Sequoia National Monument.. So Few Trees, So Much Planning and Litigation

Trail of 100 Giants, Forest Service photo

Thanks to Terry Seyden for this link.

Perhaps the Californians on this blog can help me. I can’t understand this story…

This is about the Sequoia National Monument- which has probably had more planning investment per acre than any other unit of the National Forest System.

Although the monument designation bans commercial logging, that didn’t stop the Forest Service from issuing a plan in 2004 that would have allowed enough timber cutting in the monument to fill more than 2,000 logging trucks a year — all in the name of reducing the risk of wildfire.

Although the new plan reduces the size of trees that can be felled, it allows the cutting of some young sequoias, no larger than a foot in diameter, and other trees as big as 20 inches in diameter to reduce fuel loads and promote ecological restoration. Any young sequoia trees that were felled would not be sold, the agency said. But other conifers and trees could be. The diameter limit would also not apply to trees considered a hazard along roads or in public areas.

I don’t understand how there can be a ban on commercial logging and trees can be sold.

The Forest Service’s long policy of fire suppression has been blamed for the decline of the sequoia groves. In the nearby Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, managers primarily use prescribed burns to create sequoia-friendly conditions.
Conservationists want the Forest Service to adopt the U.S. Park Service approach. But Elliott said that “fire alone is not going to fit the bill. Mechanical treatments are appropriate.” The many private holdings and small communities scattered across the forest demand more aggressive fuel reduction, he added.
Sequoia ForestKeeper has argued that the agency used the hazard tree provision to cut down commercially valuable old non-sequoias in 2005, when it removed about 200 trees near the popular Trail of 100 Giants and sold 67 of them as timber. Judging by the number of rings on the stump, Marderosian said one of the felled trees was 320 years old.
According to documents released Tuesday, mechanical tree thinning would be allowed on about 23% of the monument acreage. But Sierra Club staff attorney Kristin Henry said other provisions in the plan could potentially open the door to tree cutting on much more land.
“I’m just a little bit skeptical,” Henry said. “It seems as though this plan is geared to a lot of logging.”

Hmm they sold 67 non-sequoias identified as hazards in 2005.. it seems a bit of a micro-scale to me to be much of an issue. Again, there must be more to this story… maybe Californians can help provide some background. I’m also curious exactly what the judge said in this case and why.

FYI, in Colorado, we do cut trees (more than 67) and the State temporarily stopped doing prescribed fire, which these folks advocate because of the dangers.

Note: in browsing for a photo I found this neat picture gallery here of sequoia groves on the Sequoia National Forest.

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