Injunction halts Beetle kill logging project in Minturn
A Minturn attorney who sued the U.S. Forest Service last month got some good news Wednesday when a Colorado judge granted a 60-day injunction against the Forest Service’s Minturn logging operation.
Judge Philip Brimmer, a federal judge for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, agreed with two of the seven arguments in Mike Heaphy’s suit – that the Forest Service couldn’t use helicopters and that it was overextending the boundaries of the project.
Heaphy followed the environmental impact study for the project, known as the Upper Eagle River Beetle Salvage Project, until the project was approved in 2008. He was familiar with the maps of where the logging operations were going to happen, and noticed while walking his dog one day that the Forest Service wasn’t staying with the lines, he said.
Brimmer agreed that the Forest Service was required to stay within the boundaries shown on the public maps, Heaphy said. Brimmer also agreed that helicopters weren’t allowed for the project, although the Forest Service had been using them.
Scott Fitzwilliams, the forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, said at the time of Heaphy’s November law suit that everything was going as it should under the project plan. He now recognizes the Forest Service has to clear some things up as a result of the injunction.
“The judge has given us direction that we were short in some areas, so we have to fix it somehow,” Fitzwilliams said.
Fitzwilliams isn’t yet sure whether the Forest Service will appeal the decision. The project was on hold because of the winter weather anyway, he said, so the injunction to stop the work hasn’t really affected the project yet, he said.
Heaphy, an environmentalist and attorney, said he was pleased that his work on the lawsuit paid off.
He said the Forest Service didn’t do the proper environmental studies for the use of helicopters, even though the Forest Service has claimed they can’t complete the project without the use of helicopters, Heaphy said.
“They need to do a supplemental environmental assessment,” he said.
Fitzwilliams said helicopter logging minimizes the environmental impacts on the ground, but recognized the use isn’t stated in the project’s plan.
Fitzwilliams called the project a “serious public emergency,” pointing out that the logging isn’t an industrial timber project but rather an effort to remove serious fire hazards from the forest.
“We’re in a hurry to get [trees] out of there,” Fitzwilliams said in November.
Heaphy just wants the Forest Service to follow the law. The injunction lasts for 60 days and can be renewed for another 60 days, Heaphy said.
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