|August 1997||Issue 1|
The Battle to Save the Giant Sequoia
The Forgotten Sequoias
When John Muir, the Sierra Club and others, won their campaign over 100 years ago to create Sequoia National Park, most forest advocates gave a great sigh of relief. While Muir urged that more of the Sequoia Groves be fully protected, no one took action. Conservationists became complacent. Surely the days of grove exploitation were over! The ancient and majestic Giant Sequoias of California's Sierra Nevada, the largest living things on earth, were at last safe from chain saws and human greed .... Or were they?
National Parks and National Forests:
In ecologically intact Sierra Nevada forests, primarily Park and Wilderness lands, human beings have attempted to suppress fire for several decades thinking that fire was an enemy of the forest. We now know that fire plays an important role in a natural ecosystem. National Parks are gradually reintroducing fire onto their lands; depending upon the location and other criteria, naturally ignited fires are permitted to bum and some fires are deliberately started (controlled bums). The Forest Service is borrowing rhetoric, using it out of context, and misapplying it to its heavily manipulated and damaged forests on which there are few intact ecosystems remaining; indeed Sequoia National Forest alone has logged out 3 BILLION Board Feet (around 8 million trees - not including "undesirable species," trees damaged during logging, or trees smaller than 16" in diameter) built thousands of miles of roads, skid trails and landings, has disrupted wildlife, filled its streams with sediment, and planted many millions of pine seedlings on tens of thousands of acres of even-aged plantations where there once was old growth and flame resistant Red Fir. As a result, on National Forest lands the most flammable areas of the forest are the even-aged plantations, brush clogged failed plantations, thousands of miles of "edge effect" where trees adjacent to clearcuts are drier, hotter, and greatly stressed, and low elevation chaparral which acts like kindling below the conifer forests.
Recent scientific studies carried out by the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project(SNEP) found that logging is the villain that created the flammable conditions found on Forest Service lands, that while logging may remove "tons per acre" of fuels, the remaining debris and damaged forest is much more flammable after logging than before. SNEP found that some Sierra Nevada Forests have NOT had a significant change in fire frequency and size -Sequoia is one of these!! And SNEP found that even within forests that are at risk, tremendous variations exist within those forests depending on slope, vegetation type, and watershed.
We do not see Sequoia Forest looking at the forest as an intact ecosystem, rationally dealing with flammable areas,or reintroducing fire. Their outdated Forest Plan, contrary to recent scientific recommendations, requires immediate suppression of fire. The USFS is not proposing to treat their neglected plantations or restore native species to their pine farms. They will not bum or clear any of their plantation"inventory" because those trees are the mathematical basis for their logging now and in the future. If those artificially planted trees are removed (they desperately need to be taken to restore our forests to health) their loss would change the computerized statistics that are the basis for supposed "sustained yield" and the USFS would have to drastically reduce their logging program -the last thing the USFS wants.
Sequoia Forest is violating the recent guidelines which require protection of the oldest and biggest trees for old growth dependent species like the spotted owl. Why? Their "logic" goes something like this: "The forest and spotted owl habitat will burn up if we don't build DFPZ's, but the timber sales to construct DFPZ won~t be bought and cut by the timber industry unless the projects are "sweetened up" by adding commercial trees up to 39.9 inches in diameter." Are they saying that they have to destroy it to save it.???
The Forest Service's CASPO (California Spotted Owl) guidelines that currently prohibit logging of the biggest trees has a loophole to allow "Alternative Strategies" in rare and exceptional situations. Since the CASPO guidelines were implemented in 1992, every major timber sale on Sequoia National Forest has used "Alternative Strategies" and allowed cutting of trees over 30" in diameter.
The USFS wants you to be afraid of fire, to buy into their reasoning that they have to log more to save the forest. If valid surveys identify unnaturally hazardous areas there could be many potential solutions, but the only solution Sequoia National Forest proposes use bulldozers, chainsaws, and logging trucks to target areas that still have big trees on them; for example, trees on ridge tops that were protected for wildlife and visual quality in previous sales now will be logged in these DFPZ projects.
