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Judge Finds Trump-Era Rule Allowing Old-Growth Logging Violates Federal Law

A Trump-era rule that allows for the logging of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest violates federal law, a judge found Thursday.

For decades, the Forest Service had banned the logging of trees larger than 21 inches in diameter in the forests of eastern Oregon and southeast Washington state. But in 2021, in the waning days of Donald Trump’s presidency, the agency amended its policy to allow for the logging of old-growth woodlands in six national forests. The Forest Service determined that, by removing trees, logging would make forests “more resistant and resilient to disturbances like wildfire.”

In a lawsuit brought last year, a coalition of environmental groups questioned this conclusion, noting that the biggest and oldest trees are better able to withstand fire. These trees also play a vital role in storing carbon, supporting wildlife, and filtering fresh water, they said.

Judge Andrew Hallman sided with environmental groups, finding that the updated rule, which affects an area the size of Maryland, violates the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act. He said the Forest Service should reassess the environmental impact of the policy change. The agency now has two weeks to object to the ruling, the Associated Press reported.

“We hope the Forest Service will take this decision to heart,” said Rob Klavins of Oregon Wild, one of the groups involved in the lawsuit. “As they go back to the drawing board, we expect them to meaningfully involve all members of the public to create a durable solution.”

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