Logging California's Forests To Save Them
by Kyle Haines, Klamath Forest Alliance
In a move that could ultimately damage forests and worsen the effects of fires in California, the President has passed the "Healthy Forests Initiative", and unveiled the "Forests with a Future" plan for the Sierra Nevada Range. The "Healthy Forests Initiative" combined with the "Forests with a Future" plan could be devastating to California's forests, as timber companies are given free reign to log trees in so called "fire risk areas". Let's take a quick look at these plans:
Healthy Forests Initiative
This legislation puts just about any timber sale advertised by the BLM and Forest Service as a "fuels treatment project" on a fast track for approval and logging. Citizen participation is essentially cut out because the timelines are so short, appeals not allowed in most cases, and judges forced to weigh economic vs environmental consequences of lawsuits every 60 days. The requirement that the Forest Service and BLM consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service is greatly reduced or eliminated.
The problem with this plan is it does not tie fire protection directly to towns and structures, instead it allows timber companies to log far out in the forest where the largest and most fire resistant trees are. Funds that could be used for brush clearing near homes, and small tree thinning around communities, are diverted into timber sale planning and administration. So ironically, we end up with LESS fire risk reduction at the taxpayer's expense, and profit of the timber industry.
Forests with a Future
This plan guts the $20 million dollar Sierra Nevada Framework Plan that was created through input from hundreds of thousands of citizens and scientists, and replaces it with a plan to triple logging in the Sierra Nevada Range. To pay for all this logging, timber companies would be allowed to log trees up to 30" diameter, a 10" diameter increase from current levels allowed under the Sierra Nevada Framework Plan.
The problem with this plan is that it also does not tie fire protection directly to towns and structures, and gives the timber industry the gift of being able to log old growth trees up to 30" diameter to pay for it.
Scientists have said again and again that large trees are the most fire resistant due to their high moisture content, low surface area, and thick bark. Old clearcut plantations with thick brush and small diameter trees are the least fire resistant, and pose the greatest danger to California homeowners.
There is some good news on the horizon; on December 11th, a federal judge ordered the U.S. Forest Service to cease logging on the Burnt Ridge timber sale in the Sequoia National Forest. The judge ruled that the timber sale would likely harm the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, and that it would likely require a full environmental review rather being exempted from review as the Bush administration urged. The ruling is a major setback to the Bush administration's so-called "Healthy Forest Initiative, and is the first to challenge the policy of exempting "small" timber sales from environmental review.
Environmental groups throughout California and the nation will likely sue the Forest Service to stop the rollbacks of the Sierra Nevada Plan. Much of what the Bush administration has promised industry, has started to stall as projects are tied up in litigation. Please urge the Forest Service to stop wasting the taxpayer's money on logging far from communities, and instead follow the existing Sierra Nevada Framework Plan. You can send comments to: Jack Blackwell, USDA Regional Forester, 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA 94592