California National Forests logging?

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at
Fri Oct 11 16:13:54 EST 2002

October 10, 2002  The Fresno Bee

Forest Service: More Sierra logging may be needed to help pay for
fuels reduction

By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press Writer

KINGS BEACH, Calif.(AP) - Removing fuels from forests to ease wildfire
threats in the Sierra is proving more costly than expected and may
require logging some trees currently protected to help pay for it, the
Forest Service's regional boss said Thursday.

Jack Blackwell, regional forester for national forests in California
and the Sierra, also said the agency may not be able to do as much
prescribed burning as it had hoped and may have to rely more on
mechanical thinning of forests because of growing concerns about air

"Fuels treatments are more expensive than we thought," Blackwell said
in a speech to 300 scientists, land managers and others during the
Sierra Nevada Scientific Symposium at Lake Tahoe.

"We simply haven't got the money to do everything we planned to do,"
he said. "What I think we're going to have to do is try to leverage
these fuel dollars so they go farther."

Because Southern California is entirely dependent on fuel reduction
money made available by Congress through the National Fire Plan,
Blackwell said it may fall to parts of the Sierra and Northern
California to find alternative financing for such projects, such as
offering up additional commercial timber for sale.

"Up here in the Sierra, where we have forested areas, where we've got
to do this very necessary fuels work, I think we are going to have to
pay for that work by selling some of the trees that need to be cut,"
Blackwell said.

"No one is talking about cutting the big trees. But I think that some
of the medium trees, along with the small ones that are necessary for
these fire suppression projects - some of the medium trees that are
not needed for wildlife - we are going to have to cut to help pay for
some of these treatments.

We shouldn't expect it is going to pay for all the treatments. We'll
still have some subsidizing. But I see no other way out of this," he

Blackwell said in an interview after his speech that there is no
specific definition of medium-sized trees, but it likely would include
trees larger than 2-feet thick, perhaps up to 30 inches in diameter.

More than 10 million acres spread across 10 national forests along the
California-Nevada border from south of Yosemite National Park to north
of Lake Tahoe currently enjoy varying levels of protection under a
10-month old policy known as the Sierra Nevada framework.

Across about half the area, that policy prohibits logging of trees
larger than 20 inches in diameter.

But the policy is currently under review and Blackwell said he expects
to receive recommendations from the review team by January regarding
changes that may be necessary on a number of fronts, including
reducing wildfire threats.

He said he is concerned that without some changes, the agency will be
unable to carry out those goals.

"There are some serious barriers right now," Blackwell said. 

"One of those barriers is smoke management. We've got concerns from
local (air quality) boards about burning," he said.

Timber industry leaders and some Western members of Congress have been
pressing the agency for more flexibility to log larger trees and step
up thinning projects to reduce fire risks. They maintain the current
Sierra framework is overly restrictive.

Jay Watson, the California-Nevada coordinator for The Wilderness
Society who attended the symposium, said any significant changes in
the size of trees to be cut would require a whole new environmental
impact statement in the Sierra.

Under the framework, the Forest Service already has authority to cut
trees up to 30 inches thick in the one-fourth mile closest to
communities, areas know as defense zones, a relatively small amount of
acres Sierra wide, he said.

The 20-inch limit applies to the next one and one-quarter mile from
communities, areas known as threat zones which cover about 2 million
acres, as well as "general forest" areas that cover about 5 million
acres, he said.

No trees larger than 12 inches in diameter currently can be cut in the
4 million acres designated as "old-growth emphasis," where the largest
trees are found, he said.

Watson said the plan was devised to reduce fire risks while protecting
old-growth forests and their resident wildlife, including the
California spotted owl.

"We're certainly willing to consider what they propose," he said. "But
the plan that was put together was a very balanced plan. If the agency
tries to turn it more into a timber-oriented plan to pay for it
completely on the backs of bigger trees, it would lose all its balance
and could very well lead to the listing of the California spotted

Comment by poster: 
Since I have been saying this all along, shouldn't I be getting a
raise? <G> "Very balanced plan"? The Sierra Nevada Framework is
finally being exposed for the "white elephant" that it is. This
article doesn't even delve into the issue of the public's disdain for
smoke coming from controlled burns (much less "uncontrolled"
prescribed fire). The SNF has reduced timber harvesting by 70% and is
supposed to increase prescibed fire by 70%. The public will never
stand for that, especially when it is in the "red zone", close to
their houses.

Listing the California Spotted Owl???  Few people realize that CASPO
receives more protection than the Northern Spotted Owl, anyway.
Catastrophic fire is much more of a danger to CASPO than modern
thinning projects. Actually, thinning projects IMPROVE CASPO habitat!!
An open understory with 70% crown closure is perfect for the owls,
which excel at swooping and darting through thinned stands. Ditto for
the Northern Goshawk.


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