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Trees in protected area cut by loggers

About 10 to 17 acres of the federally-protected Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area were mistakenly logged between March and August, U.S. Forest Service officials said Wednesday.

The botanical area was included in part of the Fiddler fire salvage timber sale area about six miles northwest of Galice, after Forest Service personnel incorrectly marked the timber project&

s boundaries, officials said.

&

We regret this happened,&

said Patty Burel, spokeswoman for the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. &

It was never our intention or an administrative decision to log the Babyfoot Lake Botanical Area.&

The 353-acre botanical haven was established in 1963 to protect Brewer spruce trees, unique to southwest Oregon and northwest California, and other rare plant species. About 144 acres of the botanical area are in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness.

Officials said the timber sale layout crew was either unaware that Forest Service officials intended to exclude the botanical area from the sale or did not know the topographical boundaries of the botanical area.

Timber sale layout crews &

typically follow topographical features,&

Burel said. &

In this case, they didn&

t.&

Burel said privacy rules prevent her from discussing any possible disciplinary actions against Forest Service employees.

The mistake happened before the 700-acre sale was auctioned and did not involve Merlin-based Silver Creek Timber Co., which bought the timber, burned in the 2002 Biscuit fire, Burel said.

Barbara Ullian, conservation director for the Siskiyou Project, a Cave Junction-based group that seeks to protect areas in the Siskiyou Mountains, saw stumps in the botanical area Aug. 4 during a tour of the sale.