The Forestwide DFPZ strategy is not being studied in a full scale EIS, but is being revealing piecemeal fashion. The Tule River Conservancy and Sequoia Forest Alliance, local conservation groups, have filed a lawsuit in Federal Court to force Sequoia Forest to write a full scale EIS and/or amend their Forest Plan to address the forestwide significant impacts that will result from this ridgetop logging. Sequoia Forest is arguing back that they have no plan to log off ridges forest wide despite the fact that they have a forest wide map showing forest wide DFPZ's and the sales that implement DFPZ's coincide with this map.
Some of the finalized and approved DFPZ projects are the Red (Tule District), the Pebble and Boulder (Hume District) Hatchett (Hot Springs District), Salmon (Cannell Meadow District) and Kelso (Greenhorn District) .
The Sierra Club is a large, powerful organization and its resources help local activists with advice and infrastructure. But grassroots battles are fought by grassroots people. A handful of activists from the smallest Sierra Club Chapters in California are drawing the line, pitting their efforts against a bureaucracy that can call a corps of U.S. attorneys from the Attorney General's Office and defend their misdeeds with taxpayer funded defenses. Repeatedly we force the Forest Service back to the drawing boards to rewrite their projects; but the Forest Service is relentless.
To monitor all these timber sales, file administrative appeals (which often result in decisions being rescinded, restudied, and reissued with no changes but which must be re-appealed) send out Alerts, and help attorneys with lawsuit strategies is an overwhelming task for volunteers who also hold down regular jobs and raise families.
Overwhelming, yes, but don't forget that these Sierra Club Chapters also fought and WON the battles to put Mineral King into Sequoia National Park and place thousands of acres of threatened forests into the Golden Trout Wildness; another recent victory: The California Desert Bill.
We must appeal to those in charge of the Forest Service, Mike Dombeck(Chief of the USFS), Jim Lyons (Assistant Secretary of Agriculture), Al Gore(Vice-President) and our Congresspersons to bring Sequoia Forest in line with existing laws and Forest Service policies. This magnificent forest deserves nothing less. Indeed this forest should be a prototype for how all National Forests should be managed.
What you can do about DFPZ's: Write or call the people below and express concern that Sequoia National Forest is not in compliance with existing federal law and is placing the forest that harbors more than half of the earth's Giant Sequoias in grave jeopardy. Tell them that you are opposed to the DFPZ strategy as planned on Sequoia National Forest, that it will not help the forest, not suppress fire, not accomplish any of his stated goals relating to forest health. Urge them to use their influence to pressure Sequoia Forest to withdraw DFPZ and similar plans; if Sequoia Forest wishes to proceed with DFPZ's they should write a forestwide EIS with full public input.
President Bill Clinton
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
(202) 456-1111(Comment Line)
Fax 202 456-2461
Vice President Al Gore
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Fax 202 456-7044
Secretary Dan Glickman
Department of Agriculture
14th St and Independence
Washington, D.C. 20460
Fax (202) 720-2166
Katie McGinty, Director
Office of Environmental Protection
Old Executive Office Building #360
Washington, D.C. 20501
Fax (202) 228-3954
Mr. Mike Dombeck
Chief, U.S. Forest Service
Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 96090
Washington, D.C. 20460
Mr. Jim Lyons, Assistant Secretary
National Resources and Environment
Department of Agriculture Rm 217 E
14th Street & Independence Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20460
Fax (202) 710-4732
Art Gaffrey, Supervisor
Sequoia National Forest
900 West Grand Avenue
Porterville, CA 93257
Regional Forester, USFS
630 Sansome Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
Our National Forests belong to all of us, so no matter how far away a Forest may be, your opinions count. Your own Congressperson will listen to you more than to folks outside his/her district. Personal letters, whether handwritten or typed, faxed or e:mailed "count" more than form letters or postcards which are put into the "petition" category. Legibility and a clear statement of what you want them to do is of the greatest importance, grammatical errors and the like, which many of us worry about, are not "graded." One paragraph or a ten page letter are tabulated the same, so save energy and keep your message simple.
