Tribe blocks logging on sacred site

GRANTS PASS — Members of the Karuk Tribe blockaded a logging crew along the Klamath River in Northern California on Wednesday after learning the U.S. Forest Service had not imposed safeguards to protect a tribal religious site.

Tribal spokesman Craig Tucker said the tribe spent three years working with the Forest Service to be sure the thinning project near Orleans, Calif., did not cut big trees or run heavy equipment where world renewal ceremonies are performed, only to see it ignore the agreement.

"We're not saying don't cut any trees," said Tucker. "We are saying just do what you agreed to that we spent three years working out, and stressed every step of the way how important this place is from the tribe's religious perspective."

Six Rivers National Forest Supervisor Tyrone Kelley said it was an oversight by the Forest Service that the restrictions were not written into the contract telling the logging crew what to do.

"This was just an oversight," Kelley said, adding no one would be disciplined. "When the tribe brought it to our attention the first week of logging, we started working with the tribe to mitigate impacts."

Kelley said the Forest Service had agreed to require a smaller kind of equipment to rig cables that haul logs up the hill to the loading area, which did not require anchoring to large trees that would be scarred and later cut down. But that was not specified in the contract.

Work in the ceremonial area has finished, and the logging crew will be resuming work in other areas, Kelley said.

Tucker said it was unacceptable to characterize the problem as an oversight.

"That is like saying, 'Oops, we're sorry, we didn't mean to bomb the wedding, it was collateral damage,'" he said.

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