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For Immediate Release, January 27, 2010

Contact: Brian Nowicki, (916) 201-6938

Greenhouse Gas Lawsuits Filed Against 15 Logging Plans in California

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed lawsuits against the California Department of Forestry for illegally approving clearcut logging projects without properly analyzing the carbon emissions and climate consequences. The 15 logging plans, all proposed by the timber company Sierra Pacific Industries, would clearcut more than 5,000 acres of California forests in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade regions.

“Properly analyzing, and ultimately reducing, the carbon emissions from forestry are essential if California’s efforts at addressing greenhouse emissions are going to be effective,” said Brian Nowicki, California climate policy director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But by continuing to rubberstamp Sierra Pacific Industries’ clearcutting plans, the Department of Forestry is chopping a gigantic hole in the credibility of California’s climate policy.”

The seven lawsuits, filed in superior courts in Amador, Calaveras, El Dorado, Modoc, Shasta, Tehama, and Trinity counties, assert the state violated the California Environmental Quality Act and Forest Practice Act in approving Sierra Pacific Industries’ timber-harvest plans without properly addressing the resulting CO2 emissions.

Last August, plans to log more than 1,600 acres of forest were formally withdrawn by Sierra Pacific Industries following lawsuits by the Center for Biological Diversity regarding the greenhouse gas emissions of the clearcutting. Beyond the logging plans challenged today, several dozen similar logging plans by Sierra Pacific Industries are awaiting approval from the Department of Forestry. Together, these plans would authorize clearcutting thousands of additional acres of California forest.

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. Clearcutting, 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 has asserted that over a 100-year time frame enough trees would grow back on the company’s lands to render the logging carbon neutral.

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