|Forest Service bushwhacks Giant Sequoia National Monument
by Bill Corcoran, Southern California Regional Representative
For years Sierra Club activists fought to protect the giant sequoia ecosystem
from logging and road-building on Sequoia National Forest, home to nearly half
of the worlds remaining sequoia groves. When President Clinton signed a
proclamation creating Giant Sequoia National Monument, activists felt they had
made a significant step in protecting the ecosystem and restoring the natural
processes that had created this beautiful place.
Clintons proclamation charged the Forest Service with developing a management
plan. To the astonishment of activists everywhere, the proposed plan would put
logging center stage. In fact, the Preferred Alternative 6 would log more large
trees in the monument than in the surrounding forestup to 10 million board
feet a year. They even propose to log giant sequoias. The rationale is that otherwise
catastrophic fires will destroy the monument.
Buried deep in their environmental documentation, they admit to wanting to save
the local sawmill. Commercial logging of the monument, they write, might
make the difference between continued operation and closure of the one mill available
to serve the Monument.
There is nothing stopping the Forest Service from thinning trees near houses and
businesses. Forest officials have acknowledged that giant sequoia groves are not
at risk for catastrophic fire. Much of last years fire in Sequoia National
Forest burned brush, not trees.
The impacts of this logging, not just to the giant sequoia old growth forest but
also to wildlife, are potentially severe. Pacific fisher, California spotted owl,
and many other ancient-forest-dependent species are barely surviving in the Southern
Sierra. Adoption of Alternative 6 may be the final blow to their viability. Ironically,
there is a Giant Sequoia named after the elder George Bush.
Contact the Forest Service or
Jim Whitfield, Team Leader, Giant Sequoia National Monument, 900 West Grand Avenue,
Porterville, CA 93257. Let them know that the preferred alternative (Alternative
6) is the worst they could have chosen and inconsistent with a National Monument.
While flawed, Alternative 4 is much closer to the ecosystem restoration and recreational
use voiced at the Monuments creation.
The California Wilderness Coalition has suggested the following talking points
for your letters:
1. The preferred alternative, Alternative 6, is completely unacceptable. It fails
to value the last remaining giant sequoia trees. It would open the monument to
commercial logging, ignoring the most basic requirements of the monument proclamation.
This alternative gives the administration the power to do anything it wants with
the least amount of accountability. We suggest you adamantly oppose Alternatives
2, 3, 5, and especially Alternative 6.
2. Alternative 4 most closely follows the original proclamation. We suggest you
propose adopting Alternative 4 because it: a) Has two sensible management zones,
one for areas of high human use and another with an integrated ecosystem approach,
b) It allows tree removal only for fuel reduction in areas near structures and
where human safety is a key concern, c) It relies on hand thinning and prescribed
and natural burning as primary management tools, and d) It allows increased non-motorized
recreation and keeps the historic trail network intact.
Deadline for comments is March 17.
Please send a copy of your letter to Senators Boxer and Feinstein and Representative
Farr (addresses on p. 3).
Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper to alert others.
For more information contact Bill
Corcoran (213) 387-6528 x208.
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