Clearcutting opponents seek meeting with governor

SAN ANDREAS, Calif. - More than 100 Calaveras and Nevada county residents are hoping Gov. Gray Davis will step in to block clearcutting near Calaveras Big Tree State Park.

The protesters failed Wednesday to convince the Calaveras County Water District board to sue to try to halt the clearcutting on nearly 900 acres of Sierra Pacific Industries land.

That decision left clearcutting opponents looking to Davis for relief. They planned to caravan to Sacramento soon to ask the governor to intervene.

The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors has already asked the governor to block the logging plan. Davis received a letter from the supervisors Tuesday.

A Davis spokeswoman referred questions about Davis' reaction to his Resources Agency, which referred questions back to the governor's press office.

''The nation and the state is listening, the nation and the state is watching, and Gov. Davis is missing in action,'' Daniel Kreisberg told protesters after Wednesday's hot, crowded three-hour meeting with the water board.

The protesters then marched to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection office in San Andreas carrying signs and chanting slogans opposing the clearcutting.

Sierra Pacific and the forestry department complied with the law both in notifying local residents and governments, and in satisfying all the state timber harvest requirements needed before logging could take place, said company spokesman Ed Bond.

However, company officials will meet with water board experts to try to meet their concerns that the logging poses dangers to the county's water supply, Bond said.

He and Sierra Pacific forester Dave Baker told the water board clearcuts can be both safe and healthy for forests and wildlife.

That didn't matter to residents who moved to the area for its beauty, or those who fear the clearcutting will drive away tourists who fuel much of the local economy.

Clearcutting involves cutting down all the timber in a particular area, rather than selectively taking trees.

''What is going to happen to Calaveras County and Ebbetts Pass if this is allowed to continue?'' Bertha Underhill asked the board. ''It's just so beautiful. Please don't let this happen to us.''

Carolyn Whitfield helps maintain a park surrounding White Pines Lake reservoir downstream from the cuts. She was among several residents worried about the impact on the lake and the scenery.

''Once we take out 900 acres, it will never, ever be the same again,'' she said Whitfield. ''It's something we'll be leaving for generations to come.''

Several of the residents who packed the board room and spilled into the parking lot said they'd not been active in similar protests since the Vietnam War.

The water board's presiding officer, Dick Weinkle, said they are engaged in a fight that won't end with the board's decision.

''You're engaged in a true war. This is not the end of your war here,'' Weinkle said. ''It's like the first quarter in a football game.''

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