History repeating itself in South Yuba canyon?
The history of “resource use” in the Yuba watershed is rife with conflicts, yet when our community is functioning at its best – through rigorous public debate leading to civil discourse about the kind of future we want to leave for future generations – enduring solutions can often be realized.
In the 1980s and 1990s, proposed dams would have drowned much of our beloved South Yuba canyon, creating narrow and deep reservoirs. SYRCL mobilized our community for the passage of state wild and scenic protection for 39 miles of the South Yuba River, effectively ending the threat of new dams.
Just one year later, a new threat arose in the canyon – a proposed clearcut of canyon lands in the wild and scenic corridor by Sierra Pacific Industries. A group of local activists mobilized public opinion, and in the end, SYRCL and the Trust for Public Land brokered a deal that transferred more than 700 acres of SPI land into the South Yuba River State Parks system.
SPI is now proposing the “Buck Timber Harvest Plan” adjacent to Malakoff Diggins State Park, 570 acres that sweeps down into the South Yuba canyon and overlaps with the popular Humbug Creek and Missouri Bar trails.
The Sierra Nevada Group/Sierra Club and the Forest Issues Group have filed critical comments on the plan, which prescribes clear-cut logging and other equivalent “treatments” adjacent to a number of streams and creeks that feed the South Yuba River.
Humbug Creek already is listed as an “impaired waterbody” through the Clean Water Act due to mercury contamination and sedimentation. The SPI plan would log trees close to this creek, as well as expose soils to damage through antiquated clear-cut practices and multiple applications of herbicides. SPI acknowledges that the parcel is home to the foothill yellow-legged frog, a California Species of Concern.
Is there not a better public value for this land that is bordered by state parks, the Tahoe National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management – all agencies that are signatories to the South Yuba River Comprehensive Management Plan – which articulates goals of protecting watershed lands, enhancing public recreational opportunities, and protecting water quality? But, according to the logging plan, SPI rejects the notion that this parcel would have any value to the public.
Jason Rainey is executive director of the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).
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