Sierra Pacific reduces clearcuts in Calaveras County

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sierra Pacific Industries will scale back clear-cutting in Calaveras County in response to public opposition, the company's chief forester said Tuesday.

California's largest timber company has hired two community relations representatives to try to head off future controversies of the sort that has brought its clear-cutting plan statewide publicity this summer.

''We've got a solid proposal that we believe will go a long way to solving most of the concerns, if not all of the concerns - the more reasonable concerns - of the community up there,'' said Tom Nelson, Sierra Pacific's director of timberlands.

Nelson made the remarks after the state Senate Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on a proposed two-year moratorium on clear-cutting, logging that removes every tree over 20-acre patches.

Sierra Pacific opposes the measure by Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek.

If the Legislature passes the bill before it adjourns next week, a panel of scientists would study the impact of clear-cutting in the state. They would report their findings to lawmakers, who would take action as warranted.

Keeley contends Sierra Pacific's increase in clear-cutting, approved by the state Forestry Board, will hurt the environment and the state's economy. He wants to toughen California law.

Sierra Pacific, California's largest private landowner, plans to clear-cut as much as 70 percent of its 1.5 million acres over the next century. Word of the plan has prompted organized opposition in Nevada and Calaveras counties, among other areas.

The plan included 884 acres of clearcuts in Calaveras County, near Calaveras Big Trees State Park and its giant sequoias. Community residents, environmentalists and county officials contend they will hurt tourism and the environment.

Nelson plans to tell community representatives and environmentalists at a meeting Thursday that the company will reduce the size of some of its clearcuts, leaving trees to make the sites less stark and mask the clearcuts.

He declined to specify how many acres would be cut under the new plan.

The company will also beef up its monitoring to make sure eroded soil and herbicides from the timber cuts does not harm the water supply.

Environmentalists are not impressed.

Warren Alford, a Sierra Club organizer whose family lives in the Big Trees Park area, said opposition has grown even as Sierra Pacific officials have met with community and business groups over the last month to try to improve relations.

''Folks aren't buying it,'' Alford said.

The Legislature needs to approve Keeley's moratorium measure, he said.


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