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CA Supreme Court clears SPI's timber harvesting plans

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CA Supreme Court clears SPI's timber harvesting plans

Postby ERIC » Fri May 30, 2008 9:31 am

California Supreme Court clears SPI's timber harvesting plans

Thursday, May 29, 2008
By Amador Ledger Dispatch

Conservancy groups have criticized SPI for what they term clearcutting of private forest lands.
Photo by: Courtesy to the Ledger Dispatch
In a major legal victory for Sierra Pacific Industries, the California Supreme Court last week cleared the timber industry giant to proceed with harvest plans tied up in court for seven years.

Two Sierra Nevada conservation groups - Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch in Arnold and Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte - brought the lawsuit in 2001 to prevent SPI plans to harvest more than 1,100 acres across a broad swath of private forest lands near Calaveras Big Trees State Park in Tuolumne County. The timber harvest plans, or THPs, had met with approval from the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the agency that regulates harvest activities. But both conservation groups criticized the plans for not examining the impact logging would have on various wildlife species, or analyzing the environmental impact of chemical spray treatments on harvested hillsides.

In 2006, the 5th District Court of Appeal agreed, halting the three logging plans on the basis that the state's regulatory process was insufficient and not properly followed. SPI and CAL FIRE appealed to the state Supreme Court in San Francisco, which heard the case in March. Last Thursday, judges reversed the appellate court's decision and remanded the matter back to the 5th district body.

"This is a total victory for Sierra Pacific Industries and the regulatory process and a stinging rebuke to anti-logging activists," said SPI spokesman Mark Pawlicki in a release following the supreme court decision.

Representatives from the two environmental groups agreed the decision was a clear setback to their goal of pressuring SPI to reduce what they've deemed clearcutting practices. But they disagreed with the characterization that they're anti-logging.

"No one is trying to stop SPI from logging," said John Buckley, executive director of the resource center, "only from doing it without adequately protecting the environment."

The conservation groups weren't able to convince the court that SPI sprays herbicides to control brush more often than the company says it does, which is on an acre once every 80 years. Conservationist believe the rate is higher, three or four times per site during the first 10 years.

"In addition to concerns about herbicide use and wildlife protection, there is mounting evidence that clearcutting contributes to increased fire danger and global warming," said Forest Watch President John Trinkl. "The ultimate solution is to draw the practice of clearcutting to a close and replace it with the type of selective harvesting that has been practiced in California for generations. We don't have to choose between healthy, sustainable timber practices and a healthy environment and economy - they complement one another."

In a release, the conservation groups criticized the supreme court's decision as a technical win for the state and SPI. They also said they would continue with other community efforts to pressure SPI. In recent months, those have included releasing a report that contradicted the findings of an SPI study on forest management and carbon dioxide emissions, as well as organizing press events critical of the timber company. Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch organized specifically to oppose SPI's forest management plans. The company owns about 48 percent of high elevation forest lands in Calaveras County.
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