Federal Forestry Events in California (Long)

Larry Harrell lhfotoware at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 25 11:15:35 EST 2004


Plenty has happened in the last week regarding forestry issues in
California. The log-awaited amendment to the Sierra Nevada Framework
has been finally presented to the public. Also, the Giant Sequoia
National Monument management plan is being displayed for public
examination.

First off is the amendment to the Sierra Nevada Framework and here's
what the Regional Forester sent to us employees:

Dear Forest Service folks, 
It gives me great pleasure to make two related announcements today: a
decision to improve the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment, and an
exciting new initiative, the “Forests With a Future”
Campaign, which we’ll use to implement the improved plan to
protect old growth forests, wildlife habitat, and local communities
against catastrophic wildfires.
First, I’d like to thank all of you for your effort and
investment in the process.  Our work is very challenging, and matters
a great deal to the various groups of people whom we serve. The Review
was a complex task and I’m proud of how the Forest Service
performed it. The sum total of all your expertise, good judgment and
diligence has put the Service in the right direction.
I’m counting on your redoubled professionalism and commitment,
because now we must move forward to achieve results.
One painful reminder we’ve experienced over the last year is
that catastrophic wildfire will come again to the Sierra Nevada
– and that we at the Forest Service, as guardians of the forest,
must act to assure its long-term welfare.
That’s why we must focus on the proactive measures of the
“Forests With A Future” campaign.  The name has been
chosen to emphasize the urgency with which we must act to preserve
old-growth trees, wildlife and local communities from catastrophic
fires.  This campaign reflects the core values of the Forest Service,
including pride in our expertise and a proactive approach to our work
and explaining it to our key constituencies.
The forests of the future, we envision, must be more like the forests
of the past. Our goal is to reduce the level of explosive fuels at
strategic sites to the point where fire, burning slow and low, can
once again be a natural part of the forest ecosystem. Reducing the
fuels will be done in ways that adapt methods to the needs of each
forest area, using a combination of professional judgment and
monitoring.
“Forests with a Future” is a campaign run on “forest
time,” so that within the next fifty years we project a dramatic
doubling of old-growth forests, and near doubling of wildlife habitat,
including the spotted owl. We also project a more than 30% reduction
in catastrophic wildfires, and improved protection for nearly 100% of
local communities faced by these life-threatening events.
 Now we all must step forward to act and support this campaign. The
next ten years are a critical period, and the next three years
extremely critical.  As I’ve said several times recently to
different gatherings of Forest Service people, it’s no longer
business as usual.  That’s why I’ve written this letter to
highlight the urgency of what we’ll be working on as an
organization during the coming years.  I look forward to your
feedback, questions, and participation in this next, and most
important, phase of our Forest Service careers.
Sincerely,

 
/S/ JACK 
JACK A. BLACKWELL
Regional Forester


Comment by poster: And here's one newspaper's view of what the
amendment will bring.

January 23, 2004  The Sacramento Bee
Altered Sierra forest plan unveiled
The new blueprint will cut fire risk, officials say, but foes claim it
is driven by logging interests.
By Dorothy Korber -- Bee Staff Writer -
The U.S. Forest Service rolled out revisions Thursday to its plan for
managing 11 million acres of Sierra Nevada woodlands, saying the
changes will reduce wildfire danger and protect old-growth forests.

Those contentions were instantly rebutted by environmental activists,
who say the new plan is driven by logging interests and will gut
ancient woodlands.

The revisions amend the Sierra Nevada Framework, a forest management
plan approved in 2001. The changes aim to head off the kind of
catastrophic fires that swept Southern California last year, said Jack
Blackwell, the Forest Service's chief forester for its Pacific
Southwest Region.

He called the original Sierra Nevada Framework overly restrictive.

"The rules were incredibly complex," he said. "They were just
impossible in terms of effective fire suppression, and there is
tremendous danger in these densely crowded forests."

Speaking at a Sacramento press conference, Blackwell unveiled what he
called an action campaign -- "Forests with a Future" -- that allows
for removing fire-prone undergrowth on 115,000 acres each year, as
well as the logging of selected trees up to 30 inches in diameter.

The lumber from those big trees will help underwrite the costs of
thinning the Sierra's overgrown forests, Blackwell said, as well as
supporting the state's struggling timber business.

Previously, the framework limited logging to trees 12 inches and
under. Blackwell said the timber harvest will be triple what it was
under the original framework.

Still, he said, the number of trees cut will be relatively small.

"There are 90 million trees between 20 and 30 inches in diameter in
these forests, and we plan to thin just one-fifth of 1 percent of
them," Blackwell said.

He projected that the action campaign -- and the changes to the Sierra
Nevada Framework -- would reduce the acres burned by severe wildfires
by more than 30 percent over the next 50 years. At the same time, he
said, forest communities will be protected from devastating blazes,
and the acreage of old-growth forests will double.

Environmental activists attending the press conference scoffed at
Blackwell's projections and questioned the motives of the Forest
Service. They were especially outraged by plans to cut large trees.

"The ancient forests of the Sierra Nevada are now threatened when we
thought they were safe," said Barbara Boyle of the Sierra Club. "This
is a radical revision to the Sierra framework, a drastic change."

Jay Watson of the Wilderness Society agreed.

"The original framework recognized old-growth forests as a special
resource, 4 million acres out of the 11 million," Watson said. "It was
treated with a soft touch. The new plan abandons that -- the
philosophy now is that one size fits all. But you can't make sweeping
statements about what's best for a diverse mountain range. They're
homogenizing the forest."

Others questioned the scientific foundation underlying the Forest
Service's new plan.

