Northern Spotted Owl, Strix occidentalis caurina, Gifford Pinchot forest, Washington, (c) Tom Kogut/ USDA forest service
SAN FRANCISCO, Jan. 23, 2013 - Twenty-two acres of old-growth Douglas fir forest in Humboldt County, including trees more than a century old, are no longer slated for logging, thanks to public opposition. The trees provide important habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife. After the public spoke out, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Department of Forestry launched additional review of the logging plan; and on Friday, in response to the additional scrutiny, Sierra Pacific Industries withdrew the old-growth stand from a timber harvest plan near Redwood Creek.
"It's sad that these trees were even on the chopping block to begin with," said Justin Augustine, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "You would think that in 2013 we'd be protecting these last remaining old forests, and instead, timber operators like Sierra Pacific Industries are quietly trying to destroy them."
In California, forest clearcutting, even clearcutting of old-growth trees, is still legal. Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest private landowner in the state, relies heavily on the practice and has turned the forests of Northern California into a checkerboard of lost and fragmented habitat. Not surprisingly, some of the state's most vulnerable species are at risk of extinction in California due to the loss of the complex forest structure that has been, and continues to be, eliminated on private forestlands.
"Not all forests are equal when it comes to keeping our wildlife alive," said Augustine. "Many rare species rely on a particular kind of forest — one with complex structure — and this kind of forest is being systematically eliminated by clearcutting. It's time we moved on to logging practices that maintain the biological attributes wild animals need."
In September 2012, the Center submitted comments on the timber harvest plan because it would clearcut a forest stand with Douglas fir trees more than 130 years old that could provide habitat for spotted owls and other wildlife species. Subsequently, the agencies charged with oversight of the plan took a closer look and began asking questions about the old growth and impacts on wildlife. Sierra Pacific then withdrew the old-growth stand from the plan.
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