Malakoff, Yuba timber to be cut
A public comment period will close this week for a timber harvest plan that includes cutting forests near Malakoff Diggins State Park and two popular South Yuba River hiking trails.
Sierra Pacific Industries owns the land and the second-growth trees within a 570-acre site sandwiched between the state park and the South Yuba River canyon.
Environmentalists say the timber company will “clear-cut” trees along the Missouri Bar trail and herbicide treatments will pose health threats to hikers and the Foothill Yellow-legged frog, a California species of concern.
Erosion from logging of a steep 6-acre site above Humbug Creek will worsen water quality already impaired by mercury contamination left from hydraulic mining a century ago, conservation groups say.
Water from the creek cascades down a series of waterfalls to the South Yuba River confluence and is a popular retreat for hikers of the Humbug Trail.
“The important thing to know is this community has taken a stand and asserted value for protecting the South Yuba River canyon,” said Jason Rainey, South Yuba River Citizen League’s executive director.
Sierra Pacific defended its practices.
“We’re in full compliance with all those regulatory standards for filing a permit,” said Tim Feller, district manager for Sierra Pacific’s Tahoe District.
In a Supreme Court victory last week, Sierra Pacific was granted the authority to continue using clear-cutting and herbicide treatment as part of its logging operations.
“These are all tools for managing the forest,” Feller said. “We try to return species that grow there naturally.”
Herbicide treatment is performed every 60 years to allow saplings time to become established and clear-cutting done in patches less than 20 acres creates defensible space for wildfire protection, Feller said.
Within the 417 page “Buck Timber harvest plan,” Sierra Pacific has proposed clear-cutting 10 acres of forests and logging another 85 acres using a technique called alternative prescription, said Bill Schultz, deputy chief for forest practice of the North Forest district of the California Department of Forestry.
Alternative prescription resembles a clear-cut save for a few residual trees left for visual purposes, Schultz said.
“It’s basically a euphemism with the same ecological effect,” said Peter Elias, a member of the Sierra Nevada Group of the Sierra Club and the Forest Issues Group, organizations that have sent critical comments on the project.
A remaining 63 acres will be harvested using group selection, and 149 acres will be commercially thinned, according to the plan.
Other prescriptions for the property include “special treatment” of 35 acres of forest lands within 200 feet of the state park boundary, 45 acres of rehabilitation and 218 acres that won’t be harvested, Schultz said.
Forest groups, including most recently the SYRCL, are calling for an extended public comment period and an extensive geologic survey of the entire project area.
Once the public comment period ends, forestry department directors will have 15 days to decide whether to approve or deny the project, Schultz said. The agency does not have the authority to deny a plan if it is found in compliance with state and federal laws.
Each year California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reviews and approves between 500 to 1400 timber harvest plans each year, according to the agency’s website.
Sierra Pacific said it is a third generation family business that owns and manages about 2 million acres of forest land in California and Washington.
In 2002, the timber company entered an agreement with the Trust for Public Land to protect 731 acres of forest land above Edwards Crossing that was later absorbed into the South Yuba River State Park river corridor.
To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4231.
The public has until June 1 to comment on the Buck Timber Harvest Plan
Comments can be sent to:
Director and Review Team
California Department of Forestry/Calfire
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002
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