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For Immediate Release, August 20, 2009

Contact:  Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304
Jan Chatten-Brown, (310) 314-8050

Lawsuits Filed Over Sierra Nevada Logging Plans' Greenhouse Gas Emissions

SAN FRANCISCO— Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed two new lawsuits against the California Department of Forestry over the agency’s continuing failure to analyze the carbon and climate consequences of clear-cutting when it approves logging plans. Today’s lawsuits, which challenge logging plans in Lassen and Tuolumne Counties, come on the heels of a similar Center action last week challenging logging in Tehama and Butte Counties. All three cases concern clear-cut logging plans by Sierra Pacific Industries – plans that collectively would devastate more than 1,600 acres of forest in the Sierra Nevada.

Despite well-established law that state agencies must analyze and mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions from a specific project when they approve it, the Department of Forestry failed to carry out any project-specific analysis of the emissions that would result from Sierra Pacific Industries’ clear-cutting plans. More than two dozen similar logging plans, all by Sierra Pacific Industries, are awaiting approval from the Department of Forestry. Together, these plans would authorize clear-cutting over 12,000 additional acres of California forests.

“While other state agencies are making great strides in tackling greenhouse emissions, the California Department of Forestry seems to be lost somewhere in the last century,” said Brendan Cummings, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Unfortunately, the Department acts as if its job is to rubberstamp corporate logging plans rather than help safeguard our wildlife, water, and climate.”

Undisturbed forests generally act as carbon sinks, continuously absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and storing it in the forests’ trees, shrubs, and soil. Logging can convert a patch of forest from a net carbon sink to a carbon source. Clear-cutting, which is also damaging to wildlife and water quality, generates the most greenhouse gases of any logging method.

The California Department of Forestry is responsible for approving all logging plans on private land in California and must ensure that each proposed plan complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. Under this law, state agencies and local governments approving projects must analyze the projects' effects on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, as well as the cumulative impact of related logging. However, rather than calculate the carbon emissions that would result from Sierra Pacific Industries’ actual logging plans, the Department of Forestry simply asserts that over a 100-year time frame enough trees would grow back on the company’s lands to render the logging carbon neutral.

“The failure of the Department of Forestry to disclose, analyze, and most importantly, mitigate the actual carbon dioxide emissions resulting from these logging plans violates both the spirit and the letter of California’s environmental laws,” said Jan Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, co-counsel for the Center in today’s suits.

Today’s lawsuits, filed in superior courts in Lassen and Tuolumne counties, assert that the state violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the Forest Practice Act when it approved Sierra Pacific Industries’ timber-harvest plans without addressing the CO2 emissions that will result from the clear-cutting.

“Clear-cutting is an abysmal practice that should have been banned long ago due to its impacts on wildlife and water quality,” added Cummings. “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.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with 225,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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