Saturday, August 9, 2014

Swiss Ranch logging plan (THP 4-14-006 CAL) stirs controversy

By Dana Nichols, Calaveras Enterprise

Logging plan upsets neighbors
In a forested meadow the trust owns east of Sheep Ranch, volunteers with the Catholic Worker movement grow organic vegetables and hold retreats for people living with HIV.

So it was an unwelcomed surprise this spring for Earth Abides residents taking a walk along Armstrong Road when they saw a yellow notice posted on a tree announcing that Sierra Pacific Industries was seeking state permits to log nearby.

Chelsea Collonge looked into the 361-acre harvest plan, and learned that most of the harvest – including areas only about a mile from Earth Abides – would be logged using what foresters call an “alternative prescription.” Critics call it clear-cutting.

“I feel a responsibility for that area of forest,” Collonge said. “To raze it and replace it with factory trees, I just don’t think that’s fair to it.”

Collonge put that concern in a letter, and also told California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials that she’s worried the proposed logging will potentially send herbicides down Upper O’Neil Creek and expose Earth Abides guests and residents to noise and air pollution during the logging operation.

That letter made her just one of a number of individuals and agencies that have commented on the Swiss Ranch Timber Harvest Plan. Those comments ranged from a request by Calaveras County Water District to have Sierra Pacific Industries take precautions to prevent pollution of streams that flow into county residents’ drinking water supply via the Calaveras River watershed, to criticism from a representative of environmental watchdog group Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch that state regulators and SPI fail to consider alternatives to clear-cutting.

Those documents reveal both the continuation of a long-time divide between clear-cutting critics and supporters, and a maze of state regulations that touch everything from protect ing acorn-producing oaks needed for the Rail Road Flat deer herd to how much of an unlogged buffer zone has to be left to protect creeks.  READ MORE >>>

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