FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Environmentalists filed a lawsuit Thursday against a federal agency, saying it aims to protect the California spotted owl living in the burned forests marked for logging after the third-largest wildfire in state history.
The Center for Biological Diversity and two other groups seek an injunction against the U.S. Forest Service, which unveiled a plan last week to allow logging on 52 square miles of forest killed in the massive central California blaze. The Rim Fire started Aug. 17, 2013, and scorched 400 square miles of the Stanislaus National Forest, Yosemite National Park's backcountry and private timber land.
The fire was the biggest in the Sierra Nevada's recorded history, destroyed 11 homes and cost more than $125 million to fight.
Forest Service officials have defended the plan, saying it strikes a balance between logging and wildlife, including the spotted owl. Georgia Dempsey, a Stanislaus National Forest spokeswoman, declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Chad Hanson of the Earth Island Institute's John Muir Project, one of the plaintiffs, said forestry officials ignored research that shows spotted owls — which are generally in decline — have begun to thrive in the dead snag forests that burned and are now marked for logging.
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