The U.S. Forest Service on Jan. 22 announced sweeping revisions to the Sierra Nevada Framework, which directs the management of 11.5 million acres of California's national forest lands.

The revisions would nearly triple the amount of logging by allowing the cutting of 30-inch diameter trees throughout the forest. And the revised Framework limits safeguards for water and wildlife all over the Sierra.

The Forest Service announced its revisions to the Framework in a campaign titled "Forests with a Future." In a slick presentation put together by a private public-relations firm, the agency attempted to sugar-coat the truth about the plan with computer animation and video of already protected wilderness areas, accompanied by bluegrass music and glossy press packets. Casting the revisions as "a major new initiative to protect Sierra Nevada old-growth forests, wildlife and communities against catastrophic wildfire," the agency would have been more accurate if it had instead dubbed the plan "No Tree Left Behind."

The "Forests with a Future" campaign is a return to the logging practices of 10 years ago. The Forest Service maintains that logging and selling large trees can offset the costs of reducing fire risk. Actually, while timber sales may generate short-term revenue, there is a much greater cost in the long term. Loss of scenic values negatively impacts tourism and recreation, the main economic engines in most Sierra counties.

If the Forest Service really wants to reduce the risk of catastrophic fires, the agency should focus on reducing the most flammable fuels in the forest, known as surface and ladder fuels. Logging increases fire severity by leaving behind highly combustible logging slash. Loss of tree canopy encourages the growth of flammable brush, increases wind speed and air temperature and decreases humidity in the forest, exacerbating fire conditions.

The Forest Service also claims that the new plan will reduce the risk of fires to communities located in and near the forests of the Sierra Nevada. Again, however, the cutting of large trees far from communities- as emphasized in the announced revisions- does nothing to protect these communities. In fact, the new plan reduces the funds spent on protecting local communities by 25 percent, and instead uses that money to expedite cutting large fire-resistant trees in the general forest.

While cutting down 420 million board feet under the new plan, the Forest Service also asserts that the revisions will protect wildlife. In fact, the revisions significantly weaken grazing limitations and water quality protections, and increase the risk of stream bank and meadow erosion. These changes could destroy the habitats of the rare willow flycatcher, Yosemite toad, and other aquatic species. Further, increased logging of large-diameter trees, combined with the clear-cutting allowed under the reactivated Quincy Library Group scheme, will place great additional pressure on populations of disappearing animals such as the California spotted owl and the pine marten.

Finally, while the original 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework was based on public input and sound scientific analysis, no public meetings have been held on the Framework since fall of 2002. According to scientists who reviewed the revised plan, it contains no new information that would warrant such a radical overhaul of the original Framework.

Now is your chance to appeal the revisions and urge the Forest Service to return to the 2001 Sierra Nevada Framework. Visit the website of the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign at:

There you will be able to send in an appeal to the Framework revisions simply by filling in your name and address. Take two minutes to tell the Bush administration you are not going to sit by as they attempt to destroy the forests of the Sierra Nevada!


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places