Proposal in owl case allows for cutting of US Capitol tree

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — It will be up to a federal judge whether to sign off on a proposed order that would clear the way for a tree to be cut and displayed outside the U.S. Capitol building over the holidays.

The proposal is the result of an agreement reached Monday between environmentalists and the U.S. Forest Service in a case centered on the threatened Mexican spotted owl.

The plan also allows personal Christmas tree-cutting permits, prescribed fires with stipulations and commercial firewood gathering in certain areas.

A judge has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 7.

A September order drew criticism for imposing a tree-cutting ban that spanned five national forests in New Mexico and one in Arizona.

The judge later narrowed the order to allow personal firewood permits, but other timber management activities remain sidelined.

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