Your message has the greatest chance of being brought to the personal attention of the Congressperson if it is received by an interested staff person. Phone calls to your Congressperson's office, asking to speak to a staff member who deals with forest issues then giving a clear, polite message has the greatest impact. Get the name of the staff person in charge of your issue, then follow up with a letter to that staff person and be sure to thank them. Let others know the names of helpful and interested staffers.
Sometimes calling multiple officials such as your Congresspersons, the EPA, Vice-President Gore, makes a big impact because these offices are in frequent communication. and compare notes. A few people can sound like a brass band!
Virtually EVERY "Letter to the Editor," Editorial, and article which mention a Congressperson will be brought to the Congressperson's personal attention thanks to clipping services. Issues raised at Congresspersons' Town Meetings are carefully noted so have your say at such opportunities.
Meeting, educating, and developing a relationship with staff can often have more impact than a short personal meeting with the Congressperson. Be sure to follow up on any requests from them for information.
On February 23,1987, Supervisor James A. Crates on assured the public that before any projects were to take place in groves the Forest would write a Forestwide Giant Sequoia Management Plan. This has not been done.
The 1988 Sequoia Forest Land Management Plan likewise states that a Forestwide Giant Sequoia Management Plan and a Forestwide Fuel Management Plan would be written. These have not been done. (Because Sequoia Forest has not written either a forestwide Sequoia Management Plan or a Fuels Management Plan, there are no standards and guidelines regarding grove management. For example there is, no direction about what to do if fire occurs in a grove, whether to bulldoze the groves to put out the fire or to let the fire bum naturally as would have occurred in previous centuries.)
In August, 1990, the Sierra Club and other organizations including the timber industry signed an agreement (called the Mediated Settlement Agreement "MSA") with the USFS. MSA provisions (among which are many grove issues) were to be written as an amendment to the Forest Plan within two years. This has not been done.
Four years ago Congress formed a scientific committee (Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project - SNEP) to study the Sierra Nevada. Among its many findings, SNEP found a lack of communication between the USFS and other agencies who managed Sequoias. Suddenly Sequoia Forest signed an agreement forming the "Giant Sequoia Ecology Cooperative" for interagency communication. SNEP states that scientific definitions of "groves" and their future should be studied by this group. However, this group has not met to discuss grove matters since SNEP was published over a year ago. Sequoia Forest is making decisions which will irrevocably impact the groves without working with other agencies (such as Sequoia National Park) with expertise in Sequoia ecology.
"The only trouble with the movement for the preservation of our forests is that it has not gone nearly far enough, and was not begun soon enough."
- Teddy Roosevelt, 1908
Sierra Club Members nationwide have voted to work towards ending commercial logging on federal public lands. The fragile, arid, steep, granitic southern Sierra is unsuited to commercial logging and tree farming; the effort to protect and restore the ecosystems of Sequoia National Forest should begin by ending commercial logging on its lands.
TIMBER SUPPLY: The total annual U.S. wood consumption is 100.3 billion board feet, while the annual timber volume cut from U.S. national forests is currently 3.87 billion board feet --only 3.9% of the nation's total yearly timber consumption. We simply don't need to log public forests for our timber supply--especially when so much is being wasted currently. For example, approximately 4817o of all U.S. hardwood lumber production in 1992 was for the manufacture of shipping pallets. Industry sources estimate that 54% of these pallets are used just once, then thrown away ending up in landfills.
JOBS and ECONOMY. In fiscal year 19% the timber sale program on this nation's national forests spent nearly $1.3 billion of Federal funds. In the same year, the logging program generated only $535 million in timber sales receipts-none of which were returned to taxpayers. Instead, most of these receipts were funneled back into the Forest Service's various timber accounts for future logging operations. The remainder was used for logging-related payments to states.
Federal funds are currently used to pay the costs of logging road construction, timber sale planning and administration, and replanting and restoration expenses, as well as other costs. The timber industry does not pay for these expenses when they log national forests. Contrary to the timber industry's frequent claims that the cause of below-cost timber sales on public lands is environmental regulations, all environmental analysis/ documentation and appeals/ litigation costs total only about $53 million --less than 5% of the total cost of the logging program.
