1 Feb 2010, 12:06pm
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Environmental group challenges logging plans

by Peter Fimrite, SF Chronicle, January 31, 2010 [here]

An environmental watchdog group is suing in seven California counties in an attempt to block an alleged plan to clear-cut 5,000 acres of forest in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges.

The Center for Biological Diversity accused the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection of illegally approving 15 timber harvest plans that improperly analyzed the effect of logging on the climate.

The logging plans, all proposed by Sierra Pacific Industries, violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the Forest Practice Act by failing to take into account the large amounts of carbon dioxide that would be released into the atmosphere when the trees are cut, according to the lawsuits.

“Clear cutting causes the greatest release of greenhouse gases while simultaneously causing the greatest damage to forest resources, water and wildlife,” said Brian Nowicki, the California climate policy director for the nonprofit center, which is based in Arizona but has offices in San Francisco. “All 15 of these projects have significant amounts of clear cutting.”

Officials with the department of forestry denied the allegations in the lawsuits, which were filed last week in superior courts in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Modoc, Shasta, Tehama and Trinity counties.

“California has the most stringent set of environmental protections in the nation,” said Janet Upton, a deputy director for Cal Fire, which is responsible for approving all logging plans on private land in California. “Both the Forest Practice Act and the California Environmental Quality Act were met by both the landowner and by Cal Fire.”

The lawsuits deal only with the portions of the 15 projects that involve clear cutting. Nowicki said that in those instances Sierra Pacific failed to properly calculate carbon emissions according to protocols set by the state. Despite that, he said, forestry officials rubber-stamped the plans.

Mark Pawlicki, the director of corporate affairs and sustainability for Sierra Pacific, said the timber harvesting plans carefully examine the effect on air quality and the environment and, in fact, show that Sierra Pacific land preserves far more carbon dioxide than is released by logging. He called the lawsuits groundless attempts to put people out of work in rural communities.

“It astonishes us that these job killers would attempt to ruin the lives of so many people who work in the forest products industry,” Pawlicki said. “This is abuse of the judicial process. In reality they are trying to use lawsuits to shut down our company.”

The litigation could have a far-reaching effect, given that several dozen similar logging plans by Sierra Pacific are awaiting approval by state forestry officials.



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