Judge blocks plans for logging US reserves

The AP shows some disturbing effects of the Bush administration on the Forest Service:

The plan to allow logging of trees up to 30 inches in diameter aimed to protect sequoia trees from wildfires, Mathes said. He stressed that the Forest Service had no plans to allow logging of sequoias, which can grow up to 270 feet tall and 30 feet in diameter.

“When the smaller-diameter trees catch fire, that’s the one thing that can kill the giant Sequoia trees towering above them,” Mathes said. “We need to take another look at how we’re going to manage this monument to protect these magnificent trees from fire.”

Ah yes, they have no plans today, of course, which is very different from saying “will never” have plans. No need for plans yet since they can start by logging the small ones. Then, only after the little guys are all gone, plans can be revised to log the Sequoias or they can just be logged without plans. It’s plausable, especially from an administration notorious for manipulating facts, obscuring details, and abusing public trust.

The plan would have allowed up to 7.5 million board feet of timber — enough to fill 1,500 logging trucks — to be removed each year from the preserve, the plaintiffs said.

“We think today’s ruling is a huge step toward more intelligent, more protective management of the monument,” said Pat Gallagher, the Sierra Club’s director of environmental law. “It deserves to be managed like the national treasure that it is.”

The Forest Service was disappointed with Breyer’s ruling and may appeal, said spokesman Matt Mathes.

The reason for appeal? Forest fires? The report points out that a space with two-thirds of the worlds largest trees would be subject to the logging proposal. One can only wonder why Mathes is using the “stop forest-fires” argument to justify his position, especially when the Giant Sequoia National Monument site itself says fires are beneficial:

Federal land managers know natural burns, like this lightning-sparked Comb Fire, is Mother Nature’s tool to change the natural landscape.

Naturally-caused fires that remain small are efficient thinning tools. They meander here and there, consuming low brush, shrubs, small trees [my emphasis] and snags, reducing the accumulation of forest fuels. The larger trees survive, and openings are created for healthy new ones to grow. Cycling nutrients back into the soil, and regulating insects and disease are additional gains. Some trees, like the giant sequoia, need the heat of fire to drop their seeds. Animals benefit too. Some insects fly to fires to lay their eggs in warm trees. And the three-toed woodpecker wanders erratically in search of timber killed by fire just to feed on those insects.

Scientists estimate that over the past several centuries, unsuppressed natural fire had burned 15,000 to 18,000 acres a year in the Sierra Nevada.

Seems a bit contradictory to me if the position is to stop forest fires by logging, but then their own website extolls the virtues of naturally-caused fires that burn small trees. Perhaps more information would be helpful to explain this twist of logic? Unfortunately, it looks like the Forest Service has recently shown signs of disclosure-itis. They apparently failed to inform the public about key details of their plans:

Levi wrote that forest officials had “no explanation” for why some already-finished documents couldn’t be released to the public when completed, or at least summarized in the letters.

One of the Shasta-Trinity projects ultimately included 296 pages of reports about potential environmental effects, Levi wrote.

But in a letter seeking comments, the project was described in one sentence.

I wonder if the administration justified their position with “look we’re being environmentally friendly by keeping you in the dark — less paper means more trees (to log for safety reasons)”.

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