September 19, 2023
Madison, WI. – The Environmental Law & Policy Center and 28 allied organizations today submitted a petition letter to the US Forest Service (USFS) calling on the agency to pause logging mature and old-growth trees in the Fourmile Vegetation Project in the Chequamegon Nicolet National Forest (CNNF) in northeastern Wisconsin. Due to numerous significant new circumstances, the Forest Service must conduct supplemental environmental review to consider impacts to our climate and the American marten from the logging.
As the climate emergency worsens, there is growing importance to protect mature and old-growth forests on public lands. The USFS, itself, recognizes the importance of protecting these trees – even as they plan to log them. Federal climate and forest policy have changed dramatically since the Fourmile project was approved under the Trump administration’s Forest Service.
In January 2021, President Biden issued an Executive Order requiring federal agencies to act with urgency to “confront the climate crisis.” President Biden issued a separate Executive Order on Earth Day April 2022 that established new policies to inventory and conserve mature and old-growth forests on federal land to help tackle climate change. Significantly, resulting USFS data show the Fourmile project area to contain mature and old-growth forest stands. Reconsidering the Fourmile decision would respect the new policies.
The Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) in August 2022 asked the USFS to pause Fourmile logging until the mature and old-growth inventory is complete. GLIFWC identified that additional care needs to be taken to monitor impacts to climate and the Wisconsin-endangered American marten. The marten is an Ojibwe clan animal, and important to the tribes.
Yet the CNNF has seven timber sales now planned, as shown in a map in the letter. The USFS expects over 80% of the logging to serve pulp markets, where no market urgency exists.
“The Forest Service must correct course and suspend logging in the valuable Fourmile project area before they fell mature and possibly old-growth trees that are vital for our climate security,” said Andy Olsen, Senior Policy Advocate at ELPC. “The Forest Service faces a stark choice: confront the climate crisis or log these valuable trees for pulp. There is still time if they act now.”
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal agencies are required to prepare supplemental reviews to their decisions if major new federal actions, such as timber sales, remain to occur and if there are significant new circumstances relevant to the impact of that decision. These factors apply to Fourmile and are the underpinnings of the reconsideration letter sent today by these groups.