US forest managers want judge to clarify tree-cutting ban

New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – The U.S. Forest Service is asking a federal judge to reconsider an earlier order that banned tree-cutting across thousands of square miles of Southwest forest.

The ruling stemmed from a 2013 case that alleged the agency failed to consider the effects of thinning and logging on the threatened Mexican spotted owl and its habitat.

The Forest Service says without clarification, efforts to mitigate wildfire threats will be compromised until at least 2023 when data on the owl population is expected.

Environmentalists say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service have failed to track the bird’s numbers.

The ban excludes personal firewood cutting permits that rural residents rely on, but it does prohibit thinning projects, prescribed burns and commercial wood cutting across all five national forests in New Mexico and the Tonto National Forest outside Phoenix.

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