TNF chief defends high timber-cutting rates
Tahoe National Forest ranked second in the nation last year for the amount of timber cut.
According to records obtained Monday by The Union, the 87.2 million board feet of timber cut on the TNF is the highest logged there since at least 1992.
TNF’s timber cut outstripped national forest logging levels in entire states. For example, 85 million board feet were cut last year on all six of Idaho’s national forests.
An environmentalist decried the latest figures, while a top TNF official said it’s important to put the totals into context.
“The Sierra is an excellent and very, very productive forest, and that’s part of it,” said TNF Supervisor Steve Eubanks.
That’s one reason TNF has a higher output than all the national forests in several Western states, such as Colorado (48 million board feet), Wyoming (14 million), Arizona (41 million), New Mexico (29 million) and Utah (32 million).
“On the Tahoe Forest, I’ve seen sugar pine trees that are 70 inches in diameter (at breast height) and 100 years old,” Eubanks said.
This past year was the only year since 1992 that TNF came in first among California’s national forests for the amount of timber cut.
From 1994 through 2000, Lassen National Forest was California’s top-producing national forest for timber. Its harvest levels ranged from a high of 117 million board feet in 1994 to 66 million board feet reported cut in 2000.
Since 1994, TNF has been in the top five California national forests for timber cuts.
Eubanks said it’s important to look at the amount of timber sold, which he said has been steadily declining. TNF sold only 28 million board feet of timber last year. The most sold in California was 33 million board feet from the El Dorado National Forest.
Environmentalist Chad Hanson, a member of the Sierra Club’s national board who lives in Chicago Park, wants to see all commercial timber harvests stopped on national forests.
“They’ve done so much damage, we need to stop the damage and let the forests recover,” Hanson said.
Regarding the Tahoe’s cut last year, he said, “They’re pushing it. They’re trying to do everything they can to get the timber out, essentially for one company, Sierra Pacific Industries … They get the lion’s share” of timber cut on TNF.
Eubanks disagreed: “The Forest Service is long past trying to satisfy industry (demands). That’s not an issue.” He said last year’s timber cut included about 30 million board feet of “biomass” such as tree tops and limbs used in power plants.
A board foot is a piece of wood 1 inch thick and 1 foot square. All figures above are for the fiscal year Oct. 1 through Sept. 30.
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