Park Issue May Be Back In Court  - Enviro group to petition to stop emergency thinning of beetle-infested trees

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan

RAPID CITY, WYO - 8/23/02 (AP) -- The latest plan to thin dead trees from the Beaver Park Roadless Area in the Black Hills could be back in court.

We have the right to petition the judge, and we will,'' said Jeremy Nichols, of Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyo.

Nichols said if the U.S. Forest Service doesn't stop the work it started in Beaver Park, Biodiversity would file a petition in federal court to stop it.

Beaver Park, five miles south of Sturgis, is infested with pine beetles that have killed trees. Officials are worried that without timber thinning, the area is ripe for a catastrophic fire, something that Biodiversity and other environmental groups dispute.

A lawsuit settlement with environmental groups had prevented timber thinning in Beaver Park. The Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society agreed to renegotiate the lawsuit settlement to allow emergency thinning of dead and dying trees, but Biodiversity rejected the new deal.

President Bush signed the deal into law on Aug. 2. Less than a week later, Nichols wrote to Forest Supervisor John Twiss saying the Forest Service was obligated to honor the earlier lawsuit settlement.

The Forest Service has begun improving roads outside Beaver Park in preparation for thinning.

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