The U.S. Forest Service is recommending logging more than twice the amount of wood now cut from Sierra Nevada forests all in the name of fire protection.
The announcement yesterday follows more than a year of review of the Sierra Nevada Framework, a management plan for 11 national forests that prioritized environmental conservation and reduced logging and grazing in the mountain range.
"As I read through it, I see the term 'common sense' used in almost every paragraph. That's refreshing. The Forest Service is recognizing that we need more common sense in how we're managing our timberland," said Mike Albrecht, president of Sierra Resource Management, a Sonora logging company.
But other forest activists reacted with anger.
"This proposal is such an outrage, the Forest Service will raise John Muir from his grave," said Craig Thomas, director of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign. The campaign represents 76 environmental groups and fights for increased protection for old growth forests, at-risk wildlife, rivers and streams in the Sierra Nevada.
The Sierra Nevada Framework was passed in early 2001, during the Clinton administration's final days. The Forest Service spent 10 years and about $20 million developing it.
Eleven months later, Regional Forester Jack Blackwell chartered a review team to evaluate the plan and find ways to pursue more aggressive fire fuels treatments while reducing the framework's harmful impacts on grazing permit holders and local communities.
"To tell you the truth, the whole purpose of this thing is to reduce fire danger," said Matt Mathes, regional spokesman for the Forest Service in Vallejo.
The original Framework depended on prescribed burns to remove fire fuels, Mathes said. However, rangers said they didn't have enough days with proper humidity, temperature and wind speed to burn safely, so the team recommended more mechanical thinning to clear the brush and small trees.