California: Citizens to stop Sierra Pacific’s plan to clearcut one million acres of Sierra forest

Machine grabs pine tree with its claw, severs it from the ground in
one, quick motion, shears off its branches, drops it to the ground and
reaches out to devour the next tree. At a pace of under a tree a
minute, one man and one machine rapidly ravage 20 acres of pristine
Sierra Nevada forest, leaving a barren wasteland in their path. Timber
companies have consumed over 200,000 acres of Sierra forest in this
manner in the past 10 years, and the number keeps growing.

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Centered between Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and San Francisco, Arnold is a
picturesque town in Calaveras County in the Sierra Nevada forests.
Scattered houses punctuate the forest and bears, mountain lions and
coyotes roam through backyards. Logging has been practiced in Arnold
for centuries without protest, but in the summer of 2000, residents
noticed an unusual abundance of logging trucks rumbling down Highway
4. Lumber giant Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) had begun clearcutting
nearly 1,000 acres of forest next to downtown Arnold—part of their
plan to clearcut over one million acres of Sierra forest, an area
larger than the state of Rhode Island.

As opposed to selective timber harvesting, where only the trees used for lumber production are removed, in a clearcut, all of the vegetation is removed—with major repercussions. Native wildlife is endangered, water quality is degraded and extensive soil erosion increases the likelihood of severe forest fires. And studies show that clearcutting releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than any other forestry disturbance, including fire. During the summer of 2000, as SPI clearcut the surrounding forest, Arnold residents filled community meetings to protest.

Four teenage residents were arrested for chaining themselves together at SPI’s gates to block logging trucks. A group of local women called the Independence Hall Quilters made a quilt with 49 patches representing the land parcels slated for cutting. A black silk ribbon was sewn in an “x” across the patches as each parcel was lost to clearcutting. That same summer, residents formed Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch (EPFW) to fight increased clearcutting. Jacobson is an active board member who’s developed a reputation among state legislators for her tenacity. “It just drew me in and I felt like it was something that needed to be stopped,” she says. Ron Szymanksi and Ron Schaner—Arnold area residents and volunteers for EPFW—drive a Jeep out to the clearcuts.

Szymanksi, a former electrical engineer and an active member of the Boy Scouts, retired to the region in 2001. “I’m not against logging, only irresponsible logging,” he says. Schaner, a professional musician with salt-and-pepper hair, came to Arnold on a camping trip in 1974, fell in love with the woods and decided to stay. zymanksi turns the Jeep onto a dusty dirt road that runs through state forest onto SPI’s land. SPI owns a massive 1.7 million acres of California’s forests—making them the largest private landowners in California and the second-largest private landowners in the U.S.  (after media mogul Ted Turner).

The company is owned by billionaire
timber baron Red Emmerson and is a family-run, non-publicly-held
corporation. Most of their land holdings are in the Sierras, where
they own three-fourths of all industrial timberland. In Calaveras
County they own 74,000 acres of forest—approximately half of the
county’s forested land. Ponderosa pines dominate this landscape—tall,
elegant, almost impossibly straight. “Life is all around you here and
it’s all interrelated,” Schaner says, stepping from the Jeep onto a
carpeting of pine needles. “But we’ve really distanced ourselves from

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