God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools. --John Muir.
There are many impacts to natural resources from logging. The degree to which forests can recover from impacts are variable depending upon the resource being impacted, and the amount and intensity of the impact. Logging can destroy habitat for plants and animals, both large and small. Some species are highly specialized and cannot survive without a unique combination of suitable habitat and ecological processes that do not emerge until a forest is hundreds of years old. Some of the impacts from logging are long term, irreversible, and not sustainable for any native species.
Logging impacts must also be evaluated within the context of other types of activities occurring within the forest, such as logging on privately owned, industrial timber lands. Impacts from other types of activities increases the need to manage publicly owned national forest lands to provide sufficient habitat to meet the needs of wildlife. The forests of the world are the last refugia containing most of the flora and fauna of the planet, and the Sierra Nevada is no exception.
Logging can also improve habitat, when it is used carefully as a tool to restore natural disturbance regimes, such as fire in the Sierra Nevada. The question of how much--and where--such tools are applied is one that must be informed by the best science from the fields of conservation biology and ecology.
There are several reasons why the revisions to the original 2001 Framework seriously threaten the integrity of forest ecosystems throughout the Sierra. (To learn more, visit our Framework Revisions analysis page). By following the prescriptions of the 2004 Framework the Forest Service has decided, and continues to decide daily, that the economic value of trees is more important than the sustainability of wildlife populations.
Scientific research continues to document that following the guidelines set by the Bush-era 2004 Framework Revisions leads to a greater risk for species dependent on old-forest habitat characteristics. These habitats are ignored or minimized by the revisions. Species such as the Pacific fisher and California spotted owl depend on healthy, intact old-growth habitat. Currently prescribed and advocated logging plans allow for the removal of trees up to 30” in diameter, an increase above the 20” allowed in the original Framework, causing a significant impact on the vital habitat that old-forest dependent species rely on for survival.
Ensuring the long-term health and viability of Sierra Nevada forests depends on halting logging plans which ignore established scientific standards for maintaining sufficient habitat to sustain wildlife. Current logging operations proposed by the agency allow for increased access and logging in riparian areas, more access to sensitive habitats, an increase in the size limit of trees that can be logged, and a lack of consideration to numerous other impacts caused by logging operations. Increasingly, the Forest Service finds itself in court attempting to defend logging plans that clearly disregard scientific evidence that their actions are significantly impacting the ecological health of the very forests they are called upon to manage on the public’s behalf.
The forests of the Sierra depend upon active management to restore them to the historical conditions that will allow all species to flourish. Logging prescriptions must protect the viability of at-risk wildlife, and should be guided by science with a guiding restoration objective for returning Sierra forests to their natural ecologically balanced and resilient status.