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For Immediate Release, April 7, 2009

Contact: Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x 302

Pending Logging Plans Pose Serious Climate Threat

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The Center for Biological Diversity this week submitted comments on a proposed forest clearcut logging project, highlighting the fact that proposed timber harvest plans up for state approval in California will contribute to carbon emissions and associated global warming. The comments are the latest in a series of efforts by the Center to ensure that logging companies and the California Department of Forestry no longer ignore the significant increase in global warming emissions caused by clearcut logging.

“In spite of California's mandate to aggressively reduce greenhouse gases, logging companies have largely ignored or distorted the impacts of logging on climate change,” said Justin Augustine, a staff attorney for the Center. “Climate change is one of the greatest threats facing California, and the Department of Forestry has an obligation to ensure that California’s forests are part of the solution, not the problem.”

In December 2008, due to the failure of timber-harvest plans to even mention carbon emissions, the Center submitted its first round of comments on over 25 timber harvest plans. The comments described the serious threat of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts posed by clearcutting and urged the California Department of Forestry to fully consider and analyze the carbon dioxide emissions associated with logging proposals as required by law. As a result of the comments, none of the timber harvest plans up for consideration by the state have yet been approved.

Three weeks ago, Sierra Pacific Industries, the company proposing many of these timber-harvest plans, issued a statement downplaying the carbon emissions from clearcut logging, saying that the plans have no adverse climate impact and actually produce a net carbon benefit. This is despite the fact that the company’s timber-harvest plans would clearcut thousands of acres of forest, releasing carbon dioxide from the decomposition of production waste, woody debris, stumps, and roots that would otherwise remain as carbon storage and continue sequestering carbon. Scientific studies have found that it will likely take decades before the growth of replanted trees will begin to offset the large release of carbon emitted by clearcutting.

The California Department of Forestry is responsible for approving all timber harvesting plans on private land in California and must ensure that each proposed harvest complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. Recent guidance on the Act from the governor's Office of Planning and Research explicitly directs state agencies to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and identify ways to avoid or mitigate the emissions.

“Business as usual is no longer an option,” continued Augustine..“California’s forests offer great potential for absorbing climate-changing carbon from the atmosphere, and clearcut logging is the worst possible way to do that.”

The California Department of Forestry now has 15 working days to approve or reject the timber-harvest plan.

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