U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth today approved the January 2004 Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA), a management plan that governs all 11.5 million acres of national forest land in the Sierra Nevada mountain range and Modoc Plateau in California and parts of Nevada. The decision rejects 6,200 appeals from the public questioning the wisdom and legality of the plan. A majority of the appeals requested that the Agency overturn the Regional Forester's 2004 decision and return to the popular 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework plan formulated during the previous administration after over a decade of scientific study and public involvement.
"This decision turns back the clock on forest management in the Sierra Nevada to the old days of 'get out the cut,' ignoring all we've learned about how to best protect our communities from fire and restore our native wildlife," said Greg Loarie an attorney for Earthjustice. "An era of goodwill and consensus has been thrown out the window today; thankfully, we still have the courts to ensure that our forests are managed responsibly."
The U.S. Forest Service revision approved today will nearly triple the amount of logging in the Sierra by allowing the cutting of 30-inch diameter, fire-resistant trees throughout the range while limiting safeguards for water and wildlife. The Forest Service hired a public relations firm to sell this new plan to the public, knowing a majority of Californians prefer the balanced, management plan exemplified in the original Sierra Framework.
The original Sierra Framework, with its emphasis on sustainable forestry, habitat protection, and fire prevention, had a broad base of support, including, scientists, conservationists, business owners, the California Attorney General's Office and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has called the original Framework "a model of forest ecosystem resource protection."
California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer said the Bush administration's amendment violates the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and other important environmental laws. Scientists are also contesting the lack of scientific and public input to the revised plan, which they say calls for an unnecessary increase in logging while allowing fire-prone communities to remain unprotected.
The plan approved today allows the removal of large trees -- 20 to 30 inches in diameter -- despite the fact that removing such fire resistant trees can create the perfect conditions for wildfire. Only by focusing on brush and small diameter trees near communities can we help protect families and homes from wildfire.
"Today's decision is an obvious case of winners and losers," said Loarie. "The people who live, work, and enjoy the Sierra are the losers. Sierra Pacific Industries, a major campaign contributor to the Bush campaign, appears to be the only winner," said Loarie.
Greg Loarie or Brian Smith 510-550-6714
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