Logging company announces reduction in clear-cutting
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A logging company plans to reduce clear-cutting on about 560,000 acres in the Sierra Nevada, a move greeted with skepticism by some environmentalists.
Sierra Pacific Industries, a Redding-based timber company, announced Thursday that instead of clear-cutting the 800,000 acres it had set aside for that purpose in its 100-year plan last year, it will leave clumps of trees or trees scattered throughout its harvest area.
Environmentalists were skeptical and at least one state agency was cautiously optimistic about what the reduction will mean to the forest land owned by SPI.
The company’s decision was in response to complaints by local residents about the aesthetics of clear-cutting. It will entail not logging trees along public roads and scenic areas.
The 240,000 acres left that are designated for clear-cutting will be in more remote areas, said Tom Nelson, director of forest policy for SPI.
”We would try to put it out in contiguous blocks where there isn’t a sensitive viewshed,” he said.
But the change is not enough, said Alex Rate of the Sierra Club.
”What SPI has admitted is there’s only visual effects of clear-cutting,” he said. ”We feel that drastically underestimates the effect of clear-cutting on such things as public drinking water. In this day and age, we should be talking about buffer zones along sensitive watersheds and sensitive rivers, not along scenic highways.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection took a wait-and-see stance.
”CDF will continue to closely review each timber harvest plan on a site-specific basis as the details of this strategy unfold to ensure that water quality and other environmental values are protected,” said CDF Director Andrea Tuttle in a written statement Thursday.
SPI has 1.5 million acres of forestland in the state.
The company said it is not sure how much it will affect its board-foot production, but estimates put it at about a 10 percent to 15 percent loss, company officials said.
SPI also said that while the company assumed there would be some benefits to the environment from the plan, it did not focus on those in its decision to reduce the clear-cutting.
The company maintained that clear-cutting is beneficial to encourage the growth of new trees, because it exposes them to the sunlight they need to live.
”The problem is, when you clear-cut in a unit, you’re bulldozing, dousing it with pesticides and planting a single crop,” he said. ”There’s no way you can simulate the characteristics of a healthy forest.”
Rate said environmentalists would continue to push for changes in state law regarding clear-cutting.
Company officials said the clear-cutting reduction will allow trees of different species and sizes to grow near each other, as an untouched forest.
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