Enviro groups take state to court

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By GENEVIEVE

BOOKWALTER

Two area environmental groups took a state agency and a Fortune 500 company to court last week, saying they are failing to consider all effects of logging practices on wildlife in Calaveras County.

At issue at Thursday's hearing was Sierra Pacific Industries' clear-cutting and variable-retention logging methods.

Clear-cutting involves logging all trees on 20-acre chunks of land and replacing them with seedlings.

Variable-retention logging leaves four large trees and a few smaller ones on 20-acre pieces, but clear-cuts the rest.

Arnold-based Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch and Twain Harte's Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center filed the suit with Calaveras County Superior Court in August 2001 against the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection which approved SPI's plans for logging on about 900 acres it owns near Arnold.

The environmental groups argue that SPI's numerous 20-acre sites there, if fully logged as planned, will dramatically hurt water reservoirs and wildlife.

Animals that live in old-growth trees are being robbed of their homes, and sediment from cleared lots is washing into reservoirs and streams, representatives from each group contend.

The Calaveras County Superior Court suit focused on the effects of clear-cutting and variable retention on the California spotted owl and the Pacific fisher, two animals the groups said depend on old-growth trees to make their homes.

The suit is one of three filed by Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch that focuses on SPI's clear-cuts and variable retention logging practices. One suit was filed each in Tuolumne, Calaveras and El Dorado counties. CSERC joined Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch as plaintiffs on the Tuolumne and Calaveras county suits.

The Tuolumne County case was heard in December, and a ruling has not been made. Calaveras County Judge John E. Martin has 90 days from Thursday's hearing to make his decision in the Calaveras County suit.

The El Dorado county case has not yet gone before a judge.

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