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Federal Court panel faults US Forest Service plan for Sierras

Incantation, 1905. Anne W. Brigman, American (Metropolitan Museum)

On Friday the 9th Circuit Federal Court ruled that the US Forest Service’s plan to open national forest land in the Sierra Nevada to increased logging  and road building and less restricted stock grazing needs to address how those changes would impact water sources and the fish that live in them. The Court’s 3-judge panel sent the plan back to district court which will decide what steps must be taken by the Forest Service next.

“In the same way the water in the Sierra is used by millions of people, it’s also the water resource that fish require all the way down to the ocean,” said Chris Frissell of the Pacific Rivers Council, which sued the Forest Service.

“Our main objective is not to stop a bunch of projects,” Frissell said. “Our goal has been to raise the bar for how the Forest Service treats water resources and fisheries.”

The original plan that was adopted in 2001 after years of study would have done more to protect the environmental health of the national forests. But private interests, including timber companies and ranchers, complained that they were being shut out and the Bush administration was intent on permitting more development on public land so changes were made that allowed increased exploitation of public land for private gain.

The Sierra Forest Legacy, whose member groups include The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Friends of the River, and the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, is another entity focused on the health of the region.

  • A look at this map detailing the demise of the Lodgepole Pines on the Oregon High Desert (1980 – 2008) will give you a pretty good idea how successful the Forest Service is at “managing” our forests.

    Grant that the Western Pine Bark Beetle infestations are cyclical going back at least ten thousand years and an intricate part of the Ponderosa Pine regeneration process but that cycle is broken now. Reports out of Oregon State University’s (“America’s” first) Forestry Program indicate that due to the nearly three degree rise in ambient temperature on the Oregon High Desert the Lodgepole will not come back, there may be one good burn remaining to germinate the Ponderosas, and no one has any idea what “weed” species will then hitch-hike in to establish a new ecosphere.

    The next daughter-diddler that tells me I’m arrogant to think humans can change nature is going to get busted in the mouth.

    I do not, however, hold the Forest Service entirely to blame… through twenty-five years of environmental obstructionism we’ve lost the opportunity to combat these patchy outbreaks before they turned into the 750,000 square miles of dead standing timber out there waiting to burn from Mt Shasta (N California) to Southern Alaska. Funny, twenty-five years ago people began moving here specifically to shut down the traditional way of life my family enjoyed here going on seven generations. I’ve already busted a few those mouths.

  • Pat H

    Isn’t it funny how some people who are proud of how humans can and have changed the environment in ways that seem “good” (make the desert bloom like Imperial Valley, golf courses everywhere which duplicate the terrain of Scotland, even that tree planted in the backyard to provide shade) refuse to consider that any of that stuff could possibly have a bad long-term outcome. I know a few myself.

    • Because of course semi-arid and actual deserts must be made to look like Scotland. In 20 years, golf courses in deserts will be looked at the way we look at war crimes now.

      • Golf courses on the desert – we have something like seventeen of them, world class – >i>are a war crime…

        The War on My Grand-Children.

        I doubt very much that humanity will survive the “century”, and I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.

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