DeFazio Calls For Investigation of Illegal Botanical Area Logging
September 19, 2005
WASHINGTON, DC- In a letter sent today, U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Springfield) asked the Department of Agriculture Inspector General Phyllis Fong to investigate the logging of 17 acres of the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area as part of the Fiddler timber sale on the Siskiyou National Forest. Following is the text of the letter:
September 19, 2005
Phyllis K. Fong
United States Department of Agriculture
Office of the Inspector General
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Inspector General Fong:
In August of 2005, local citizens discovered that approximately seventeen acres of the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area had been logged as part of the Fiddler timber sale on the Siskiyou National Forest. It is my understanding that roadbuilding and the construction of a landing also took place in the botanical area. In a rare moment of unity, both the conservation community and timber industry have expressed outrage over this action. Forest Service officials have admitted this was a "serious" mistake, but I urge you to conduct a thorough investigation into how and why this happened so that similar mistakes are not made in the future.
The Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area was established by the Forest Service in 1963 to protect Brewer spruce, a rare, ancient conifer tree, and other sensitive plants. It was designated for permanent protection by Congress in 1966 and is not subject to change or review except by Congress. In the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Biscuit Fire Recovery Project under which the Fiddler timber sale was administered, the Forest Service clearly stated that no salvage activities would occur in any of the Siskiyou National Forest's botanical areas. However, Fiddler logging unit number nine was marked by the Forest Service to include part of the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area. Given the large size of the illegal harvest, the relatively clear boundary (a steep ridgeline and road), and that the unit maps were correctly marked, I find it difficult to understand how this could have been a casual oversight.
In order to improve Forest Service operations and restore public trust in both the agency and the timber industry, I ask you, at a minimum, to determine:
· Who approved the expansion of Fiddler timber sale unit nine into the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area, when that decision was made, and what process was used to make that decision
· The motivation and rationale for this decision
· Whether the Siskiyou National Forest has adequate staff and funding to properly administer timber sales of this size and nature
· What actions should be taken to ensure this sort of violation does not occur in the future
I appreciate your attention to this issue, and look forward to using your findings to improve Siskiyou National Forest management.
Member of Congress