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Lawsuits battle clear-cutting in Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges

clearcuttingclimate changeforest offsetsglobal warmingsierra nevada

Sierra pacific Will clear-cutting forests increase global warming? That's a contentious issue as California, which is seeking to slash its carbon footprint, wrestles over rules to manage the state's private forests.

Today, the Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson-based environmental group, filed lawsuits against the California Department of Forestry in seven California counties to halt logging plans for 5,000 acres across the Sierra Nevada and Cascade regions. The group contends that the agency approved the projects without properly analyzing carbon emissions and climate consequences under the California Environmental Quality Act. "Clear-cutting is an abysmal practice that should have been banned long ago due to its impacts on wildlife and water quality," said Brian Nowicki, CBD's California climate policy director. "Now, in an era when all land-management decisions need to be fully carbon-conscious, there is no excuse to continue to allow clear-cutting."

Sierra Pacific Industries, the timber company that is proposing the logging, responded that its harvesting would result "in a net sequestration rate of carbon dioxide that far exceeds any emissions that might occur." California requires that clear-cut areas be replanted, so that while logging results in emissions of some of the carbon stored in those trees, replanted areas would eventually compensate.

"This out-of-state organization...won't be happy until they have taken away every forest-related job in California," said Mark Pawlicki, director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability for Sierra Pacific. "The plaintiffs do not understand forestry and they do not understand carbon sequestration." Dave Bischel, president of the California Forestry Assn., an industry trade group, said that the logging plans "provide significant data on the carbon sequestration benefits" adding that 40% of the state's sawmills have closed since January 2000, boosting rural unemployment.

Forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and storing in the trunks and leaves of trees and shrubs and in the soil. Forestry experts say that the state's 14 million acres of private timberland could be managed to sequester twice as much carbon as they do now. But the technicalities of how to accomplish that are a matter of bitter dispute between environmental groups, state agencies and the timber industry.

California is poised to adopt a cap-and-trade plan this year that would allow timber companies to calculate the extra carbon they obtain through changing their management practices, and then sell carbon credits or "offsets" to polluting industries, such as utilities and refineries, which are required to cut their carbon dioxide output. Several environmental groups, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, worked with industry to fashion the rules adopted by the California Air Resources Board to govern forest offsets. But the environmental community is split, and CBD is demanding that the board rescind the rules for failing to account for their environmental impact.

Today's lawsuits were filed in superior courts in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Modoc, Shasta, Tehama and Trinity counties. "By continuing to rubber-stamp Sierra Pacific Industries' clear-cutting plans, the Department of Forestry is chopping a gigantic hole in the credibility of California's climate policy," Nowicki said. He added that, last August, Sierra Pacific withdrew plans to log more than 1600 acres following CBD lawsuits over the greenhouse gas effect. Several dozen new Sierra Pacific plans are pending.

-- Margot Roosevelt

Photo: A Sierra Pacific Industries lumber mill. Credit:Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Comments () | Archives (12)

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The State of California errects laws that obstruct efficient business operations, impose extraordinary legal and compliance costs, and discourage job creation. Until the government focuses on making California more "business friendly", we will continue to suffer from above average unemployment and endure endless delays in infrastructure projects and other investments as fringe groups tie up all improvement efforts in courts for years.

selective logging. period.

It figures Carl Zichella supports clear cutting. The guy is a one-man wilderness slaughterhouse!!! He is the main voice of Sierra Club in CA, yet he is also the biggest sellout to Big Energy, Big Logging and Big Polluters - why on earth do you Sierra Clubbers let him speak for you?

The truth is that Carl Z is pushing super, super hard for total ecosystem destruction of millions of acres in the Mojave as well, an ecosystem which sequesters AS MUCH CO2 AS TEMPERATE FOREST, in support of Chevron, BP, Goldman Sachs and other dirtbag Big Solar mercenaries who want to destroy our planet for private profits, and screw ratepayers, taxpayers, and property owners in the process.

Brian Nowicki is a guy we can trust - he understands who is buying who and what is right. People should listen when he speaks - clearcutting the Sierras or the Mojave is a STUPID, DANGEROUS, PERMANENTLY DESTRUCTIVE idea and they both need to be stopped, period.

have we learned nothing about clear cutting how can BIG MONEY do this. Our planet doesn't have a chance Greed distroys God Bless us all ps Hug a Troop

Sierra Pacific closed the mills as part of their consolidation. It was not environmental challenges. Their business plan is to clearcut over one million acres and where they cannot, build homes instead. Someone said something about the loss of union jobs. This is another myth that industry perpertrates. Less than 8% of the jobs in this industry are union. Most are dangerous lower-paying jobs. Clearcutting results in even-aged forests that are more susceptible to big fires. It ruins native habitat. It replaces mixed conifer forests with monocultures. It uses pesticides and herbicides that reach local water bodies. Deer and squirrels like these plantations and little other wildlife. You won't find a pine martin or other sensitive species near a clearcut/replant. Thank goodness the Center for Bio Diversity has the resources and gumption to stand up to this rape of California.

