Forest Service sued over Sierra plan |

Forest Service sued over Sierra plan

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer and major environmental groups have filed two federal lawsuits against the U.S. Forest Service in an effort to block its revised plan for the Sierra.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Lockyer denounced last year’s revision of the Sierra Nevada Framework, saying it had “no basis in science and no new facts, the Bush Administration has jettisoned the product of more than 10 years of study, public participation and consensus building.”

The original framework came out in 2001, calling for 200 million board feet of timber to be cut per year on the Sierra’s national forests to protect wildlife and prevent runaway wildfire. But soon after its release, people within the Forest Service said they doubted the cut level would make much of a dent in the Sierra’s choked forests and said the plan relied too much on hand-thinning.

In January 2004, the Forest Service issued a revised Framework with a cut level of 600 million board feet. In the modern heyday of logging in the Sierra from the 1960s to the 1980s, as much as 1 billion board feet was cut some years, with 200 million coming from the Plumas National Forest alone.

Attempts to contact Tahoe National Forest officials late Tuesday afternoon were unsuccessful.

California Forest Service headquarters spokesman Matt Mathes said, “we are extremely disappointed that anyone would sue us over this. We feel it’s a well-crafted plan that will reduce fire danger better than the 2001 decision and still protect wildlife.”

Craig Thomas of the Sierra Nevada Protection Campaign said the framework revision should have concentrated on thinning near communities, “but logging trees in the back country does not protect us from fire.”

Mathes said it was important to stop fires by thinning near communities, “but it is equally important to stop them from moving across a landscape and building up a head of steam toward communities. Our scientists have told us to thin across the landscape to act as speed bumps,” for runway wildfire, Mathes said.

“If you only thin around towns, it’s like being in a castle with a moat surrounded by dragons,” Mathes said. “At some time, you have to deal with the dragons.”

Local environmentalist Chad Hanson of the John Muir project was also unavailable for comment but last year after the framework revision was issued, Hanson said, “bottom line, this is a logging plan.”

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