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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal appeals court reversed plans for big timber sales on national forest land in southern Utah.
The logging would have produced enough timber to fill a line of logging trucks bumper-to-bumper from Salt Lake City to Provo, said the Utah Environmental Congress, a coalition of conservation groups that sued to block the sales.
The U.S. Forest Service had approved the logging in a decision upheld by U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell but overturned Wednesday by the Denver-based 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The appeals court let three logging projects move forward in northern Utah, but struck down logging of mature Engelmann spruce across 5,340 acres or 8.3 square miles in the Dixie and Manti-LaSal national forests of southern Utah.
The appeals court ordered the Forest Service to re-evaluate the logging sales in southern Utah before it makes any timber available for cutting. The logging projects in northern Utah were approved under a different set of rules based on more recently adopted forest plans.
The southern Utah projects included logging proposed as early as 1995 that was repeatedly delayed, most recently in 2002 when the Utah Environmental Congress successfully challenged it. The group argued the Forest Service didn't properly assess the effect of logging on wildlife species in the Manti-LaSal forest.
"Hopefully they will not bring it back a fourth time. It's in a beautiful area and they don't need to do this extensive logging project," said Kevin Mueller, executive director of the Utah Environmental Congress. "We have never seen a timber sale of that scale since we formed in Utah in 1998."
Erin O'Connor, a spokeswoman for the Forest Service's Intermountain Region, said attorneys for the agency were reviewing the ruling and had no comment on it.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)