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Grand Timber Sale Planned
By Alex Breitler, Record Searchlight
February 22, 2005

Forest could harvest 30 million board feet

Pilgram Timber Sale

MCCLOUD — Saying they want to nourish ailing forests, federal land managers are planning a large timber sale that could produce more wood than some national forests harvest in an entire year.

The project, announced by the Shasta-Trinity National Forest last week, would cut trees scattered across 3,770 acres.

About 25 million to 30 million board feet of timber would be sold. That would be more than half of the forest’s entire timber output last year, when it sold 42 million board feet, according to a U.S. Forest Service database.

The proposed Pilgrim project is a big one, considering logging on public lands has dropped precipitously in recent years, forest officials and conservationist groups agreed. The land is about 10 miles northeast of McCloud, along Pilgrim Creek and Military Pass roads, near a winter snowmobile area.

Conservationists promised to keep a wary watch on the Pilgrim sale.

"We think thinning needs to be done," said Scott Greacen of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville. "But we don’t want it to get done at the cost of the ecosystem."

Those planning the sale for the Shasta-Trinity forest could not be reached Friday or Monday, a federal holiday. But documents filed by the Forest Service say the thinning will make more water, nutrients and sunlight available for the remaining trees.

The project would cut insect-infested trees that are "generally smaller" than the trees that will stay. Tree seedlings would then be planted in their place.

Opening up the forest would help trees fight bug invasions, disease and drought, and would decrease fire danger by wiping out "ladder fuels" — small trees and brush that give wildfire a leg-up into the canopies of the larger trees.

Though no dollar figures are provided, the sale of the timber should offset the cost of the harvest, the Forest Service says.

That’s what worries Greacen. He fears larger trees will be axed to pay for taking out the smaller ones.

He also said cutting isn’t necessarily the only solution to dealing with the bugs.

"We need to know why they’re coming on so strong before we reach for the chain saws," he said.

He praised the Forest Service for saying it does not plan to use herbicides on the sale.

Representatives from the conservation groups Klamath Forest Alliance and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center said they, too, would keep an eye on the plan. Public comments on the Forest Service’s upcoming environmental impact statement will be accepted until March 14.

If it yields up to 30 million board feet, the sale would dwarf two other north state national forests’ entire timber programs. The Klamath National Forest sold 13 million board feet last year, although its projects have come under great scrutiny from conservationists, including a visit from tree-sitters two years ago.

The Mendocino National Forest sold just 4 million board feet, according to a Forest Service database.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Lassen National Forest yielded 94 million board feet in 2004, the most of any California national forest. But, at $7.4 million, the Shasta-Trinity’s 42 million board feet had the greatest value in the state.

Forest Service spokesman Matt Mathes said California’s national forests once brought forth about 1.8 billion board feet a year. Last year that number was 334 million.

The Shasta-Trinity’s McCloud plan is "good-sized, but nothing like the old days," Mathes said.

Earlier this month, a forestry expert from the University of Montana told loggers at a conference in Anderson that timber harvest on public lands has dropped 90 percent. Chuck Keegan said the drop was due to endangered species, old-growth protection, lawsuits and appeals.

To weigh in:

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest is seeking comments for its upcoming environmental study concerning the Pilgrim timber sale northeast of McCloud.

Send comments to District Ranger Michael Hupp of the Shasta-McCloud Management Unit, 204 W. Alma St., Mount Shasta, CA 96067.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, and as defined under the provisions of "fair use", any copyrighted material herein is distributed without profit or payment for non-profit research and for educational use by our membership.