Forest Service logs (err, “thins”) old-growth to help aspen
Earlier this summer Sharon had a post titled, “Tree vs. Tree: An Aspen Restoration Project,” which looked at some of the issues surrounding the Tahoe National Forest’s “Outback Aspen Restoration Project.”
Well, this morning, the Sacramento Bee’s Tom Knudson took another look at the project, this time with local residents, who are not too happy with the Forest Service and with the Tahoe National Forest supervisor, who is not too disappointed with the project. Although, in fairness, the Forest Service supervisor did decide to halt logging (or do we call it “thinning?”) of trees 40 inches in diameter or greater on the remaining 190 acres of the project. Here are some highlights from the article:
Standing amid a scattering of stumps last week, an official from the U.S. Forest Service acknowledged the agency made mistakes by logging too many pine trees, including majestic old-growth giants, in an effort to help another Tahoe species: the quaking aspen.
But he rejected calls from local residents that the Tahoe National Forest sharply scale back the cutting along Independence Creek north of Truckee.
“Are there places where there are some trees that I’ve seen out here – some live trees still standing and some stumps – that I would have preferred be marked for retention? Yes,” said Tom Quinn, supervisor of the Tahoe National Forest….The extensive cutting has incensed residents and conservationists, who were out in force at Friday’s meeting.
“We are shocked at the situation, the catastrophic damage being done by our government with absolutely no care for public input,” said Mary Leavell, who grazes cattle in the national forest with her husband.
“We all ultimately want forest health,” said Lauren Ranz, who lives part-time on a former 450-acre ranch near the logging zone. “But I don’t think this is the way to get it.”
Despite his concerns about cutting too many large, old trees, Quinn defended the project…He said the agency’s decision to allow the cutting of old-growth trees was consistent with the goal of aspen restoration, even though it angered neighbors. “They were probably social mistakes, more than ecological mistakes,” he said of the agency’s actions.
To try to quell criticism, Quinn announced that Forest Service officials have decided to halt logging of conifers 40 inches in diameter or greater on the remaining 190 acres of the 479-acre project. But he rejected suggestions to limit cutting to trees 30 inches in diameter or less….
“I’m extremely disappointed,” said Fred Mitchell who lives on 80 acres near where the cutting is taking place. “There are so few trees 40 inches and above, anyway.
“They’re brushing off the public like we are a minor nuisance, like we don’t count for anything,” Mitchell added.
Mitchell is one of a group of residents who have marshaled opposition by handing out flyers, contacting lawyers, political representatives and environmentalists, even placing mock tombstones on the stumps of large trees – some more than two centuries old – that have been logged.
“It’s not what they told us it would be,” said Gary Risse, a part-time area resident who is among those opposed. “I can tell you without a doubt there was no mention of clear-cuts whatsoever. That would have stopped it.”
…Chad Hanson, director and staff ecologist for the John Muir Project, said other agency projects have succeeded with less intense cutting.
“Scientific studies … do not support the assumption that you need to clear-cut forests, especially 150 feet or more away from aspen stands, or that you need to remove old- growth trees,” he said. “That is not scientifically necessary.”…
“I’ve covered about 300 acres of this project looking for legacy (old-growth) trees,” Mitchell said. “From what I can gather, there has only been one legacy tree left for every four and a quarter acres, which is not a very good number.”