The American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) has been granted intervention in a lawsuit aimed at blocking the Pettijohn Late Successional Reserve Habitat Improvement and Fuels Reduction Project on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. AFRC supports the implementation of this project and will seek to defend this effort to improve forest health, mitigate wildfire risks and provide timber to support local communities.
“The Pettijohn Project is necessary to ensure forest health, a reliable timber supply, and protect nearby communities from the risk of wildfire. The project has already been in planning for over 10 years, meaning the forest health threats have only increased during that time,” said AFRC Staff Attorney Sara Ghafouri. “After several rounds of review to ensure protections for wildlife, the project needs to move forward as soon as possible.”
The project planning area encompasses approximately 13,162 acres on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It would include 774 acres of thinning to promote the health and vitality of forest lands designated as “Late Successional Reserve” under the Northwest Forest Plan. To protect firefighters and nearby communities from the risks of catastrophic wildfire, the project would conduct fuel treatments on 2,926 acres as well.
The Shasta-Trinity National Forest has sought to implement the Pettijohn Project since it released a Final Environmental Impact Statement back in 2012. Yet anti-forestry groups brought a number of claims against the project in 2013, resulting in a six-year stay as federal agencies reinitiated wildlife consultations under the Endangered Species Act. After the stay was lifted in July 2019, the groups renewed their attempt to stop the project by filing an amended complaint two months later.
As a trade association that works to prevent litigation from delaying needed management, AFRC intervened in an effort to prevent further unnecessary delay.
“Because the project’s purpose is to ensure forest health and prevent future fires, further delays to this project would pose a risk to overall forest resiliency and public safety,” Ghafouri said. “Thinning these overstocked forests will help provide safe and effective locations for fire suppression efforts, and prevent landscape-level insect and disease outbreaks, and support the development of healthy old-growth forests. Just as importantly, the project would provide wood fiber to benefit local jobs and the economy.
“This project is an important part of maintaining a healthy forest that will continue to offer multiple-use benefits to the public.”