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Conservation groups seek to halt Trump-approved logging project in Wisconsin Northwoods

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Conservation groups seek to halt Trump-approved logging project in Wisconsin Northwoods

Sep 19, 2023 | 5:58 pm ET
By Henry Redman
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Conservation groups seek to halt Trump-approved logging project in Wisconsin Northwoods
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The results of a logging operation in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest.

A coalition of more than two dozen conservation groups sent a letter to the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Tuesday seeking to stop a logging project in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest over concerns that the Trump administration’s approval of the project didn’t adequately account for its environmental impacts. 

The plan, known as the Fourmile Vegetation Project, was approved in November of 2020, yet the conservation groups argue that many of the environmentally focused actions of the Biden administration since then should prevent the USFS from moving forward with seven planned timber sales in the 12,000 acre project. 

Among the 28 signatories of the letter are the Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Sierra Club. The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) has also been opposed to the project. 

The groups state that the Biden executive actions to “confront the climate crisis” and preserve mature and old growth forests should mean that the timber sales’ approval gets revoked. The letter points out that the section of the national forest containing the Fourmile project “has among the highest amount of mature forest” in the USFS eastern region — which contains 21 states stretching from Minnesota to Maine. 

“Since the Fourmile decision, numerous policy actions by President Biden, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the Secretary of Agriculture, and the Chief of the US Forest Service, have called into question the CNNF’s decision not to analyze climate impacts in the Fourmile environmental review or fully consider biodiversity impacts,” the letter states. “As a result, the CNNF is now carrying out timber sales that contradict federal policy.” 

The letter also states that the swath of forest included in the project contains “some of the highest quality ecological systems and habitat types” in the national forest and that nearly two-thirds of the tree stands in the project area are more than 80 years old. Because of the important habitat and the climate benefits of so many mature trees, the letter states, the benefits of leaving the forest intact outweigh the benefits of selling the timber to pulp markets. 

“The Forest Service must correct course and suspend logging in the valuable Fourmile project area before they fell mature and possibly old-growth trees that are vital for our climate security,” Andy Olsen, a senior policy advocate at ELPC, said in a statement. “The Forest Service faces a stark choice: confront the climate crisis or log these valuable trees for pulp. There is still time if they act now.”