Timber industry organizations have filed an appeal of the lynx amendment to the management plan for national forests in Colorado.
The Colorado Timber Industry Association joined the Intermountain Forest Association in appealing the Southern Rockies Lynx Amendment, which was released in November. It would apply to all seven national forests in Colorado, including the San Juan and Rio Grande in Southwest Colorado, and the Medicine Bow National Forest in southern Wyoming.
The appeal, filed last month, said the amendment would have adverse effects on forest management and forest health in Colorado.
"In particular, our members question the Forest Service's decision to virtually eliminate pre-commercial thinning in lodgepole pine stands in lynx habitat," Carl Spaulding, the president of the association, said in a written statement. "Lodgepole pine typically regenerates in very dense stands. Pre-commercially thinning those dense stands is a critical step in long-term forest management and in avoiding the forest conditions that have contributed to the current pine beetle epidemic."
The timber industry associations join environmental groups that appealed the amendment earlier. Those groups, which include Colorado Wild and the Center for Native Ecosystems, are concerned that there is not enough protection of lynx habitat for the endangered species to recover.
The competing appeals pit protection of the endangered lynx population against what the timber industry says are increased long-term risks of insects, tree diseases and fire.
"The appeals are not unexpected on a subject at this level that covers so many national forests," said Nancy Warren, the endangered-species program lead-er for the Rocky Mountain Region of the U.S. Forest Service. "They give people one last chance to have their concerns heard at a higher level."
The 45-day period for appeals closed Dec. 22, Warren said, and her office is now assembling records to send to the Washington, D.C., office. The chief of the Forest Service will make the final decision on the appeals. The process allows 160 days for appeal review, so a final decision may not be available until June.
The amendment came about at the request of U.S. Fish and Wildlife because there was no consistent management direction on how to balance lynx habitat needs with other forest users, including recreation, road upgrades and gas and oil development as well as timber production, Warren said.
"Between the preliminary and final Environmental Impact Study, we had an interdisciplinary team that reviewed five alternatives and selected this one," she said.
Team members included a wildlife biologist, botanist and archaeologist as well as specialists in forests, recreation, fisheries and gas and oil.
The Forest Service is no longer accepting public comment about the lynx amendment.
The appeal process is the final stage before it would be implemented.