Attorney general’s Framework appeal does not represent Plumas interests

By Bill Wickman
Chairman
Plumas County Economic Recovery Committee

Edmund G. Brown Jr.
Attorney General

Ken Alex
Senior Assistant Attorney General

1515 Clay Street, 20th Floor
P.O. Box 70550
Oakland, CA 94612-0550

    The Plumas County Economic Recovery Committee wants to go on record against your representation of the people of California in your Jan. 4, 2010, appeal of the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework. The specific appeal was filed with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in relation to the Eastern District Court’s decision on the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework.
    PCERC was formed to address the existing and increasing economic impacts associated with natural resource issues within Plumas County. The specific issue deals with the lack of proper vegetative management of our national forests.
    Of greatest concern is the issue related to the growing need to thin our forests to assist in the reduction of catastrophic wildfires, as well as maintain our wildlife, watersheds and recreational values so important to Plumas County.
    As your office is well aware, Plumas County has been the location of very large catastrophic wildfires over the last several years.
    In 2007, the Moonlight and Wheeler fires consumed over 88,000 acres of critical watershed and wildlife resources. We feel strongly that your opposition to the Eastern District Court’s December 2009 decision will only lead to more delay in accomplishing the projects on national forest land that are critical to the protection and enhancement of our county’s natural resources.
    We recognize your staff’s concern for trying to emphasize the importance of having the
National Environmental Policy Act be as precise and accurate as possible. However, your office, as well as several environmental groups, is putting our small rural county at extreme ecological risk over word-writing exercises.
    As a result of your overzealous effort to overturn the December 2009 decision and to reinstate the 2001 Framework, you are ignoring the social and economic impacts to Plumas County as well as numerous other rural counties in the state.
    In addition, your continual efforts to delay sound ecological and environmental projects put the infrastructure for accomplishing economically viable projects at risk.
    In your Jan. 12 letter to Ron Pugh, deputy regional planning director, you assert the following: “Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey, 577 F.3d 1015, 1021-22 (9th Cir. 2009). Absent from the Notice of Intent, for example, is any commitment to examine alternative methods of funding fuels reduction work, other than the logging of large trees.”
    PCERC maintains and can verify that projects on national forest lands within Plumas County are not accomplished by logging large trees. As stated in the Declaration of Peter Stine filed Nov. 5, 2008, with the Eastern District Court in response to Sierra Forest Legacy v.
Rey No. CIV-S-05-0205 MCE/GGH, page 3, at 8.: “Over a century of human use and occupancy of the Sierra Nevada, combined with fire suppression, has changed the structure and composition of most mixed conifer forests. What were once forest stands generally characterized by large, primarily shade intolerant species such as pines and black oak in low densities, have been usurped by very dense stands of small to intermediate sized trees (for purposes of this discussion I define small trees as less than 20” diameter at breast height and intermediate trees as 20”-30” dbh), largely shade tolerant species such as white fir and incense cedar (Taylor 2004, North et al. 2007).”
    As stated above, large trees would be trees over 30 inches diameter at breast height (dbh).
Because there are restrictions to log trees over 30 inches dbh, the projects that occur in Plumas County do not treat the large trees as you state in your January letter.
    Projects on national forest land within Plumas County combine the removal of biomass, as well as small and intermediate diameter trees that are essential for removal to meet the fuel reduction objectives described in the NEPA decisions.
    Even in favorable economic times, these projects are marginal at best for selling versus having to supplement the treatments with appropriated dollars. It is critical to not continually use appropriated dollars versus being able to offset the costs of treatment with the product value associated with the smaller diameter material.
    What assures that many of these projects are economical is the ability to remove less than one tree per acre, on average, of trees between 24 and 29.9 inches diameter at breast height. Such treatment and removal does not have any ecological impact on watershed or wildlife values.
    On the contrary, such treatments allow more acres to be treated to assure that our county’s natural resources are protected. These treatments assure the reduction of catastrophic wildfires, reduction of sediment delivery to our streams and PG&E’s hydroelectric facilities and a reduction in the loss of suitable habitat for California spotted owls, fishers and several other species.
    Your office should be well aware of and sensitive to economic impacts that are taking a tremendous toll on the state of California. Your appeals and litigation are only compounding the issues in the small rural counties that are dominated by federal lands.
    It would show well for you to realize these impacts and become more sensitive to the plight of our rural counties.
    This is not only relative to our natural resources, but the survival of our schools that will soon have to again depend on receipts from the National Forests when the Secure Rural School Act expires in 2012.
    PCERC would appreciate, in any further appeal to the courts or letters from your office to the
Forest Service, that you exclude Plumas County from your supposed representation of the people of California.
    

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