PENNSYLVANIA Agency revives stalled logging request
The logging would affect about 8,000 of the forest's 513,000 acres.
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The U.S. Forestry Service is asking a federal judge to restart a stalled logging project in the Allegheny National Forest.
The Forestry Service proposed logging about 8,000 acres in the 513,000-acre forest in part to deal with tree mortality from insects, disease and drought. The plan has been on hold since 2001, when opponents sued.
The project could be worth millions of dollars to the economy of the communities in and around Pennsylvania's only national forest. The 800-square-mile forest lies in Elk, Forest, McKean and Warren counties in northwestern Pennsylvania.
The opponents, led by the Allegheny Defense Project, contend among other things that the Forestry Service violated the National Forest Management Act by basing its decision primarily on profit. The act requires that national forests be managed for "multiple use," including recreation and timber.
The Forestry Service denies those accusations.
Magistrate Judge Ila Jeanne Sensenich made a recommendation siding with the Forestry Service. She recommended that nine of the opponents' 10 claims be dismissed.
The Allegheny Defense Project has asked District Judge William L. Standish to disregard Judge Sensenich's recommendations.
Forestry Service response
In a response filed with Judge Standish this week, attorneys for the Forestry Service said opponents "have demonstrated an utter failure to comprehend" that the project plans "are only one small element within the much broader universe of multiple-use management" on the forest.
On the one point over which Judge Sensenich sided with the opponents -- on the type of logging method preferred for 400 acres -- the Forestry Service disagreed but said it would drop plans to log them in light of how long the case has dragged on.
The case has had a tortuous history.
In September 2002, Judge Sensenich sided with opponents and recommended that the project be halted. Then, last April, she rescinded her recommendation without explanation, and both parties appeared before Judge Sensenich in May. Although she hasn't explained her decision, she said the case was "absolutely the most complex I have ever dealt with."
There is no deadline for Judge Standish to rule.