Basin Timber Sale

This Basin Timber Sale on the Plumas National Forest was a proposed timber sale that would have created approximately 800 small clear-cuts on 1,215 acres of forest for the sake of the timber industry. A Decision Notice, FONSI (Finding of No Significant Impact) and Environmental Assessment were issued on August 25, 2004. The proposed group selection would have taken place in an ecologically critical area for a number of wildlife species that require un-fragmented patches of older forest habitat to survive. The project also would have eliminated nesting, denning, and foraging habitat for these species, while creating openings in the forest which limit habitat value, increase fire danger, and risk altering the ecological balance in the project area

After reviewing these documents and determining that the there was insufficient environmental review conducted by the Forest Service and a truncated public participation process, Sierra Forest Legacy filed an Appeal to the Decision on December 12, 2004. The reasons given for the appeal were:

  • The project's group selection allows the removal of conifers up to 30” diameter in and oaks up to 23" diameter.

  • The project proposed to harvest spotted owl nesting and foraging habitat, including forest within owl home ranges and home range core areas. The project acknowledged that group selection would eliminate 1,190 acres of suitable owl nesting and foraging habitat.

  • The project stated that it will have adverse impacts on American marten habitat within the Forest Carnivore Network (FCN), removing 424 acres or (2.4%) of the overall network, which according to the Forest Service “could result in habitat fragmentation within this subwatershed.”

  • The project, with respect to the Pacific fisher, would render potential habitat unsuitable, reduce habitat connectivity, and make the recovery of fisher populations more problematic in the future.

  • The project failed to provide adequate information for the public to analyze the effects of the proposed group selection in this ecologically critical area.

  • The project did not provide detailed information regarding the habitat either within or in the vicinity of the project area.

  • The project provided little to no discussion of how owls or forest carnivores use habitat in the project area, and which portions of such habitat are most crucial for continued viability.

Sierra Forest Legacy's appeal was subsequently denied by the Forest Service. Seeking injunctive relief from the District court, SFL sought to halt implementation of the Basin project, along with Empire and Slapjack in the QLF project area in the fall of 2007. Denied relief by the court, SFL appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a favorable decision was rendered in May 2008. The appellate court found, among other things, that the Forest Service is operating under a conflict of interest, whereby revenue generated from logging old growth trees is influencing decisions about which trees are cut and where they are cut. In undeniably clear language, Judge Noonan wrote in his concurrence:

"The financial incentive of the Forest Service in implementing the forest plan is as operative, as tangible, and as troublesome as it would be if instead of an impartial agency decision the agency was the paid accomplice of the loggers."

Read the full decision here.

Read background history, and current developments in the Framework litigation, here.