January 25, 2018

Walton Lake Logging Stopped

Earthrise victory over Walton Lake logging once again prevents the Forest Service from clearcutting.

Thanks to the determined efforts of the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project and its attorneys, Earthrise co-director Tom Buchele and Earthrise alum Jesse Buss, the United States Forest Service is now 0-2 on its attempts to authorize clearcutting at Walton Lake.

The Forest Service has now twice unsuccessfully proposed to commercially log almost all of the large firs around Walton Lake, including the entire old growth fir forest located south and east of the lake that is supposed to be managed to protect scenic views.

In late 2015, the Forest Service initially had planned to rush the timber sale through with little opportunity for public scrutiny under a Categorical Exclusion, and by falsely claiming that all of its proposed logging was just “thinning.” However, the Forest Service dropped that initial proposal shortly after Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project (represented by Earthrise and Mr. Buss) sued them in federal court in August of 2016 and the District Court issued a preliminary injunction.

In March of 2017 the Forest Service revived the exact same sale with the release of a draft Environmental Assessment (“EA”) for public comment. Among the multiple legal flaws in that EA, it failed to acknowledge that the original timber sale contract from 2016 was still in place, indicating that the analysis in the EA was simply a sham designed to justify a logging decision that the Forest Service illegally made back in 2015. The Forest Service voluntarily withdrew its second logging proposal in late December, shortly after meeting with the Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project regarding its objections. That withdrawal was an unexpected but welcome development that will allow the public to enjoy Walton Lake with its scenic vistas intact, at least for the immediate future.