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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Colville National Forest logging project can move forward, appeals court says

An environmental group trying to stop a logging project on the Colville National Forest was dealt another setback last week, when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals denied its request for an emergency injunction.

Friday’s ruling against the Alliance for the Wild Rockies upholds a ruling last month by a U.S. District Court judge, who also declined to halt the project.

The A to Z sale is among the first of its kind nationally. The Forest Service contracted with a sawmill owner, Vaagen Brothers Lumber Co., to thin trees and do restoration work on 54,000 acres of the Colville forest.

The 10-year contract includes harvesting 30 million to 50 million board feet of timber, controlled burns, stream restoration and road maintenance work to reduce erosion.

Vaagen Brothers was also responsible for hiring a consultant to do the environmental review for the project, which had to comply with federal law.

The area targeted for the work burned in the 1920s and the surviving trees were logged off, according to the Forest Service. Decades of fire suppression prevented natural thinning of the forest that grew back. That resulted in dense, unhealthy forests with trees stressed from disease, insect attacks and drought, Forest Service officials said.

Vaagen Brothers employs about 200 people at its mills in Usk and Colville, and the project has broad support in Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. The Northeast Forestry Coalition, which includes timber interests and several other environmental groups, says that careful logging and restoration work will make the forest healthier.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, however, said the environmental review wasn’t thorough enough and that proposed logging will damage streams and wildlife habitat.

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