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WildEarth Guardians Lawsuit Contests Forest Service Logging in Scenic Tennessee Pass
John Mellgren, Western Environmental Law Center, 541-525-5087
DENVER — Out of concern that logging will spoil some of Colorado’s most scenic landscapes and lynx habitat, WildEarth Guardians, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, filed suit in federal court challenging the “Tennessee Creek Project.” Tennessee Pass and its surrounding is famous as a historic World War II training ground for United States Army troops of the 10th Mountain Division. A memorial to troops of the division is located at the summit of Tennessee pass.
“Tennessee Pass is the best of the Colorado’s Rockies, its scenery, historic status and wildlife are at risk from 20 square miles of logging,” said Kevin Mueller, WildEarth Guardians Utah-Southern Rockies Conservation Manager. “If this forest service logging proposal is approved, a patchwork of clear cuts could be visible on all sides of the Turquoise Lake Basin.”
The lawsuit contests the Forest Service environmental assessment and approval for logging nearly 20 square miles, between Leadville and Aspen. The proposal includes 2,300 acres of clear-cutting on slopes above Tennessee and Halfmoon Creeks as well as Turquoise Lake west of Leadville, in the headwaters of the Arkansas River.
“This litigation centers on USFS refusal to protect forested slopes known to represent critical den habitat for threatened lynx,” said attorney John Mellgren of the Western Environmental Law Center. “Our goal is ecologically resilient forests that support healthy wildlife and lynx populations. Clear-cutting would further undermine lynx and other vulnerable species.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first listed lynx as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2000. Lynx habitat is under threat across the contiguous U.S., where climate change, road building, motorized recreation, and logging all pose serious threats to key habitat.
WildEarth Guardians is alarmed at a new trend: the Forest Service approving large-scale logging without identifying exactly which mountain slopes will be affected.
“The government is legally obligated to look before it leaps and keep the public informed which it clearly is not doing here in Tennessee Pass,” said Mueller. “We will not simply give the Forest Service a blank slate to log in a manner to be determined at a later date. The public deserves to know their plans up front.”
WildEarth Guardians is represented by the Western Environmental Law Center. A copy of the complaint is available here.
Treatment areas outlined in red.