May 14, 2020
RHINELANDER, Wisconsin — The Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) filed a Notice of Objection with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service to their draft decision and finding of “no significant impact” for the proposed 55,000-acre Fourmile Vegetation Project. Fourmile would allow for 12,000 acres of logging and more than 1,000 acres of clearcutting in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest (CNNF), part of the treasured Northwoods in northeastern Wisconsin. ELPC calls for a thorough Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) after the Forest Service’s draft finding on March 21 approved a superficial Environmental Assessment that ignored aspects of the project that are highly controversial or uncertain.
“The Forest Service proposes timber sales that will thin the oldest tree stands, harm water resources, and threaten the American marten, wood turtles, and other species,” said Justin Vickers, Staff Attorney at the Midwest-based ELPC. “A logging project of this size normally would trigger an EIS and that’s what we’re requesting here.”
In cooperation with scientists, ELPC filed a comment letter last June with the Forest Service over the initial timber sale proposal in that area stating at the time that it should be examined more closely with an EIS. The Forest Service proceeded with the less rigorous Environmental Assessment, but now ELPC is challenging that as insufficient, pointing to significant scientific controversy surrounding such actions as they propose.
“There is good case law to support our position that a rigorous study with an EIS is necessary,” Vickers said. “We also demonstrated in our objection letter that the scientific data the Forest Service used in its study are flawed.”
The Fourmile project, located east of Eagle River, includes plans to build 1.2 miles of new road and about 50 miles of road reconstruction in a valuable national forest that already exceeds road density standards. The Forest Service plan would log and disturb old-growth and mature forests that support many rare species including the threatened American Marten and wood turtle. Logging also reduces the forests’ ability to absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere, a highly effective way to reduce greenhouse gases and mitigate climate change.
“This inadequate Environmental Assessment approach gives logging primacy over habitat protection, carbon pollution reduction, and water protection,” Vickers added.