Conservation organizations challenged the Bush administration's decision to log Giant Sequoia National Monument in federal court earlier today. The groups also encouraged the administration and the court to look to neighboring Sequoia National Park for a better way to manage the rare forest.
Attorneys from the Sierra Club and Earthjustice represented the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, Earth Island, Institute, Tule River Conservancy, Sequoia Forest Keeper, and Center for Biological Diversity jointly filed the complaint in San Francisco Federal District Court.
"These magnificent giant Sequoia forests are found nowhere else on earth," explained Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club Conservation Director. "It makes no sense for the Bush administration to sacrifice such a spectacular national treasure. It also happens to be illegal."
Giant Sequoia National Monument boasts two-thirds of all the Sequoia redwoods in the world, with most of the remainder found in the adjacent National Park. The popularity and awe-inspiring beauty of the Sequoia forest and its wildlife led President Bill Clinton permanently protect the forest as a National Monument under the Antiquities Act. Earlier, President George Bush Sr. had proclaimed the Sequoia groves off limits to commercial logging.
"Giant Sequoia National Monument is a national treasure and should be protected as such," said Anne Harper, an attorney for Earthjustice. "Turning Sequoia into a business opportunity for the timber industry is not the best use of irreplaceable public lands."
Earlier this month, the Bush administration officially reversed those policies by finalizing plans to allow what amounts to commercial logging in the Monument, including the prized Giant Sequoia groves. The administration's plan would allow 7.5 million board feet of timber to be removed annually from the Monument, enough to fill 1,500 logging trucks each year. This policy would include logging of healthy trees of any species as big as 30 inches in diameter or more. Trees that size can be as much as 200 years old.
"This plan opens up huge areas to logging and specifically targets trees big enough to sell, undermining the whole purpose of the Monument. The Bush administration is shirking its responsibility to current and future generations to take care of this ancient and treasured forest," added Carla Cloer, representing the Tule River Conservancy.
As a model for better management, the Sierra Club and others are asking the Bush administration to look to nearby Sequoia National Park, where innovative conservation and fire prevention strategies have reinvigorated the Sequoia groves and made nearby communities safer. "In stark contrast to the very successful management techniques used for decades by the National Park Service in the Sequoia National Park," reads the complaint, "[the Bush administration] approved a Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan... that would permit extensive logging and cause the degradation of old forest habitat and irreparable harm to the Monument's wildlife, directly conflicting with the purposes of the Sequoia Monument."
"The plan proposed by the Forest Service reverts back to an outdated strategy that ignores the clear recommendations of fire scientists on the Monument Science Advisory Committee, that fire risk reduction is not about logging large trees," stated Craig Thomas, Director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign.
To view maps of the areas within the Monument where logging will be permitted.
Anne Harper, Earthjustice 510-550-6700
Eric Antebi, Sierra Club 415-977-5747