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Conservation Groups Push Back on Medicine Bow Logging Plan

Critics say a U.S. Forest Service proposal for logging in the Medicine Bow National Forest will destroy habitat for the imperiled lynx and the elusive pine marten, a small forest carnivore in the weasel family. (Pixabay)
Critics say a U.S. Forest Service proposal for logging in the Medicine Bow National Forest will destroy habitat for the imperiled lynx and the elusive pine marten, a small forest carnivore in the weasel family. (Pixabay)
May 18, 2020

CHEYENNE, Wyo. -- Conservation groups are stepping back into the fray to stop the latest proposal by the U.S. Forest Service to allow logging on more than 300,000 acres of land, and bulldozing 600 miles of new roads, in the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming.

Connie Wilbert, director of the Sierra Club Wyoming Chapter, says the Forest Service's own project documents estimate significant long-term negative impacts from carving out roads and clear cutting some 95,000 acres.

"The impacts on wildlife habitat, on recreational uses, on water quality from increased erosion -- all of those kinds of impacts they admit could last as long as 50 years," she points out.

A similar proposal by the Forest Service last year was stalled after conservation groups filed official objections, and the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians have filed a second round of objections over the new proposal, projected to cost U.S. taxpayers nearly $250 million.

The Forest Service says the revised plan limits open roads to 75 miles at any given time, and contends that thinning forests increases resilience and reduces wildfire risk from beetle outbreaks.

Conservation groups say the Forest Service violated environmental disclosure laws by not identifying where within the nearly 1,000 square mile project area the agency plans to log or build roads. The groups say that data is necessary to evaluate the proposal's full impacts.

Wilbert says the Forest Service is on the wrong side of the best available science when it comes to reducing wildfire risk.

"What's wrong there is that the science does not support those contentions," she points out. "There have been a number of very recent, very current scientific research projects that have been published that do not support that conclusion."

The groups' official objection cites studies showing that drought and other weather conditions, not insects, are the most significant factor in determining fire behavior.

Disclosure: Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Climate Change/Air Quality, Endangered Species & Wildlife, Energy Policy. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY