On Jan. 16 the U.S. Forest Service released for public review its Giant Sequoia National Monument Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) These decision documents determine the management direction the agency will take in Sequoia National Forest, located in the southern Sierra. Forest Supervisor Art Gaffrey has chosen Modified Alternative 6, the most ecologically damaging and costly alternative, as the management plan for the Monument. But both the FEIS and the ROD fail, in many ways, to implement the protective purposes of the 2000 Presidential Proclamation that created the 328,000-acre Monument.

Those of us concerned with the future of this magnificent forest need to make our voices heard by Feb. 17. We need to let the Forest Service know that we do not want the giant sequoias menaced by excessive logging and poor forestry practices.

* One and a half million cubic feet (7.5 million board feet) of wood products will be removed from the Monument per year in the first decade of the plan; and 4,050 acres will be logged each year. These figures make it clear that the Forest Service's interest in protecting this forest is measured primarily by the number of trees cut for the sawmill.

* The plan specifies logging trees up to 30 inches in diameter and larger, purportedly to prevent catastrophic fires, but fails to analyze an alternative that would instead remove the brush, lower branches, and small-diameter trees (up to 4 inches in diameter) that are the most flammable. Removing these flammable materials would protect the large trees that are essential elements of the old-forest ecosystem. Trees that have grown to a diameter of 30 inches are usually over a century old, and should be preserved for their integral role in a healthy forest.

* The Forest Service's Modified Alternative 6 would allow openings called "gaps" to be created. These gaps are up to two acres in size and sometimes larger; they supposedly encourage sequoia seedling regeneration. Such gaps have been created by the Forest Service in the past by logging, and are partly responsible for the catastrophic fire conditions the agency says it is now trying to counter with this management plan. Experience has shown that the predominant vegetation that returns after a clear-cut is highly flammable brush.

* The plan specifies defense and threat zones as 1.5-mile-wide treatment areas around local communities. This misapplication of the fire science, which actually only requires 200-foot-wide treatment areas, is a misuse of the Forest Service research and fails to provide a truthful analysis of the available science.

* The declining Pacific Fisher population could eventually be forced to extinction by logging permitted in their habitat under the current management plan. Any disturbance, particularly mechanical brush and tree removal, can cause fishers to flee an area and become more vulnerable to predators and poachers.

* Despite the fact that the Monument already contains 900 miles of roads, more than sufficient to meet any recreational and other needs, the Forest Service plans to construct more roads within the Monument. The agency currently has a $14-billion road maintenance backlog that it cannot fund. With the nation in the midst of a budget crisis and the Forest Service's budget recently cut by $7.5 million, obtaining funding for road maintenance would be difficult if not impossible.

* The Forest Service has subsidized damaging logging projects with tax dollars for the past 50 years, and now expects us to keep paying to rectify its previous mistakes. Modified Alternative 6 is the most expensive management plan alternative, whose implementation will cost us $34,386,100. Of that total, $13,994,000 is for logging.

Please write to the Forest Service and tell them that:

* You don't want almost $14 million of tax money to be used for logging projects in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
* The protective intent of the Presidential Proclamation of April 2000 should be closely followed in managing the Monument.
* The Pacific Fisher, an at-risk species, should be protected by not allowing any management activities to take place in their habitat areas.
* The 900 miles of road already in the Monument are more than enough for recreational use.
* The Monument should not be managed to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire by logging large trees up to 30 inches in diameter. Instead, it should be managed by responsible thinning of brush, lower branches, and small-diameter trees.

Write to:
Jack Blackwell, Regional Forester
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Region
1323 Club Drive
Vallejo, CA 94592

There is a sample letter on the Forests Forever website:



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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places