Timber war returns - Page 2

Environmentalists revive campaign to stop the clearcutting of forests in California

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GUARDIAN PHOTO BY LISA CARMACK

"We now know that it is the very diluted amounts of chemicals that [have the potential to] cause the most damage because they behave just like hormones," Parker said. "The quantities are so small you can barely measure [them], but they have a disproportionate effect."

Hayes' study was publicized in a press release several years ago by ForestEthics, an environmental nonprofit intimately involved with campaigning against SPI's environmentally destructive practices.

"After that release, we started getting calls from families," said ForestEthics communication director Will Craven. "One family had a six-year-old daughter who developed brain cancer."

Craven said the family lived across from one of SPI's mills and close to clearcut areas. He had heard of families developing severe endocrine issues where they could no longer digest fruit or sugar.

Pawlicki cites studies done internally by scientists about the biodiversity of SPI's land, stating that the proper measures have been taken to put aside enough land for endangered species like the spotted owls and that the effect of the herbicides are negligible if not insignificant.

"People make allegations all the time about us but there's just no proof," said Pawlicki. "Show us the proof, tell us the evidence that we're harming anything."

Marily Woodhouse, a resident of the Battle Creek area who has been a particularly passionate adversary of SPI, has spearheaded efforts to collect sufficient information in order for the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board and the California Natural Resources Agency to take legal action; a process she said SPI has tried to undermine.

"SPI has given out the Water Board report and disparaged the way we collected the sample at public meetings," Woodhouse said in an email conversation. "We collected the sample the way the lab instructed us to."

However, these studies have a financial limit. Some tests can cost up to thousands of dollars, and ensuring that the tests are targeting specific herbicides used by SPI can be a guessing game. SPI is only required to disclose chemical use to the California Department of Pesticide regulation once a month and a yearly report can be requested, but this information is not disclosed to the public at the time of application.

The Water Board, a subsidiary of the Environmental Protection Agency, has conducted water tests and found no significant amount of chemicals in nearby watershed, but Parker said she believes this is because the agency doesn't test for the specific chemicals used by SPI.

"Although they could request this information from the industry, the water board doesn't know which chemicals are used, the quantities, or locations where they are applied," Parker said. "Lack of information and inadequate testing ensures that the company is able to continue doing business."

Residents and environmental groups have filed several lawsuits against SPI for more than 34 environmental and health policy violations, but have not been successful in curbing SPI's destructive practices. According to legal experts, this is not necessarily because they don't have a valid case.

"When you're challenging these actions by SPI, what you're really doing is challenging a decision by a state agency for approving their logging plan," said Justin Augustine a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The agency can get deference from the court when it makes a good decision or a bad decision."

The state agency Augustine is talking about is the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection (Cal Fire). In the hierarchy of state agencies, Cal Fire sits next to the Department of Fish and Game and both are directly under the Natural Resources Agency. Each department plays a role in monitoring and enforcing logging practices and code violations.

Comments

Why can't they get over themselves? Theer are tree species that require what amounts to clear cutting in the forest for their young to sprout and grow, only they were doing it the natural way- Fire. Now many replaces fire with a chainsaw and these clowns, not a single one living in a cave, wants them to stop cutting down trees. They are calling for an end to clear cutting, but that is only a step in the direction they truly desire, an end to logging, period.
I have news for them, the areas being cut today were clearcut over 100 years ago, yet you seem to think the forests are just fine as they are. That would be a contradiction to what you are saying. Just because you won't live long enough to see the mature replacement forest on SPI land doesn't mean it doesn't occur. It takes decades to develop a true self-sustaining forest with planned harvests and rotational schedules, but you don't want to allow the first step.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 3:37 pm

The clearcutting part isn't really the bad part; there are seeds in the ground waiting to replace the cut trees. The destructive part is the use of herbicides and then tree farming. The natural diversity of forests allows soil to replenish nutrients that a plant species uses to grow. One tree takes nitrogen but replenishes phosphorous, and another tree does the inverse. When monoculture crops are planted in rich topsoil, the potential of that soil to sustain plant life is greatly depleted, and can take decades to repair. Crop rotation does this to an extent, but the best and most ecological way of sustaining healthy topsoil is to leave it be and allow plant life to grow naturally.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

It's not a finite resource like oil or coal

Posted by Guest on Nov. 09, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

Reasonable people can disagree about clearcutting and unbiased reporters can write news stories about the subject, but was it necessary for this reporter to refer to Mr. Emerson as "infamous"?

I'm sure the thousands of Californians who are currently either directly or indirectly employed because Sierra Pacific Industries is in business would not characterize him as infamous. What is infamous is the fact 80% of forest products used by Californians now come from other states and countries. This is not because there are fewer trees to harvest in this state. It's due in no small part to the fact that instead of developing a rational forestry regulatory system, our state pays more attention to people dressed in skunk and beaver costumes.

This reporter had no problem referring to Mr. Emerson as infamous. I don't understand why the reporter neglected to characterize the costume wearers as childish, sophomoric and ridiculous.

Posted by Bob on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 8:52 am

I read the entire story and could find almost no mention of the SPI position, or even what Mr Emerson has to say about it. Could the reporter find only squirrels and beavers to interview? I went through three pages and found the position of only one side of the story. Is this news reporting? Or is this propaganda?

You missed a great chance for your readers to find out the other side of the story and to trust them to make up their own minds about the issue. Thanks, but we don't need anyone to tell us how to think. Give us the facts, and we promise to think like adults.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2011 @ 9:19 am