The environmental community can't have it both ways. On the one hand they circulate policy statements and brochures in favor of biofuels and alternative energy and on the other hand they block any rational means of aggregating sustainable biomass for the process!

Our forests and habitats are unhealthy from lack of proper management. The Forest Service documents that we are seeing forest density at 6-10 times what is healthy. Thinning operations are crucial to restore health to our forests - reducing unprecedented mega-fires and bug infestations that are de facto deforestation. And what are smoke and methane from decaying trees?... greenhouse gases.

We need three things. 1) more forest industry to make forest restoration economically feasible, 2) more authority in the public's Forest Service to enact measures to comply with federal laws (like the Healthy Forest Act of 2003 which was co-signed by Sen. Diane Feinstein), and 3) a reduction in the litigation designed to frustrate remediation of forest health.

The fossil status quo has no better friends that the Luddite environmentalists and their lawyers who frustrate real progress to recover health in our forests. Sustainable thinnings and reforestation can be paid for, in great measure, by developing biorefineries and biopower plants that use forest residuces to create green alternative energy - and meaningful environmental jobs.

The article says the environmental community is split. Activists on the ground in California are not split about clearcutting. Most all of us have an entire history in activism that stood against clearcutting from day 1.

Who is split are those people, like Carl Zichella, National something or another of Sierra Club, who were entrusted by their membership to protect the forest, the future, our species and our planet but instead voted to have California adopt clearcutting as a forest practice AND reward those same lunatics with so called Carbon Credits, effectively destroying the Sierras unless the state is stopped.

The only "split" is Carl, NATIONAL Sierra Club and any other organization that split itself from the environmental movement by giving big timber what they asked for and screwing all the activists and the wildlife and forest. Folks put your money into the Battle Creek Alliance...those WOMEN are fighting for your children. thebattlecreekalliance {d o t } org

When your job is being threaten for the reason it has run it's course it's very difficult, but this has happened in every country in every decade since the beginning of time. When tribes moved on when the hunting was no longer feeding ones family, when coal mines had run it's course, when the car factories moved on due to many factors. But that's what you do.. We survive by adjusting to the needs for our families and the consumer.. that's what we do... we evolve that's what we do.
Replanting is wonderful but were talking 20, 50, 60, years to get back to speed and yes within this time it well leave it's mark to the environment that well never come again. This is a part of living on this earth.. we replace.. we leave it better than we found it is what my Dad taught me.. and that's what we do.

As a Registered Professional Forester Mr Pawlicki should be more careful about making misleading statements. He knows that the lumber mill and other lumber losses recently in California are due to the depression/crash in housing and other construction as well as modernization/consolidation of industrial facilities. He knows this and yet he continues to try to cast the blame elsewhere hoping nobody has taken Econ 101. That is a "misleading statement."Additionally Mr Pawlicki knows that Center for Biological Diversity is not the only organization in California outraged at the massive clearcutting devastating our watersheds and wildlife and climate. He is hoping that the public never knows the names of the many other groups who share CBD's views and are also moving to take actions against the clearcutting. Many of those groups are grassroots organizations of older retired folks who live in or love the Sierra. He also knows that the public is also now becoming more and more knowledgeable the amount of toxic herbicides - including atrazine - that the giant industrial timber company is dumping on forest land in our watersheds Isn't it time for SPI to stop clearcutting and stop greenwashing their activities? Google Earth satellite photos know clearly out the devastation and websites like show the public what is really going on.

Oh, I see .... a bunch of enviro lawyers get to stay employed thanks to irresponsible lawsuits like these, while the lives of many CA families are destroyed as forest workers - many union members - lose their jobs. Yep, that sounds really good for us ...

What is missed by this article is that cutting down all trees will change the local climate! That's exactly what happened in the geographic area that is now Turkey (the Anatolian penninsula) and northern Africa! Trees were cut down for agricultural reasons, but the climate eventually changed so dramatically that agriculture was no longer possible. Both areas are now quite dry, and desert or close to it. Welcome to human effects on climate. How many people know that Greenland was once forested! The Norse got rid of the trees, and eventually the climate change got rid of the Norse. Other examples abound. Read a bit about what regulates local climate. Its not totally divorced from what is happening on the ground!

cool. keep those lawsuits coming.


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