Save the Forest, the Trees Must Go
04, 2003 14:54 PST
I am intimately familiar with the Lassen and Plumas NFs, and am
concerned with the current administrations perceptions of fire
resolution and forest health. While I won't say there's no
reason to cut
down a 34" tree, there should damn well be good reasons to
cut it down
before it happens. Fire risk is not eliminated by cutting down
short of those instances in which they are part of a
break in continuous crown closure (particularly where
or prevailing wind direction can be fragmented), and then only
Thinning of small trees (for instance those that have come in
dense in the shadow of a hundred years of fire
policies) however can be very effective in the disruption of
that permit ground fires to climb into the crowns, the crown
potentially causing much more damage.
Please respond to any pleas for help from environmental
----- Original Message -----
From: "Maurice Schwartz"
Sent: Sunday, December 15, 2002 7:00 AM
Subject: NYTimes.com Article: To Save the Forest, the Trees Must
December 15, 2002
By JOHN H. CUSHMAN Jr.
WASHINGTON - In the name of science, the United States
Forest Service has proposed the experimental logging of
half a million acres in two forests in the Sierra Nevada
see how it will affect the habitat of the California
spotted owl and the ferocity of forest fires. But
environmentalists are saying the real purpose is simply
give timber companies a chance to cut more big trees on
some of the nation's 190 million acres of public land.
The study is to be conducted in the Plumas and Lassen
National Forests, two of the 11 national forests that
along the mountainous spine of California.
The Bush administration's experiment is designed on such
grand scale that it will vastly increase the amount of
timber being taken from the two northern California
forests, which have been heavily logged in the past.
trees to be cut are much larger than current forest
regulations would allow: in some cases, up to 34 inches
diameter, or almost nine feet in girth.
After a year in which forest fires raged through the
affecting seven million acres, the administration has
pushing plans to thin the trees in places where years of
mismanagement - including the practice of putting out
single fire - have left dense thickets of undergrowth.
Often these projects are aimed at protecting small
communities at the forest edge. But rarely do they
cutting so many trees, or such big ones, especially in
sensitive wildlife habitat deeper in the woods.
In its announcement of the project, the Forest Service
referred to the logging euphemistically as
"management-caused changes in vegetation," and
study would test whether the benefits of the cleared
which would create firebreaks, exceed the ecological
damage, especially to the spotted owl habitat. Like the
more famous northern spotted owl of the Pacific
the California species is struggling for survival.
Environmental advocates who have long fought logging in
region, and some scientists, see this proposal as
on the model of Japanese whalers, who take their
to sea in what they call a research project - one that
happens to put whale meat on the menus of pricey
restaurants in Tokyo.
"This comes to almost 30,000 acres per year of
habitat that would be logged," said Chad Hanson, an
anti-logging advocate at the John Muir Project and a
Club board member.
The conservation groups say the plan is an attempt to
reverse existing rules, including those adopted during
Clinton administration, that put much of the forest off
As evidence they pointed to the administration's
announcement last week of changes in rules governing
logging - changes that the government said were aimed at
limiting forest fires. The administration's goal was to
through environmental reviews, court appeals and
that slow approval of the projects.
Mark Rey, the assistant secretary of agriculture who
oversees the Forest Service, said adversaries in the
debates should learn to trust each other and the
"I certainly trust the environmental groups,"
said Mr. Rey,
who was formerly a lobbyist for a forest industry group.
"They've spent millions of dollars on political ads
demonize the administration, but that doesn't mean I
He spoke with tongue firmly in cheek, knowing that
environmental groups are certain to challenge the
administration's proposals in court.
In fact, there was a big ruling last week on a related
issue, when a federal appeals court in San Francisco
decided to reinstate a ban on building roads in 60
acres of national forest. The policy, put in place under
President Clinton and challenged by the industry and
local governments, is one that the Bush administration
wants to change.
Road construction is one problem that environmentalists
in the California experiment. Another is the reduction
canopy cover in some California forests to 40 to 50
percent, compared with 60 to even 90 percent before
- a result that is prohibited under the current forest
because of the likely harm to owls.
Limits on cutting large trees, on building roads and on
thinning the canopy were put into the regulations for
region after intensive scientific study. The Forest
Service, however, said it would amend those rules,
the changes insignificant.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS are sure to object during the 45 days
public comment that began last week.
"I think this is quickly going to spiral into a
getting around other restrictions on forest practices,
under the guise of scientific analysis," said Don
emeritus professor of forestry at the University of
California at Davis.
While the scientific question of how different methods
logging affect the survival of animals and the health of
the forest is perfectly valid, he said, it remains to be
seen whether the experiment needs to be so huge, or
whether its design is appropriate.
These are matters that scientists, not timber lobbyists
environmentalists, should decide, he said, adding,
think science works very well from ideology."