Timber war returns

Environmentalists revive campaign to stop the clearcutting of forests in California


Protestors in flashy animal costumes picketed the appearance of infamous logger Archie "Red" Emerson, who was giving a guest lecture to the Forestry Department, at the University of California Berkeley campus on Oct. 14 to bring awareness to the increasing use of environmentally destructive logging practices.

The protesters were admittedly having fun parading around as skunks and beavers, but there was a heavy point to go with the theatrics. Emerson's company, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is being targeted by a new campaign to curtail and eventually eradicate the destructive logging technique called "clearcutting."

The Redding-based Battle Creek Alliance, in cooperation with the Sierra Club, wants Californians to push for environmental protection measures that would ban clearcutting on the state level.

"We're building a statewide coalition of people from all across the state — and hopefully, eventually, all across the country — who can be helping to call on the state of California and Gov. Brown to stop clearcutting and to protect our forests, watersheds, and wildlife," said Sierra Club member Sarah Matsumoto, an East Bay resident who has joined the Battle Creek Alliance.

Those living close to clearcut areas say that the damage is devastating

"I live about a mile from most of the clearcutting," said Patty Gomez, a resident of the Battle Creek area. "We like to call it ground zero."

The term clearcutting describes the complete eradication of trees and shrubs from forest areas, some the size of Golden Gate Park. The area is then doused with thousands of gallons of herbicides and then replanted as a tree farm.

"Industrial tree farms are sterile and lifeless," said Juliette Beck, coordinator of the Sierra Club's Stop Clearcutting Campaign. "This particular method is incredibly ecologically destructive."

SPI is the largest private landowner in California, owning 1.9 million acres. It owns 24 industrial facilities and employs approximately 3,400 workers.

"SPI own[s] so much land and potentially controls the fate of the forest," said Beck. "SPI is the poster child for the one percent." Because of SPI's scorched-earth policy of completely clearing an area and sterilizing it for replanting, biologists are concerned that crucial plant species will soon become extinct.

"After clearcutting, there is a huge flush of sprouting natural regeneration of native species," said veteran biologist Vivian Parker, who has lived in the Battle Creek area for 30 years and has worked for the U.S. Forest Service. "When the newly sprouting plant layer is sprayed with chemical herbicides and thus eliminated, the plants do not get a chance to grow and shed their seed."

Parker argues that this interruption of natural regeneration over several periods of clearcutting will destroy the natural growth of plant life necessary to maintain a healthy forest.

This copious use of herbicides has also been suspect in a strange phenomenon affecting wildlife in North America. According to a study conducted by UC Berkeley professor of endocrinology Tyron Hayes, the use of herbicides, even at extremely small amounts, have been linked to biological mutations such as male frogs growing ovaries.

SPI is insistent that its practices are environmentally sound and internally regulated.

"We monitor all of our own activities to see where we have room for improvement," Mark Pawlicki, director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability at SPI, told the Guardian. "In many cases we've changed our practices." New research on the effects of these herbicides have shown that current regulations don't always address the cumulative impacts of chemical applications and other practices.


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