Friends of the Columbia Gorge recently appealed decisions by the U.S. Forest Service and the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) that allow the logging of one-million board feet of timber (roughly equivalent to 250 logging trucks) within one of the most highly protected areas in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

The Forest Service and WDNR decisions both approve a commercial logging project proposed by Synergy Resources LLC within a Gorge Special Management Area near Major Creek in Klickitat County. Friends appealed the Forest Service decision in federal court on Feb. 12 and appealed the WDNR decision to the Washington Pollution Control Hearings Board on March 3.

“In the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, there are six basic land use designations which are administered more forcefully in the Special Management Areas due to the high incidence of scenic, cultural, recreation, and natural resources,” said a press release. “Special Management Area Open Space is the most restrictive of all the Scenic Area’s land use designations and is vital to protecting key areas of the Gorge with sensitive resources. Commercial logging is prohibited on lands designated as Open Space.”

Among key species impacted could be western gray squirrel habitat, currently listed as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need under the Washington State Wildlife Action Plan and a Priority Species under the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Priority Habitat and Species Program.