Environmentalists are accusing the Forest Service of illegally planning to cut down the largest, most valuable trees burned in a wildfire west of Lake Tahoe to help pay for projects to reduce future fire risks.
The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign and others have filed an administrative appeal to try block the salvage logging planned over thousands of acres of the Duncan Canyon Roadless Area in the Tahoe National Forest.
They say the logging plan is driven by the need to pay for projects to reduce wildfire threats in the Sierra Nevada and is not in the best interest of the forest.
Forest Service officials have come under increasing attack for their logging policies in the region in recent months. They maintain many of the biggest, standing dead trees must be removed from some of the burned groves of centuries-old trees to make way for regeneration of another old-growth forest.
Conservationists say most of the standing dead trees should remain to provide habitat for birds and wildlife for the next 50 to 75 years.
Craig Thomas is the director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign leading the appeal. He says the Forest Service clearly needs the biggest trees to pay the bills to do the logging. He says some of the trees are up to 400 years old.
Another group, the John Muir Project, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Sacramento last year aimed at halting similar logging in the neighboring Eldorado National Forest. That lawsuit accuses the Forest Service of exaggerating fire damage to bypass certain wildlife protection measures that restrict the size of the trees that can be cut.