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Nevada judge asked to halt ‘scorched-earth plan’ to clear-cut forests

Updated August 24, 2023 - 5:37 pm

Environmental groups are asking a judge to halt what they are calling a “scorched-earth plan” to clear-cut pinyon-juniper forests along the eastern edge of Nevada.

The Center for Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project filed a motion for a preliminary injunction Wednesday in Nevada federal court in an attempt to stop the Bureau of Land Management from cutting down more than 380,000 acres of pinyon-juniper forests in Spring Valley, about 40 miles east of Ely. The groups initially sued over the project’s approval in March.

The bureau’s plan, which was approved last fall, includes the use of “chaining” — a practice that involves dragging a Navy ship anchor chain between two bulldozers to uproot large swaths of forest.

“The Bureau’s scorched-earth plan is utterly shocking amid the climate and extinction emergencies. Hopefully the judge will stop the bulldozers before they decimate Spring Valley,” Scott Lake, Nevada staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced recently that it is considering federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for the pinyon jay, a species of bird whose populations have declined substantially over the past half-century. Some research has linked that drop to the loss of the bird’s natural habitat from both climate change and intentional thinning of pinyon-juniper forests.

The BLM did not respond to a request for comment. The federal agency previously has said that pinyon-juniper forest removal projects improve sagebrush ecosystems, which in turn improves habitats for mule deer, sage grouse and other species.

Tree removal under the federal government’s plan is set to start in October.

A previous version of this story misstated the name of the federal agency involved in the lawsuit.

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com.

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