TNF cuts rank No. 2 in nation
When you add up all the timber cut last year on the Tahoe National Forest, it ranks second place among America’s 150-odd national forests.
A total of 87 million board feet of timber was cut, including 50 million board feet of “saw timber” – enough to build about 4,500 1,900-square-foot homes. Another 34 million was cut for “biomass,” or power plant fuel.
The balance included such things as 1.8 million board feet of firewood cut by homeowners and 1.4 million board feet of Christmas trees.
An environmentalist, a top TNF official and a timber industry representative had different takes on what the timber harvest numbers meant.
“This is one of the most famous national forests in the country, and they’re basically treating it like a fiber farm,” criticized Chad Hanson, a Chicago Park environmentalist who is on the Sierra Club’s national board of directors.
“That’s a lot of logging. Especially in this day and age,” said Hanson, who brought the timber harvest numbers to The Union’s attention. “These are mature and old-growth trees.”
TNF Supervisor Steve Eubanks said the 87 million board feet “in itself doesn’t mean anything.”
He pointed out that TNF only sold 28 million board feet of timber last year. The reason that more was cut is that, following a timber sale, timber companies can wait up to three years to log. So last year’s timber harvest totals included sales from previous years, he said.
“We haven’t sold that much for a while,” Eubanks said, adding, “Even if we were selling 87 million board feet a year, that’s technically sustainable.”
Eubanks said that the 34 million board feet of biomass included slash – tree tops and limbs – taken away during logging to reduce fire danger.
“We’re doing exactly what (critics) say they want us to do,” by removing that biomass, Eubanks said.
Hanson, who opposes all commercial logging in national forests, said biomass sales can cause environmental damage.
“Biomass is not small stuff,” he said. “We’re talking about trees that can be 80 feet tall. You can decimate a forest,” Hanson said, through biomass removal.
Donn Zea, president of the Auburn-based California Forest Products Commission, said that annual tree growth on the TNF equals about 400 million board feet.
“So if you’re cutting 50 million board feet (of saw timber), and you’re growing 400 million board feet … and (environmentalists) are still complaining, you’ve got to ask why,” Zea said. “In light of an increasing body of science, to be on record for zero cut is to be out of touch.”
“The TNF seems to be getting it done in terms of getting that (wildfire) fuel out of there,” he said.
The 87 million board feet of timber cut last year on TNF is second only to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in northern Wisconsin, which cut 120 million board feet of timber.
A board foot is a one-inch thick piece of lumber 12 inches square.
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