangered. On the other hand, California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock was disappointed that the decision took so long in the first place, since it may be unlikely that the area receives any bids from the timber industry, now that the trees are in an advanced state of deterioration.

“They’ve taken so much time I’d be surprised they get any bids at all,” McClintock said. “If they did, it’s a fraction of the acreage that could have been salvaged.”

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