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Forest Service Goes Ahead With Logging Plan

The U.S. Forest Service is proceeding with plans to double logging in the Sierra Nevada range to avert devastating wildfires of the sort that plagued the West last summer.

The plan would concentrate 75 percent of tree thinning work in the first five years near population areas in buffer zones that now cover about a fifth of the high Sierra.

California´s chief forester Jack Blackwell says he won´t wait for final approval of the plan before the Forest Service increases its thinning of forests around fire threatened mountain communities this summer.

“I want to move ahead with changes that would fulfill the good intent of the original Framework decision,” Blackwell said at a news conference in Sacramento yesterday. “I want to protect all of the large trees and the vast majority of the medium-sized trees on the land, while removing enough of the smaller trees to effectively reduce the serious risk of fire to wildlife and our communities.”

Lumber industry spokeswoman Judith D´amico says the plan is balanced. “It´s a really good system,” she says. “You can protect the wild life habitat, you can protect air quality and water quality, plus you can take what´s removed for the health of the forest and turn that into products for California, to build homes and provide wood products.”

Environmental groups call the fire prevention effort a pretext for more logging. They may sue if the Forest Service doesn´t alter its plans.