"There's no fire scientist on Earth who would say that there is
justification for cutting a 30-inch tree," said Craig Thomas of the
Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. "It's strictly being done
for the money."

Susannah Churchill of Environment California also said private profit
is the underlying motive for the changes. "Under all the pretty
rhetoric, the basis of the new plan is to provide the timber companies
with bigger trees to log," she said.

Blackwell denied that timber interests dictated the amendment,
although he acknowledged that revenue from logging was an important
component.

"Revenue is not the driving factor here," Blackwell said. "It's the
fire danger. What happened in Southern California last fall is really
illustrative of what could happen here. What more wake-up call do you
need?"

A spokesman for a timber trade group described as "ludicrous" the idea
that loggers were driving the Forest Service plan.

"There is this image of a monolithic timber industry," said David A.
Bischel, president of the California Forestry Association. "Well,
there are eight small sawmills left on the west side of the Sierra.
The last one on the east side is closing. Truth is, we're very close
to not being able to manage the amount of timber this plan would
provide."

Each side -- the Forest Service and the environmentalists -- claim
that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger supports its position.

Mike Chrisman, the governor's resources secretary, said he does
endorse the Forest Service's commitment to fire suppression, but he
has some reservations about the amendment to the Sierra Nevada
Framework.

"We commend the Forest Service in initiating the Forest with a Future
campaign," Chrisman said in an interview Thursday. "We're really
committed to reducing the fire risk to communities in the Sierra.

"That said, the governor has expressed his support for the existing
Sierra Nevada Framework, and he opposes changes not made in an open,
collaborative process. We're concerned that this amendment was done
with very little substantive collaboration with the state between the
draft and final form."

Chrisman said he wasn't ready to comment on the controversy over
logging large trees. "We're still taking a close look at the final
framework," he said. "We'll be working to try to improve it."


Comment by poster: I welcome this added flexibility to restore and
protect our National Forests in California. The old plan was fatally
flawed with too much emphasis on burning. In the past, USFS fire crews
had trouble meeting the old burning targets. The SNF more than doubled
those burning targets and presented an impossible task for fire crews.
The "burning window" is incredibly small in normal years. There are
not enough burn days available to the Forest service to accomplish
those unrealistic burning targets in the old version of SNF. Who cares
if Ahhhhnold is for or against the new plans. "Preservationists" see
those up to 30" diameter trees as "large" trees, and prefer that we
use the old limit of 12" diameter and less. A 30" diameter tree in the
Sierra Nevada is a decidedly average-sized tree. "Preservationists"
also think that we're going to cut ALL those 20-30" diameter trees.
IMHO, quite the opposite should be happening. The worst of those
20-30" diameter trees should be cut, leaving plenty of superior trees
which will become our future old growth in a forest which is drought
resistent, bug resistent, fire resistent, more "natural" and vigorous.

Here's the story on the Giant Sequoia National Monument management
plan:

January 22, 2004  Land Letter

Giant Sequoia plan allows old-growth logging 

by Dan Berman

The Forest Service unveiled its plan to manage one of the country's
newest national monuments Friday, allowing some logging of old-growth
giant sequoia stands but primarily using prescribed burns to prevent
catastrophic wildfires.

Although the plan for central California's Giant Sequoia National
Monument reduced the amount of logging allowed in the draft proposal,
environmentalists are unenthusiastic, saying the plan is too vague and
still allows too much logging of old-growth stands.

Former President Clinton created the monument in April 2000, much to
the disappointment of Tulare County officials, who said it was too big
and violated the 1906 Antiquities Act. A federal court disagreed, and
the Supreme Court declined to review the case, leaving the
327,800-acre monument intact.

The monument contains 38 groves of ancient sequoia trees, some of the
oldest and largest trees on the planet, and environmentalists are
concerned about provisions allowing for logging of trees up to 30
inches in diameter.

Jay Watson, California regional director of the Wilderness Society,
said that while the plan states it emphasizes prescribed burning to
treat overgrown forests, the final version calls for 30,000 acres less
of prescribed burns over the first decade of the plan.

"It's hard to really understand what's actually going to happen on the
ground in the monument," Watson said. The plan "gives the Forest
Service an awful lot of flexibility to do the wrong thing in the wrong
places."

According to the Forest Service's record of decision and final
environmental impact statement (EIS), the focus for the first 20 years
of the plan is to protect communities in the wildland-urban interface
and the sequoia groves from wildfires, such as the 2002 fire in the
Sequoia National Forest that burned 150,000 acres and cost nearly $150
million to fight.

The prescribed fires and timber cutting will " promote establishment
of young giant sequoias, vegetative diversity, and resistance to
catastrophic fire," according to the Forest Service. "The result will
be a landscape that is more stable and resilient to environmental
changes."

Comment by poster: I think that "preservationists" don't want the
government to have any flexibility to use all the tools needed to
restore and protect sensitive forests. Currently, the monument is
riddled with bug killed trees and the McNally fire area is largely
untouched, as far as being restored. Most of the roads within the
monument have dead trees along them, threatening to fall on tourists
and blocking roads to emergency traffic. "Preservationists" are so
desperate to stop any timber cutting that they are claiming that Giant
Sequoias will be cut for timber. While the wood is strong, it is too
brittle for any building uses and is worthless to the timber industry.

Giant Sequoia groves are priceless and should be protected.
Personally, I think that all equipment and logging should be excluded
from the actual Giant Sequoia groves. There's a good chance that I
will be working within the monument at sometime in the future and I
guarantee that I will do my best to gently restore those stands within
the monument, using the best of today's science and research.

Larry,    a true environmentalist



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