North 49 Forest Health Recovery Project
The North 49 Forest Health Recovery Project on the Lassen National Forest is an enormous project with significant environmental impacts. The Project, initially proposed with an Environmental Assessment in 2004 consisted of a plan to construct 12,165 acres of defensible fuel profile zones, 1,186 acres of group selection logging, and 1,105 acres of thinning outside of DFPZs. The Forest Service anticipated that 124,510 ccf of lumber will be logged which translates into approximately 68 million board feet. To put that into a larger context, the misguided and overzealous 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework revisions projected 329 million board feet of green timber logging annually for all Sierra Nevada national forests during the first decade of plan implementation. Therefore, this project alone constitutes approximately 20 percent of planned annual logging in the entire Sierra Nevada, and over half of the projected annual logging on the Lassen National Forest.
After commenting on and appealing the Decision Notice and Finding of No Significant Impact for this incredibly flawed project, a U.S. District Court ruled that the project could not be implemented and that a new environmental analysis, consistent with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act had to be completed. In 2006 a Draft Environmental Impact Statement was completed and while the most egregious proposals and incomplete analysis were rectified, some aspects of the proposed action still promised an unacceptably adverse impact on old forest habitat and wildlife.
The revised proposed action would actually apply a lower intensity thinning prescription to 4,946 acres of proposed DFPZs and reduce the acreage of group selection logging. Although this is an important step in the right direction, we continue to have significant concerns about the project’s environmental impacts. The preferred alternative would involve 5,621 acres of “standard thinning,” which will degrade habitat for old forest wildlife. In addition, even within the 4,946 acres of modified thinning, trees up to 30” diameter can be logged, which will also degrade habitat. Finally, the remaining 686 acres of group selection will also be rendered unsuitable for old forest wildlife.
Because of these and other concerns laid out in our comments on the Draft EIS we have urged the Forest Service to modify the proposed action to reduce the logging diameter limit, increase canopy cover retention in the “standard thinning” prescription, and reduce the adverse impacts of group selection logging.