Putting this timber subsidy in perspective, if we ended all commercial logging on our nation's national forests, and redirected logging subsidies into timber community transition assistance, we would have over $25,000 for each public lands timber worker for job retraining and/or ecological restoration work --and still have over $200 million left over to reduce the federal deficit in the first year alone! Soon, after new jobs were found and local communities became less dependent upon the boom and bust cycle of timber, several hundred million taxpayer dollars would be saved annually.
Further, recreation, hunting and fishing in national forests contribute vastly more income to the nation's economy, and generate far more jobs, than logging on national forests. And the gap is widening. In fact, the Forest Service itself predicts that, by the year 2000, recreation, hunting, and fishing in national forests will contribute 31.4 times more income to the nation's economy, and will create 38.1 times more jobs, than logging on national forests.
PUBLIC OPINION: The Forest Service's own 1994 nationwide poll found that 58% of Americans expressing an opinion oppose any commodity production on federal forests.
PRIVATE LANDS: As two conservative economists pointed out in a recent editorial in the Wall Street Journal, 11 government 'dumping' of cheap timber makes the market unpredictable for private-sector commodity suppliers, reducing their incentive to manage land responsibly ... It's time for the Forest Service to abandon its role as a producer of commodities...Commodity production is best left to the private sector." In other words, many private landowners are overcutting their lands to compensate for lost profits as they struggle to compete with the subsidized public timber that is flooding the market.
LOGGING VS. FOREST FIRES: The 1996 scientific study of the Sierra Nevada forests, which was commissioned and funded by Congress, found that "more than any other human activity, logging has increased the risk and severity of fires by removing the cooling shade of trees and leaving flammable debris."
HISTORY OF NATIONAL FORESTS: Commercial logging was illegal on National Forests when they were first established in 1891. It was not until June 4, 1897, due to industry pressure, that they were first opened up to timber sales--by an appropriations rider tacked-on to an Interior appropriations bill.
For more information about the above article contact:
David Orr & Chad Hanson, Co-Directors of John Muir Project
30 North Raymond Avenue, Suite 514
Pasadena, CA 91103
818-792-0109 (vox) 818-792-1565 (fax)
|"I think that the environmental groups here at home ought to be more forceful and not reticent because people might condemn us for being too radical. It grieves me greatly to see us giving away the American forest, spending more on roads -- so that timber companies can go and cut our national forests-- than we get for trees when we sell them." Former President, Jimmy Carter, as quoted in Audubon Magazine, Jan-Feb. 1995|
Join us at the Kern-Kaweah Chapter's annual Convergence on Oct 10--12 at historic California Hot Springs in the Sierra foothills near Porterville, California for a weekend of hiking and swimming and soaking in the pools. Arrive Friday prn or anytime thereafter. Official Check-in is Sat am at the Campground. Camping is just $4.00 a night, you provide your own meals and a dish for a potluck Sat p.m. There is a Deli for lunches or snacks. This annual event is always a lot of fun.
There will be a variety of activities including short hikes and birdwatching. One activity is a day long outing to nearby Sequoia Groves. See first hand the 1980's's logging in the Sequoias and visit a grove the USFS wants to "enhance" this coming year. For more information and directions please call Theresa Stump at 209-781-0594 or Carla Cloer at 209-781-8445
Reservations are not necessary for the Convergence, but if possible please let Carla know if you are joining the Sequoia field trip so that all can be accommodated. Sierra Club members or not, are welcome to join camaraderie.
The Sequoia Bill- HR 2077 would set aside about 350,000 acres as a Sequoia Preserve to protect over half of all the Sequoia Groves in existence. The Bill would also add 170,000 acres to the Golden Trout, Domelands and Bright Star Wildernesses. Write your Representative NOW!!
Save America's Forests- HR 1376 would permanently prohibit clearcutting on Federal Lands and would set aside many areas nationwide as special areas. In California this Bill would set up a Sequoia Preserve on lands in Sequoia National Forest and prohibit commercial logging and roadbuilding within its boundaries. Write NOW!
The White River project is just out! It will log over 12 Million Board Feet of DFPZ's, but they never use the term "DFPZ: " Don't Be Fooled! Their "prescriptions" call for 15.7 miles of intensively logged ridges with "selective cutting" on both sides of this center logged swath!