Logging planned in popular Sierra Nevada area

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - One of the most popular recreation areas northwest of Lake Tahoe is slated for a nearly thousand-acre timber harvest, including 80 acres of clear-cuts.

The proposed cut is in the same Grouse Ridge area where the U.S. Forest Service wants to thin more than 2,000 acres, environmentalist say, citing that as their biggest concern with the project.

The cumulative effect will be considered as California Department of Forestry officials meet Tuesday to approve or require amendments to Sierra Pacific Industries' proposal to log 921 acres on its land in Nevada County between Nevada City and Truckee.

It will also be reviewed as the Forest Service considers an appeal of its plan. The Forest Service did not anticipate Sierra Pacific's plans when it made its own, agency spokesman Matt Mathes said.

''It's a real pretty area. It's close to where people like to recreate along the I-80 corridor, and it's a place where people are moving into, so you have that whole urban-rural interface,'' said Duane Shintaku, the state Forestry Department's regional deputy chief for forest practices.

''We know it's a politically sensitive issue, it always has been: People don't like the way it looks,'' he said.

Concerns over other logging by Sierra Pacific, the state's largest landowner, have led to confrontations and arrests this summer elsewhere in Nevada County, as well as in Calaveras County southeast of Sacramento.

In Nevada County, one of Sierra Pacific's proposed cuts would be adjacent to Carr Lake, site of a walk-in campground that leads to a popular hiking and backpacking area. Three clear-cuts totaling 30 acres would be southwest of the lake.

One of the Forest Service cuts would be near Fuller Lake, a well-used fishing spot. Other cuts are scattered from north of I-80 to south of Bowman Lake.

Opponents say they are less concerned about the way the cuts would look than about the impact on wildlife.

The problem is the pattern of land ownership in the Sierras dating to the 1800s, when railroads were given every other section of land to compensate them for building the cross-continental railroads, said Barbara Rivenes, chairwoman of the Sierra Nevada Group of the Sierra Club.

''Wildlife can't tell when it's leaving public land and going on to SPI land,'' said Don Jacobson, an activist with the Forest Issues Group of Nevada County. ''It doesn't make sense to have adjacent parcels treated in different ways. On private lands the rules are much less stringent than on public lands.''

''What we're doing is good forest management,'' responded Tim Feller, Sierra Pacific's regional manager.

In addition to the 80 acres of clear-cutting, Sierra Pacific proposes removing 10 percent to 15 percent of unhealthy trees from 300 acres. Selected trees would be pared from another 543 acres.

Jacobson filed an appeal this month asking for a full environmental study of the Forest Service plan to thin 2,064 acres of public land.

His challenge is based in part on the added impact from the proposed Sierra Pacific cut, but he also questions whether the forest needs thinning to protect it from forest fires.

''We couldn't find the overly crowded stands (of timber). We couldn't find the high fuel load. We found a pretty healthy forest,'' Jacobson said.

Sierra Pacific's Feller said thinning the forest will help avoid devastating forest fires. He noted his company wouldn't likely begin logging the area until 2002.

''If anything, what they're doing is an improvement for wildlife just because it takes it (the forest) out of high-risk category,'' Feller said.


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