In early February, the state of California sued the U.S. Forest Service for approving a new management plan that more than triples logging in national forests in the Sierra Nevada.
In January 2004, the Forest Service rolled out a major
revision of the 2001 Sierra Framework, a comprehensive plan for 11
national forests that was approved during the final days of the
Clinton administration (HCN, 2/12/01: A New Plan Frames the Sierra
Nevada). The original 2001 Sierra Framework took more than a decade
to develop and incorporated the opinions and research of hundreds
of scientists, politicians, citizens and industry leaders.
"It was a painstaking and painful process of consensus
building," says Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for California Attorney
General Bill Lockyer, who filed the suit. "And then the Bush
administration basically junked it."
lawsuit, which follows a yearlong Forest Service administrative
review of the revised plan, charges the agency with violations of
the National Environmental Policy Act. The most contentious
difference between the 2001 and 2004 plans is that the former
emphasizes burning with prescribed fires to restore ecosystems,
whereas the new plan permits logging in old-growth forest areas and
the cutting of trees up to 30 inches in diameter.
Mathes, a Forest Service spokesman, says that the 2001 framework
could not be implemented effectively because it contained many
overlapping and conflicting rules, and that in practice it did not
reduce fire danger.
Additionally, revenue from the sale
of larger-diameter trees could defray agency, and therefore