Lockyer's lawsuit would return forest management practices back to the U.S. Forest Service's "2001 Decision" that, according to forest rangers charged with implementing the plan, puts national forestland at risk of catastrophic wildfire.
Representing rural workers, resource organizations, fire safety officials and recreational users, the coalition of more than 100 people demonstrated in front of the Department of Justice to raise awareness of the dangers of not implementing the U.S. Forest Service's 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework Amendment.
"Mr. Lockyer supports a plan that puts 30 percent more acres of forestland at risk of wildfire. It destroys animal habitat and it destroys hundreds of family-wage jobs," said Melinda Fleming speaking on behalf of the Tuolumne County Alliance for Resources and Environment, Inc (TUCARE). "We live and work in areas that will be affected by Lockyer's actions. We're disappointed -- if not outraged -- that the state's top lawyer is choosing to represent the interests of a handful of anti-logging activists rather than the best interest of the forests and those of us most closely attuned to it."
The intervention filed today aims to protect the 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework Amendment. According to the coalition, the 2004 Amendment corrects the flaws in the 2001 Decision by allowing thinning of forestland while protecting old growth trees, wildlife habitat, watersheds and soils. It also allows for responsible recreation and grazing uses mandated by the Forest Service. The 2004 Amendment is supported by the National Association of Forest Service Retirees; the Forest Service's two-year review; the conclusion for the Environmental Impact Statement; and the district rangers who were charged with implementing the flawed 2001 Decision.
"We've had 14 years of hand wringing over forest management plans for the Sierra Nevada forests," said Steve Sias, representing the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Local 2652.
"By implementing severe restrictions on harvesting trees and thinning forests, Mr. Lockyer is further delaying responsible management of our forests. Past practices have caused mills to close, meaning many lose jobs. We can't pay our bills. We're losing our health benefits and many are forced to go on public assistance. The effects trickle down. Our schools suffer and local police, fire and health services are losing funding all-the-while the forests are suffering as well," said Sias.
The coalition supports the 2004 Amendment that: bans harvesting of old growth trees; allows for thinning of forests (20 percent less than annual growth and significantly less than the amount of trees that are dying from the effects of overly dense forests); allows for harvesting less than three percent of trees up to 30" in diameter in high fire risk areas; requires protection of wildlife, watershed and soils; and allows for appropriate recreational uses and grazing under multiple-use mandates.
"Through restrictive harvesting practices, the forests have become a tinder box with impenetrable undergrowth and a dense canopy of trees," said John Hardin, president of the Highway 108 Fire Safe Council.
"It makes no sense to implement a plan that calls for clearing undergrowth to prevent fires with out touching the canopy of trees. To protect our forests and our communities, we must work to bring the forests back to a healthy proportion. Not the fuel for the next devastating fire storm."
Carrying signs saying "Healthy Forests = Thriving Communities" and chanting "Don't Let Our Jobs Go Up In Smoke" the coalition marched from Cesar Chavez Park in downtown Sacramento to the Department of Justice. Many traveled hundreds of miles on buses to protest Lockyer's action.
"Counties like ours may be out of sight to Mr. Lockyer, but they certainly shouldn't be out of mind. We're calling on Mr. Lockyer to spend taxpayer money on our forests -- not lawsuits," said Tuolumne County Supervisor Mark Thornton.
The Sierra Nevada Resources Coalition supports resource policies that actually improve the health of public and private forests while supplying Californians with jobs, access to forestland, and sustainably harvested wood products.