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Published April 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Agreement struck on Chequamegon Forest logging area

Environmental groups and the U.S. Forest Service have reached an agreement on the disputed Cayuga timber sale area in the Chequamegon National Forest.

By: John Myers, News Tribune

Environmental groups and the U.S. Forest Service have reached an agreement on the disputed Cayuga timber sale area in the Chequamegon National Forest.

The agreement covers about 5,200 acres of forest south of Ashland where the Forest Service plans to sell trees to loggers.

“We’re pleased that the Forest Service has agreed to step back and reassess the environmental impacts of the Cayuga Project,” Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the lead attorney for the environmental groups, said in a statement.

The logging plans had been opposed by Learner’s organization and the Education Center, which filed a suit against the Forest Service in 2005.

The Forest Service’s original plan was nullified by a federal court decision. Chequamegon officials reworked and resubmitted it in 2008, but the environmental groups still opposed it.

Under the agreement announced Tuesday, the Forest Service will defer logging and road building for four years on 2,000 acres that scientists have identified as important for wildlife habitat and at-risk species.

After the four-year deferment, the Forest Service will meet with the environmental groups to discuss updated scientific data on the health of the forest before approving the resumption of logging.

Connie Chaney, a Forest Service district ranger, said the acres set aside are in the core area where a pine marten restoration effort is under way.

While environmental groups have dropped their appeal of the Cayuga sale, another group is challenged the deferment. The Bayfield County Economic Development Association filed an administrative appeal against delaying logging, saying the impact on the region’s economic health is too great. An official from the group did not immediately return a call for comment.

Environmental groups also have appealed a federal court decision on the nearby Twenty Mile timber sale.

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