Reality Check: Rainforest Site and the Sequoia National Monument

Ran across this letter..

I know that what they (The Rainforest Site?) say is not true, taken literally at face value, but I can’t even figure out from this what is statement really going on ..

Despite all of its commanding beauty, the Sequoia Monument is in grave danger. The US Forest Service has revealed plans to log the forest, creating space for commercial and residential development.

Note the commenter’s responses. They seem to believe what is written. Wonder if there’s a quality control department at the Rainforest Site?

6 thoughts on “Reality Check: Rainforest Site and the Sequoia National Monument”

  1. It’s a sad, sad commentary on just how bad our collective efforts at educating the public about forest sciences, interactions and current policies. Is collaboration even possible if you have entire room of opponents who overwhelmingly believe what Rainforest encourages them to believe, despite what is clearly false.

    Giant Sequoia wood can almost be passed off as incense cedar but, the wood is brittle, and limited in use. Sierra Forest Products tried some out, which came off the Reservation. Out of 300,000+ acres, the tiny groves of Giant Sequoias make up about 2 1/2% of the Monument. Logging in Giant Sequoia groves has been prohibited since long before the switch-a-rooonie.

    I’ve butted heads with the activists down there before. I was not impressed, addressing each and every one of their “concerns”. I also “accidently” locked them in on a stretch of closed roads (due to hazard tree removal). They were pretending to be government researchers. My loggers let them out at the end of the day. *smirk*

    I have actually blacked-out blue-marked Giant Sequoias, grown off-site in the San Bernardino NF. The Forest was originally OK with cutting a handful of them that were crowded or suppressed. Like many of the project’s parameters, they evolved as the contracting work continued. They did make the right decision to not cut those GS trees. Such a controversy would have occurred over the scant commercial value of planted trees. The story surely would have been leaked to the Times.

  2. Sharon, I can’t make out what’s going on here, in part, because I think your post had a few grammar errors?

    “I know that what they (The Rainforest Site?) say is not true, taken literally at face value, but I can’t even figure out from this what is statement really going on …”

    What does that mean? I’m confused by some of the grammar errors and perhaps some loose pro-noun usage?

    I was able to find this, but it’s from a year ago.

    Giant Sequoia National Monument Again Being Logged
    Sequoia ForestKeeper Files Lawsuit to stop

    Sept. 5, 2009

    Sequoia ForestKeeper (SFK) has attempted to halt the U.S. Forest Service’s ongoing logging of large-diameter old-growth trees in the Giant Sequoia National Monument (GSNM) by requesting a temporary restraining order in Federal Court on Monday, Aug. 31, 2009. The Forest Service’s commercial logging project, disguised as a “roadside hazard” tree removal project, would cut and remove all but 5 of the 639 marked trees in the Hume District along 72 miles of road, including some with a diameter greater than 5 feet. SFK asserts that the Forest Service has underestimated the scope of the logging project, which is likely to affect 2,577 acres rather than the 115 acres the Forest Service claims, which violates federal law, and is removing trees from the Monument in contravention of the GSNM Proclamation. Unfortunately, the Court was unwilling to halt logging, which continues at this time.

  3. Eons ago, I was an expert witness in Sierra Club v. U.S. Forest Service, 843 F.2d 1190 (9th Cir. 1987). The case challenged nine Forest Service timber sales, five of which were in giant sequoia groves.

    My testimony rebutted the Forest Service’s assertion that without logging the giant sequoia trees will die out, unable to regenerate. Thus, to save the giant sequoias from this fate, the FS proposed to log all but the sequoia trees using ground-based yarding. According to the FS, this modified clearcut (there are but a handful of sequoias per acre) would scarify the soil allowing for sequoia regeneration.

    I pointed out that the FS’s proposal was “experimental, untested and certainly unproven of long-term success.” I had particular fun explaining how silly was the Forest Service’s notion that giant sequoias needed our help to perpetuate themselves. A giant sequoia’s only mission in its several-thousand-year life is to produce one surviving seedling. To that end, a single tree produces about 300,000 seeds annually. Thus, in 1,000 years (a mere teenager by sequoia standards), one tree births about 300 million seeds. Only one seed has to live to breeding age for the tree to replace itself. That, it seemed to me, was a near certainty.

    Sequoia National Park studies had shown copious sequoia reproduction following fire. None had been observed following logging. Add to the mix that sequoia trees are shallow-rooted and prone to damage from ground-based equipment, and it seemed a straightforward case.

    Well, it wasn’t so straightforward in practice. We lost in the district court in front of a standing-room, raucous crowd dominated by loggers. We won a 3-0 victory in the Ninth Circuit. The case set the wheels turning that led to the creation of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.

  4. Nobody wants to mention an experiment that was done, I think back in the 80’s. There was an aging grove that only had 3 living trees left within it. The Forest Service decided to simulate a stand-replacing burn that would kill everything but those 3 Giant Sequoias. So, they clearcut and burned it.

