A federal judge on Friday ruled against an environmental group seeking an emergency injunction to stop a logging project in the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington.
The project, known as A to Z, is the first of its kind. It’s a 10-year project that includes a contract with Vaagen Brothers Lumber Co. to thin trees and do road maintenance and stream restoration work over 54,000 acres. The contract also calls for Vaagen Brothers to do environmental reviews for the proposed work.
Work began in the forest in June.
Attorneys for the Alliance for the Wild Rockies argued that the U.S. Forest Service should be required to do a full environmental impact statement on the proposed project, not just an environmental analysis. They also said the project will irreparably harm the forest by increasing stream sediments and removing trees needed for wildlife habitat.
Attorney Brian Ertz said the project would block the group’s members from enjoying the undisturbed forest. “The trees are coming down,” he said. “That’s harmful to our members.”
Attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service countered that repairs to existing roads in the area would reduce sediment in the streams and that the overall benefits in the reduction of fire and disease outweighed any impacts.
Attorney Lawson Fite, who represents Pend Oreille and Stevens counties, said the project is vital to the communities he represents. It brought together environmental groups, elected officials and a lumber company to work toward a common goal, he said.
“They all agree this land needs restoration,” he said. “This type of collaborative process is in the public interest.”
Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson said a preliminary injunction is an “extraordinary and drastic remedy,” and the Alliance did not prove the required elements needed to grant an injunction.
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