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Appeals filed on Giant Sequoia National Monument management plan
Ten parties, including Sierra Forest Products and the Sierra Club, have filed appeals of the decision by the U.S. Forest Service regarding its selection of a management plan for the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The U.S. Forest Service’s plan limits logging and emphasizes fire as the primary strategy for ecological restoration of the forest. The plan, along with Record of Decision and Environmental Impact Statement, was released Sept. 4 and was subject to an appeal period, which ended Dec. 6.
President Bill Clinton established the monument in 2000 by proclamation. The order was created to protect 33 groves of giant sequoias on about 328,000 acres in the Sequoia National Forest.
Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott said one of the biggest points of contention within the proclamation is found in a single sentence that reads: “Removal of trees, except for personal use fuel wood, from within the monument area may take place only if clearly needed for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety.”
“The proclamation didn’t go on to define what that means and so, understandably, there was great anticipation for how we were going to interpret that,” Elliott said.
He said the Forest Service attempted to strike a balance between protecting, caring for, and maintaining the objects of interest, restoring and maintaining ecosystems, and providing for visitors’ enjoyment of the monument.
“What we’re seeing is just what we’d expect. Anytime that you try to strike a balance, understandably, there are going to be folks on the two extremes who are not going to agree with the point in the middle,” he said.
The appeals, ranging from two to 80 pages, were filed by Snowlands Network, California Forestry Association, American Forest Resource Council/Sierra Forest Products, Sierra Club, Sequoia Forest Keepers, Western Watersheds Project, State of California Attorney General’s Office, The John Muir Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Bud Hoekstra, an individual.
Kent Duysen, general manager of Sierra Forest Products, said the Terra Bella sawmill filed the appeal for two reasons.
“One, we don’t think there’s any scientific basis for the diameter limit and we should have scientists and professionals make that decision,” he said of the plan’s 20-inch diameter limit on the size of tree that can be felled and removed from the monument.
Duysen said another key and critical aspect Sierra Forest Products does not agree with is the restrictions on mechanical thinning. The plan states that approximately 23 percent of the roughly 328,000 acres of the land in the monument could be considered for mechanical treatments, compared to about 77 percent that could be considered for fire treatments.
“We’ve lived around here for 45 years and I’ve enjoyed the National Forest system. We just really don’t think there’s adequate protection to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires,” Duysen said. “I think everybody agrees our forests are too dense and overly-stocked, and some people believe you can do it with fire only, including a lot of people in the Forest Service, that’s too risky. You probably need to do both mechanical and follow up with fire.”
The Forest Service chief’s office in Washington, D.C. will likely have through mid-May to review the appeals and either uphold or toss the decision.
Elliott said he is not surprised with the latest development.
“I’m not surprised at all that at the end, folks would take exception. I’m not surprised with these players or with the number of players,” he said. “Honestly, this is what we expected... even when through a collaborative process, when you reach and find some middle ground that many people can accept, you are still going to have folks who have a fundamental values conflict that, understandably, given their mission statement, they are not going to be able to accept a full compromise or something other than their perspective.”
Contact Denise Madrid at 784-5000, Ext. 1047. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseMadrid_.