U.S. Forest Service unable to sell fuelwood permits

New Mexico News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – No more cutting firewood and no more thinning, at least for now in New Mexico’s National Forests. The Forest Service has to comply with a federal court order meant to protect an endangered species.

“I was driving out of the wood cutting area with a load of wood and a district forester was out there and stopped me,” says Alan Dupree.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Tuesday, it is unable to sell fuelwood permits until further notice. This comes after a federal judged ordered a halt to all timber management activities in New Mexico National Forests. That includes all thinning projects, logging, and woodcutting for residents who depend on it to heat their homes.

“The agency is driving blind and permitting various thinning treatments with absolutely no understanding about their effect on the spotted owl,” says John Horning, Executive Director of WildEarth Guardians.

Environmental advocacy group WildEarth Guardians is responsible for the move. They filed a lawsuit against the Forest Service, claiming they’re putting the endangered Mexican Spotted Owl at risk.

“They fail to monitor owl population on a regional basis, they failed to monitor how various forest treatments effect owl population,” Horning says.

Horning says he feels for those who depend on those wood permits, but he says the Forest Service had years to fix the problems.

“I think they should be deeply deeply frustrated with the agency for failing to do its job,” Horning says.

The Forest Service says it will work as quickly as it can to resolve the issue, but at this point, no one has any idea how long that will be. Woodcutters say while most of them are stocked for this year, they do expect wood prices to increase as a result.

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