Timber cutting is planned for proposed North Star development | TheUnion.com

Timber cutting is planned for proposed North Star development

Most logging jobs occur in the woods well away from urban centers.

But if a timber cutting plan for the proposed North Star development passes a current biological survey for threatened animals, Grass Valley residents will get an up-close view of a major logging operation this summer.

That will mean many logging trucks on Allison Ranch Road and the possibility of smoke rolling into town from slash burning on the two-mile long by one-half mile-wide site that abuts the city.

If it occurs after the mid-June deadline for the survey, 1 million board feet of lumber, or more would be cut off 451 acres of the 716-acre site, according to Scott Leonhard, a registered forester from Nevada City overseeing the job. One million board feet of lumber is enough to build 100 small homes.

According to the Sanderson Company of Bend, Ore., that is seeking to develop the property, the harvest is needed to make room for a proposed 2,140 single and multifamily residences. It is also necessary to thin the property to protect the firm’s investment from wildfire, and to create revenue, according to the timber harvest plan.

The North Star development is the most household dense of the four special development areas proposed for the Grass Valley area. It is currently pending for possible annexation into the city limits and project approval.

Leonhard wants to use a mechanical harvest system with a machine that cuts a tree and then strips its limbs, causing minimum damage to the forest floor.

“It makes for a much cleaner job,” Leonhard said. “All that material is brought to a large landing area,” where the logs are sent off to a mill and the limbs are chipped.

Leonhard hopes chip market economics will allow the excess to be shipped to a cogeneration-energy producing plant. But if the economics are not there, it will be burned on site, which Leonhard admitted would not sit well with some because, “people just don’t like smoke anymore.”

In the past when logging and mills flourished in the area, slash burning was just part of life. But those days are over, Leonhard said.

The foresters also foresee lots of logging trucks on Allison Ranch Road, although the timber harvest plan predicts the trucks will not severely impact overall traffic. According to the plan, trucks would enter the site from locations on McCourtney Road, Allison Ranch Road and Old Auburn Road. Outgoing trucks would take saw logs out Highway 20 toward Marysville and Highway 49 toward Auburn.

But nothing will happen if the timber plan does not pass muster with the state for its impacts on a number of threatened animal and plant species, should they be found on site.

“They won’t allow us to go willy-nilly in there until we know what to protect,” Leonhard said.

The acreage would be cut with several different methods. According to Mike Bacca of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, they include:

• Stands that will be cut and replanted.

• Second removal from areas already logged when the Amaral and Robinson families owned the property.

• Areas where small trees will be cut in order to leave larger ones 18 inches in diameter or more.

• Areas where only selected trees will be cut.

• Areas where only a few trees will be cut per acre in order to let the stand mature.

No clear cutting is sought in the plan.


To contact senior staff writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@theunion.com or call 477-4237.

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