Conservation groups challenge USFS logging plan that could take down old-growth trees on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau

Ancient ponderosa pines marked for logging in the Kaibab National Forest. PHOTO COURTESY CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.

Conservation groups have blocked similar logging plans twice before

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — For all the talk of restoration and ecoystem protection, the U.S. Forest Service sometimes still seems intent on logging old-growth timber. Sparking the latest showdown, the agency in January approved a 25,000-acre timber sale in the Kaibab National Forest, near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Conservation groups challenging the project say it could harm rare, threatened species like northern goshawks. A source population of goshawks lives on the Kaibab Plateau. According to a Forest Service report, goshawks are “vulnerable to extirpation or extinction in Arizona.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club have appealed the timber sale for the third time in a decade. The Forest Service has tried five different variations of the timber sale. Two were blocked by appeals and litigation, while the Forest Service withdrew the other two previous proposals.

“This forest needs a limited amount of small-tree thinning to safely reintroduce natural fires, but for a decade the Forest Service has rejected common sense and opted instead to cut down old trees,” said Jay Lininger, an ecologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Jacob Ryan timber sale makes a mockery of forest restoration and exposes the need for leadership and reform within the Forest Service.”

The appeal challenges logging of old-growth trees and argues that logging will not retain sufficient forest canopy to support the rare northern goshawk.

“It is just outrageous that the Forest Service is proposing for the fifth time to log these old growth and large trees, when we have so little remaining,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon (Arizona) Chapter. “The old growth and large trees make up less than 3 percent of our forests and are a critical component of healthy forests and essential for wildlife species such as the northern goshawk. In a real restoration project, they would be the centerpiece, not slated for logging.”

In its last failed attempt to implement the timber sale, the Forest Service in 2009 admitted violating its own management plan in response to a Center appeal. Center staff documented old-growth trees marked for cutting, despite bogus claims by the Forest Service that it would protect old growth.

To download a copy of the appeal, click here.

Photos of the Jacob Ryan project area, including old-growth trees aged by the Center and previously marked for logging by the Forest Service, can be seen and downloaded here.


8 thoughts on “Conservation groups challenge USFS logging plan that could take down old-growth trees on Arizona’s Kaibab Plateau

  1. This reads as though there are hands in the cookie jar. Even admitting that they violated their own management plan. Time to call in the disease control people, this destructive environmental virus is too big to ignore.

  2. Bob- I wish you would get both sides of the story. CBD is notorious for misinformation. Real journalism is supposed to present both sides to an argument in an unbiased fashion, according to the Society for Professional Journalists ( This is just a propaganda piece with very little factual content.

    1. I hope the FS altered this proposal to stay away from valuable habitat and the oldest trees. The way I see it, CBD is one of the few things that stands between us and total environmental disaster. I know what you’re saying, but when the CBS says something is amiss with a proposal, I tend to give it some credence. I know they’re not always right, but it seems the courts often agree with them in the interpretation of the law. That said, I should have informed myself a bit more about this specific version of the proposed timber sale.

      1. Bob- Thanks for your response. I know it is not possible to research every story. Here is an illustration of my point regarding the veracity of CBD. This particular project has been designed according to thinning prescriptions formulated by the country’s leading northern goshawk experts. Dr. Richard Reynolds has been monitoring the Kaibab Plateau goshawk population every summer for more than 20 years ( The thinning prescriptions for this project were designed by Reynolds to promote the best desired conditions for goshawk and their prey species. CBD, with no scientific support, tells people this project will destroy the goshawk. That is inaccurate and highly misleading.

        1. Interesting story. I know the CBD has been working collaboratively with the FS and community stakeholders on designing forest health and restoration projects in the SW — that’s another reason I earmarked this press release, just kinda thinking that, if they’re on board with some, but not this one, maybe there are some question marks. Sometimes I use stories like this as a placeholder to myself to follow up.

  3. I detect many falsehoods associated with the photo displayed here. First, the trees marked are highly unlikely to be over 70 years old. I am almost that old, and only the very rude, naive or ignorant would describe that as ancient.
    Second, the tree NOT marked in the center is probably around 130 years old, and should be saved as it will help to regrow the entire area through its natural seeding.
    Third, no mention is made of the fact that Ponderosa pines only regrow after a series of at least two years snow and ice cover in an area occurs.
    Fourth, thinning is necessary for forest health, fire control, and protection of communities. It looks totally reasonable to clean up dense stands like this, saving the healthy larger trees to regrow the forest – which will absolutely require further thinning and management. Not every tree cut is a crime against nature and the universe.
    The horror stories invented by the Center For Biological Diversity and the lies told about images that anyone knowledgeable in this area would recognize are dishonest and unethical.
    They should be ashamed for tagging that image in that way. It is of merit that you publish it exactly as it is – it shows that these groups will use any means to accomplish their ends, which are vague in the extreme. Extreme is indeed the only word that can be applied to this tactic.

  4. If that photograph is factually accurate as to how the sale is marked, the trees in my urban neighborhood are ancient. The marked trees are no older than I am, and I am not old growth. Further, the selection greatly matches parameters for healthy old-growth spacing. So I seriously question the credibility of CBD and Sierra Club on this issue.

    1. Your analysis of this issue is correct. Ponderosa pines have a life expectancy of 400-700 years and tend to replenish themselves quite nicely. They are a final growth stage forest, preventing other tree species from flourishing within their immediate area. When the so-called environmentally concerned organizations resort to calling every image and every action a danger to the environment, their credibility is permanently damaged. They need to stick to attacking industries discharging toxic waste into the air and water from chemical plants and leave plant species in the forests to the experts in the public agencies.

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