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Opinion: Forest Service Pine Mountain plan not needed

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By Jan Scow

I am not an expert on fire control or logging, but I do know quite a bit about trees, their diseases and pests, chaparral, invasive plants, and native habitat. I have been to the Pine Mountain area to “ground truth” the U.S. Forest Service comments and have the following observations and comments:

 

My visit did not reveal any significant health issues in the forest. What I saw was a healthy multi-aged forest stand. There is no evidence of elevated tree loss due to insects or disease, nor is there any evidence to support increased losses in the future. I dispute USFS claims that this area is in need of “insect and disease treatment,” as well as their comments that the plan is a necessity for the health of the forest. This is a way around the federally required environmental impact statement.

A USFS representative has stated that “it’s on a ridge-top and that’s where you would put a fuel break.” Yes, that’s true if there were any need for a fuel break. There are no communities near enough to this area to benefit from such a fuel break. The density of trees was open and I did not observe an overabundance of fuels or evidence of forest crowding. The disturbance of soils and removal of native vegetation is a recipe for “type conversion” of the habitat and opens this area up to invasive exotics, including grasses, which are highly flammable. The introduction of non-native invasive plants will be highly damaging to the ecosystems involved.

I have visited many logging sites. The devastation caused by logging operations is much worse than the simple “removal of trees” would imply. Logging creates a swath of destruction in its path. Skid trails, heavy machinery operation, and logging roads used to access logging sites are all highly destructive, destroying ecosystems, damaging soil, creating severe erosion, and destabilizing slopes.

The simple fact that USFS has rammed this through using a loophole to avoid the normal environmental review process is frightening and should be responded to forcefully. This logging plan is NOT an emergency situation calling for immediate action. We deserve an environmental impact report at least!

— Jan Scow of Ojai is a consulting arborist.

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