Forest Service Plans Large Project on South Fork of the Sacramento River
W.A.T.E.R. recently submitted a comment on the Scoping Letter that was issued for the Forest Service’s South Fork Sacramento Public Safety and Forest Restoration Project. This project covers 21,400 acres on both sides of the road going up the south fork of the Sacramento River above Lake Siskiyou to the Gumboot Lake area and also along the road up to Castle Lake and beyond into the Castle Crags Wilderness. It’s a large project aimed at increasing public safety and improving fire resilience as well as expanding recreational opportunities. The recreational elements of the plan would “provide for improved and enhanced sustainable recreational opportunities for developed camping, non-motorized trails, designated trailheads, dispersed camping areas, and day use parking areas.”
See full size map here.
For those of you who enjoy spending time in the project area, in the future you may notice that this project will have changed the landscape dramatically. Our comment letter noted many areas that we would like clarification on as this is a large, complicated project and the Scoping Letter did not provide much in the way of details. Forests provide many services for our benefit: holding and filtering the water which we depend on for life, cleaning the air, cooling the land and absorbing a large amount of greenhouse gas. We definitely need to protect the forests and not necessarily from fire. Thinning the forest nearest our community and ensuring defensible spaces around homes is proving to give much greater protection from fire rather than heavily logging forests under the guise of thinning miles away from these homes.
The plans put forward by the Forest Service translate to the restoration of 552 acres of meadows being encroached upon by conifers and include repair of damage to meadows by road and recreation impacts. Another 13,360 acres of forest will be thinned along with further fuels reduction treatments and 13,781 acres are slated for prescribed fire treatments in an effort to return fire to the forest ecology — something the Forest Service has suppressed for more than a century. The project also proposes to develop new campgrounds, expand existing campgrounds and parking lots, establish trailheads and non-motorized trails, and harden dispersed camping areas along the South Fork Sacramento River where the majority of fire starts in the last thirty years have occurred in the project area.
The Forest Service has a long history of managing the forests for recurrent harvest of the largest trees, thereby preventing the forest from ever returning to a mature state. We are concerned that the proposed “thinning” is actually intended as timber harvesting, where the biggest/oldest trees which are the most commercially valuable will be removed. However, the biggest/oldest trees are the ones that sequester the most carbon and are the most fire resilient. They are precisely the trees that need to be retained on the landscape to meet the goals of the project — especially for fire resilience.
The wildfires which burned in our area the last several years made a great impact, perhaps the greatest aspect being understandably the fear the fires engendered. There’s no denying the devastation the towns of Paradise, Grizzly Flats and Greenville suffered. The increase in the number and particularly the size of wildfires we have been experiencing is directly connected to the same global warming that is melting the glaciers on Mt. Shasta. The real reason for increased wildfire — the relentless spewing of carbon dioxide that spawns warmer, drier climate conditions ripe for gigafires — must be addressed as a part of an ecologically sustainable forest management program before we end up deciding to cut down our forests.
The Scoping Letter was the initial step in the assessment of this project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). An Environmental Assessment (EA) will be drawn up addressing the project along with issues brought up in submitted comments on the Scoping Letter. You will be able to submit comments of your own for thirty days after the release of the Environmental Assessment. This is when you can make your voice heard. We will keep you posted.
Read W.A.T.E.R.’s scoping comment here.
The map and other scoping documents can be accessed at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=61863