Holy War

Minnesota loggers take the U.S. Forest Service and the tree-huggers to court on the unlikeliest of gripes

What's more, Hitt continues, groups like Forest Guardians and SWAN have been less successful in pushing their agenda than loggers seem to believe. The recent declines in federal timber sales, he says, don't reflect any wholesale change in regulatory policy: "I wish we could take credit for it, but I think it has more to do with the fact that the large valuable trees are gone."

The Forest Service insists that its handling of legal and administrative appeals by environmentalists conforms with existing law. Tom Wagner, the deputy forester at the Superior National Forest headquarters in Duluth, roundly dismisses the ACL's allegation that the government has violated the Constitution. "I don't really know where they're coming from with this," he says. But Wagner concedes that the rising tide of challenges has indeed slowed the logging industry. In the past few years, nearly all proposed timber sales in Superior have been appealed by environmental groups, including SWAN and Forest Guardians. Though most sales ultimately go forward, he notes, Forest Service staff now devote much more time to dealing with paperwork and preparing environmental assessments--and that drives up the cost of the timber sales program.

Back in Orr, logger Glowaski says the mood is bleak among loggers when it comes to their financial prospects. "There's a lot of pessimism, and there's a growing hatred for the federal government and these conservation groups. Animosity builds and animosity grows to downright hatred," Glowaski remarks, adding that the ACL has its hopes pinned on hauling their green enemies into the courtroom and letting a judge sort things out.

That response is one SWAN's Fenner understands. "A lot of them detest me for what I do," he figures. "I'm sorry for that." Loggers, he adds, with just a hint of regret in his voice, "are getting screwed right and left." The solution to their woes, Fenner offers, lies in federally sponsored retraining for the folks losing their livelihoods to the environmental cause, not in allowing more logging to occur on publicly held land. And not, he adds, "in frivolous lawsuits."

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