SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Six environmental groups have sued officials of the Biden administration, saying a Trump-era rule change that allowed logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest violates federal laws and was politically motivated.
The Trump administration amended a protection that had been in place since 1994 that prohibited the harvesting of trees 21 inches or greater in diameter and instead emphasized maintaining a combination of trees. Trees at least 150 years old are prioritized for protection.
The area covered is roughly the size of Maryland, on six national forests in eastern Oregon and southeast Washington state, east of the Cascade Range.
Ochoco National Forest supervisor Shane Jeffries said the 21-inch rule made it difficult to remove fire-prone species without a lengthy regulatory process.
“We’re looking to create landscapes that withstand and recover more quickly from wildfire, drought and other disturbances,” Jeffries told Oregon Public Broadcasting at the time. “We’re not looking to take every grand fir and white fir out of the forests.”
But the lawsuit said the government’s environmental assessment did not adequately address scientific uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of thinning, especially thinning large trees, for fire risk reduction. The groups said the thinning and logging of large trees “can actually increase fire severity.”