    Guess what?!?! There was a new carpet of Giant Sequoia seedlings! I’ve always thought that was a rather heavy-handed approach to GS regeneration but, it WAS effective! Personally. I’d rather see them leave the other vigorous old growth, as those specimens are often extremely large for their species. GS doesn’t need a clearcut to regenerate. It’s the very small slices of sunbeams that occur after a giant topples over, or when lightning sparks a spot fire, that supply candidates for regeneration (and domination).

    Outside of the GS groves, those areas have been managed where it isn’t so steep. The idea that the new Monument is a “pristine and untouched rainforest” is false in every way. The idea that there are vast forests of purely massive Giant
    Sequoias is also a fantasy. The oldest roadside (non-GS) trees always have the most rot and instability in them, especially when there was damage done when the road was first built. I’m as close to a roadside hazard tree expert as you are ever going to find. I’ve dealt with the SFK while doing roadside hazard tree projects. They had over a dozen specific concerns about my Roadside Hazard project they were threatening to take to court. Within one day, I had photographic evidence that each and every one of their “concerns” followed the rules laid down by then-recent court decisions. For example, they saw a pile of green branches on the ground, alongside the road. Since there was a ban on cutting salvage trees that had even one green needle on them, they were accusing us of violating the court order. I simply looked up, and saw a tree that had much of the branches scraped off on one side, due to a large hazard tree that was felled on the other side of the road.

    I can certainly verify that the Monument does indeed have large hazard trees to deal with. There are a dozen different situations that represent enough of a hazard in the next ten years to enable me to mark it for removal. Sometimes you can hit the tree with your hardhat to prove that the tree is hollow inside. You always bring a stick along, to probe an opening and assess the rot. Yes, often times, the rot clears up quickly and the rest of the huge tree is gorgeous. A hazard is a hazard is a hazard.

  5. “A hazard is a hazard is a hazard” reminds me of another long-ago lawsuit in which I testified; this time on behalf of the Forest Service. While traveling along the Mather Memorial Parkway, a scenic highway in Washington State, a pick-up truck was hit by an old-growth Douglas-fir tree blown over during a windstorm. Three people died. A family member sued the Forest Service and state DOT under their respective tort claims acts for negligence and wrongful death.

    The tort claims acts are a limited waiver of the government’s sovereign immunity from suit. The government often defends against such cases on the grounds that the decision being challenged falls within the acts’ discretionary function exception from suit. In essence, the question is whether the tort resulted from a governmental policy choice (i.e., the exercise of discretion) or, on the other hand, whether there was a prescribed course of action that the government required of itself and its employees.

    At issue in the Mather Parkway case was the Forest Service’s decision to manage the highway corridor as an old-growth preserve. Plaintiff claimed the Douglas-fir was infected with laminated root rot, that the Forest Service was negligent in not checking each tree along the highway for root rot infection and for not removing infected trees. Laminated root rot is a common native pathogen ubiquitous in many western forests. Plaintiff retained a Washington State Department of Natural Resources forester who testified that the only responsible way to manage this highway corridor was to clearcut 150′ on both sides of the highway.

    I testified regarding the policy choice the Forest Service had made to manage the area as an old-growth preserve. In particular, I explained how the policy choice meant that the FS had no duty to check for laminated root rot, and in fact, that root rot is a necessary part of the old-growth forest ecosystem.

    The case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction, i.e., the governments won.

    The take-home lesson is simple: land management agencies should not promise more safety than they are prepared to deliver. Too often the Forest Service breaks this sensible rule, e.g., promising that national forest roads should be made safe from hazard trees.

  6. Matthew, sorry about the grammar.. what I meant to say is that my literal reading of the clause “creating space for commercial and residential development.” doesn’t make any sense to me. It implies that FS land will be used for commercial and residential development. Which would be illegal. Maybe they meant a fuels treatment project for existing neighboring commercial development? I simply meant that I couldn’t tell from this piece exactly what the Sequoia folks were doing.

    If the project is “639 marked trees in the Hume District along 72 miles of road,” is that 9 hazard trees per mile? If this sale is to benefit the timber industry 9 trees per mile doesn’t seem like a very cost-effective approach for them.

    Normally when I read potential letters to the Supervisor, they generally refer to a specific project or area or Plan Revision or whatever. But perhaps I read things more literally than most people. People at work have pointed that this is not always a desirable trait :). Perhaps this goes back to the left-brain right-brain dichtomy we’ve talked about before here, although I can’t find the link to that post.

    I don’t really understand how folks made the connection between hazard trees along roads and the statement about “commercial and residential development.”

    I do agree with Andy that we should be clear and consistent about the principles around how we handle hazard trees along roads and trails. We already have more hazard trees than the budget can deal with, in places where they can’t be sent to mills, and the situation is likely to get worse.


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