SACRAMENTO (CN) – Environmentalists say the U.S. Forest Service is using the pretense of “road maintenance” to log ancient trees in Giant Sequoia National Monument. Sequoia Forestkeeper claims in Federal Court that the Hume Roadside Logging Project could remove “large-diameter old-growth trees across thousands of acres from a protected National Monument.”
The logging would threaten Pacific fishers and California spotted owls in the southern Sierra Nevada, and would violate a forest management plan, the group says.
Tree removal is permitted in the monument only “if clearly needed for ecological restoration and maintenance or public safety.”
The Forest Service falsely invoked this road repair exclusion without considering impacts to the fisher and owl, the group claims.
Sequoias are among the biggest trees in the world, and can live up to 3,500 years.
Even if all the marked trees were truly hazardous – which Forestkeeper says they are not – the cut wood may not be removed from the forest, but must be left to provide prey habitat and den sites for the Pacific fisher.
Forestkeeper says the road repair exclusion may not be used in light of “extraordinary circumstances,” including four detections of the fisher in 2008. The wolverine-like mammal is a candidate for the endangered species list.
Tree removal will also harm habitat for the California spotted owl, an old-growth dependent species, the group says.
Forestkeeper says the Forest Service underestimated the scope of the Hume project, which is likely to affect 2,577 acres rather than the 115 acres the government claims. The group estimates that 639 trees, including some with a diameter greater than 5 feet, will go under the blade.
The road maintenance exclusion is “not designed to be used for logging of old-growth trees,” Forestkeeper says.
Represented by René Voss of Davis, the group wants the logging plan enjoined.