DENVER — Out of concern that heavy logging would ruin landscapes spanning from the beloved and heavily recreated Tennessee Pass to Halfmoon Creek, conservationists filed suit late last week against the U.S. Forest Service to halt its “Tennessee Creek Project.” For WildEarth Guardians, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, destruction of lynx denning habitat is a key issue. Lynx are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and should be protected by logging prohibitions built into each national forest management plan.
“This is about protecting some of the best of Colorado’s Rockies from nearly 20 square miles of heavy logging,” said Kevin Mueller, WildEarth Guardians Utah-Southern Rockies Conservation Manager. “By heavy I mean ugly; we could soon see a patchwork of clear cuts visible on all sides of the Turquoise Lake Basin.”
The lawsuit challenges the USFS environmental assessment and approval for its Tennessee Creek Project, concerning land between Leadville and Aspen. Authorizing nearly 20 square miles of logging, including 2,300 acres of clear-cutting in the slopes above Tennessee and Halfmoon Creeks as well as Turquoise Lake just west of Leadville, the federal timber sale includes the headwaters of the Arkansas River.
“This litigation centers on USFS refusal to protect forested slopes known to represent critical den habitat for threatened lynx,” said attorney John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Our goal is ecologically resilient forests that support healthy wildlife and lynx populations. Clear-cutting this area would further undermine lynx and other vulnerable species.”
Conservationists see the project as an unfortunate example of a new USFS pattern: approving large-scale logging without identifying to the public—or even committing to itself internally—which mountain slopes will be affected, and in what ways. USFS is legally obligated to look before it leaps and keep the public informed.
A copy of the complaint is available here.
Kevin Mueller, WildEarth Guardians Utah-Southern Rockies Conservation Manager, 801-466-4055
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087
Read more about WELC’s work to protect lynx in this area here.