Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet

Old-Growth Logging to Resume

In yet another blow to the environment resulting from the disastrous "logging without laws" measure signed into law by President Clinton last summer, a federal judge in January ruled in response to a timber industry appeal that logging could resume in old-growth forests where the threatened marbled murrelet is believed to be nesting.

The judge ruled that under the terms of the "logging without laws" measure, the sound science used by biologists to determine the presence of nesting murrelets could no longer be used. The ruling has cleared the way for logging in dozens of old-growth forest stands previously off-limits to cutting.

But thanks to an appeal filed by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund on behalf of the Sierra Club and a coalition of other environmental groups, implementation of the judge's decision has been temporarily stalled.

Meanwhile, Vice President Al Gore said in January that the Clinton administration is working to change the salvage-logging law. Legislation to completely repeal the measure -- H.R. 2745, introduced by Reps. Elizabeth Furse (D-Ore.) and Connie Morella (R-Md.) -- has garnered close to 100 co-sponsors.

For more information: Contact John Leary, associate Washington representative, at (202) 675-2382.

Environmental Law Program Victory

In a major legal victory for the Sierra Club, a San Francisco judge in January invalidated the emergency blanket permit suspending the California Endangered Species Act that California Gov. Pete Wilson (R) issued in March 1995.

"This ruling has stopped cold the Wilson administration's effort to override the state's Endangered Species Act," said Sierra Club Law Program coordinator Alex Levinson.

The judge's ruling was in response to legal action taken by the Sierra Club and a coalition of other environmental groups, represented by the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.

The Wilson administration had argued that it needed to remove protections for state endangered wildlife to allow emergency actions to protect property from the flooding that occurred last spring. The actual permit, however, was not limited to properties affected by flood or storm damage, and it extended for five years. Moreover, the state ESA already allows property owners to take emergency actions in the face of, or following, disaster situations. Most important, there was no evidence that the protections afforded wildlife by the state ESA were hindering flood recovery activities.

The blanket permit was widely viewed by environmentalists as a cynical ploy by Wilson to gain support among developers for his presidential campaign, which he has since abandoned.

In his ruling, Judge William Cahill said the blanket permit "preauthorizes unspecified activity by unknown members of the public." Indeed, after its issuance, the permit was used by Santa Cruz County officials to justify clearing of vegetation on the Pajaro River, which they claimed had been left along the stream to protect an endangered salamander. Embarrassed county officials later conceded that no salamanders or other endangered species had ever been found along the Pajaro.

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