Environmentalists appeal Star Fire thinning plan | TheUnion.com

Environmentalists appeal Star Fire thinning plan

The fight over burned, dead trees is heating up.

Environmentalists on Tuesday said they appealed a Tahoe National Forest proposal to salvage log 10,000 acres burned in the fall of 2001 by the Star Fire, a month-long blaze about 15 miles east of Foresthill in Placer County.

Early on during planning, TNF officials hoped to appease environmentalists by agreeing salvage loggers wouldn’t cut any burnt tree that still had one, green needle left – even if TNF experts strongly suspected the tree ultimately would die.

Now the debate is about how many burned, dead trees should be spared from logging.

A coalition of environmental groups issued a press release Tuesday accusing the TNF of “seeking to dress up a massive timber sale as something ecologically beneficial.”

Don Rivenes, a Nevada City-area spokesman for the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, said the coalition wants the TNF to leave a minimum of 19 snags, or standing dead trees, per acre for the sake of wildlife, such as black back woodpeckers which thrive in burned forests.

Environmentalists also don’t want loggers to remove dead, burned trees more than 20 inches in diameter, Rivenes said.

Some logging is needed to reduce future fire danger, Rivenes said. “But you can do that, by first, (taking) the smaller trees.” The TNF plan calls for removing too many old, big, dead trees, he said.

Karen Jones, TNF official in charge of the salvage logging project, said, “Overall, we’re leaving more (dead, burned) trees than we are removing.”

“If our motivation was a salvage sale we would be taking a lot more trees,” she said. “We came up with the best solution to restore the area as quickly as possible.”

TNF officials listened closely to environmentalists and already analyzed what they propose. But without logging proposed by the TNF, the dead, burned timber would pile up as fuel that “after 30 years, or so, would still be waist deep,” Jones said. “Our goal is to have an old forest grow back. We can’t do it by leaving all the dead trees out there.”

Rivenes said environmentalists seek about a 25 percent reduction in logging, which still would produce about 75 million board feet of timber. (One million board feet equals wood to build one hundred, 1,880 square foot homes.

The appeal went to the Forest Service’s regional office in Vallejo. If rejected, salvage logging could begin in March or April, Jones said, unless environmentalists sue, which could delay things longer.

The environmental coalition includes the Sierra Foothills Audubon Society, Forest Issues Group, Mother Lode Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign.

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