During this extremely dry fall, how many of us realize that the forests of California provide 75% of the state’s water supply? As debate rages as to whether to pull more water from the Sierra than we already do, our forested watershed in the Cascades and Sierra Nevada are now under threat like never before. California’s privately owned and state-managed forest lands, surrounding the borders of Yosemite, Lassen, and Mount Shasta, are being devastated by widespread chemical-intensive industrial clearcutting.
Timber giant Sierra Pacific Industries and other logging companies seem to be in a race to clearcut as fast as they can. Currently about a million acres of forests essential for wildlife habitat, flood control, carbon sequestration, and water security are being cut down and converted to commercial tree farms. State law allows forests to be clearcut in 20 – 30-acre plots, but has no limit on the amount of clearcutting permitted in a given watershed. The rampant deforestation that has occurred over the last 12 years alone is now vividly portrayed on satellite images such as the powerful new Google Earth map of global forest change (search around the towns of Murphys, Manton, and Shingletown to see the surrounding clearcuts), released in Science on Nov. 14, at http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/science-2013-global-forest, as well as the Google Earth virtual tour created by the Stop Clearcutting Campaign at www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Gc51z9ah7Vk.
“We are experimenting with nature. A massive re-engineering of California’s forests is occurring, replacing natural forests with tree farms. The liquidation of our forests must be stopped,” said Karen Maki, volunteer lead for the Sierra Club’s Stop Clearcutting campaign.
Researchers such as UC Santa Barbara Professor Robert Wilkinson have found that clearcutting is exacerbating the harm caused by climate change, drying out our forests and increasing the risk of fire, flooding, and water shortages.
“We’ve got to build resilience into our ecosystems, especially our forests, if we’re going to deal with what climate change will throw at us. Today, our forests are getting drier as more clearcutting happens, which is one reason we’ve seen so many wildfires on this trip. When rain hits an area that’s been clearcut, it runs off, whereas if you have healthy forests, the branches slow the rain down so it drips onto the soil and sinks in,” said Wilkinson.
Please join the Sierra Club and our allies in forest communities in calling for an immediate moratorium on industrial clearcutting. We need to call on our state officials to overhaul outmoded 20th-century forestry laws and replace them with modern forest watershed management. Already, too much has been lost. To guarantee a future where our water supplies are protected, our forests teem with wildlife, and our children play among giant, old-growth trees, we have to act now.
For more information contact Karen.Maki@lomaprieta.sierraclub.org.
Sign our petition at http://www.sierraclub.org/clearcutting/.
Forests are vast reservoirs and our first line of defense against climate change. The clearcutting of California’s forests amounts to an unprecedented re-engineering experiment. Is it wise to alter nature’s design during a time of climate uncertainty?
Juliette Beck, staff, Sierra Club Stop Clearcutting CA campaign