Timber Giant Drops Logging Plans After Suit
SAN FRANCISCO - The state's largest timber company has withdrawn plans to log certain forests in the Sierra Nevada mountains, a week after the Center for Biological Diversity challenged the plans' climate change impacts in court.
The environmental group contested three separate plans by Sierra Pacific Industries to clear-cut more than 1,600 acres of Sierra Nevada forest. The suits allege state regulators violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to adequately look at the greenhouse gas emissions that result from clear-cutting, a logging practice that involves cutting down every tree in a designated area.
Sierra Pacific's decision to withdraw its plans was a wise retreat, said Brendan Cummings, a Joshua Tree-based senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.
"Clear-cutting is an abysmal practice that should have been banned long ago due to its impacts on wildlife and water quality," Cummings said in a statement. "Now, in an era where all land-management decisions need to be fully carbon-conscious, there is simply no excuse to continue to allow clear-cutting in California."
Sierra Pacific withdrew the plans to make sure the climate change analysis is better described, and expects to resubmit the plans for approval, said Mark Pawlicki, a spokesman for Sierra Pacific. "We show very clearly that our harvest plans sequester far more carbon dioxide than is emitted," he said. "We're confident with the analysis but want to take another look at how we described it."
The state Fire and Forestry Department, which approved Sierra Pacific's timber plans, would not comment on matters related to pending litigation, said Janet Upton, a department spokeswoman.
The Tuscon, Ariz.-based environmental group filed three lawsuits in superior courts in Lassen, Tuolumne, and Tehama Counties in the past two weeks. Sierra Pacific officially withdrew the three challenged plans on Friday, according to Upton.
In its suits, the environmental group claims that the state is required by the California Environmental Quality Act to calculate the amount of heat-trapping gases released by clear-cutting. Living trees absorb carbon dioxide, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, and release it once they die. The suit rejects the state's claim that the impacts of clear-cutting are not significant because over the long-term, new trees planted after cutting will absorb carbon dioxide.
Redding-based Sierra Pacific Industries is seeking approval for more than two dozen other logging plans, covering 12,000 acres, that also include clear-cutting. If the state gives the green light, the Center for Biological Diversity will likely sue again, Cummings said.
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