On the heels of California’s largest wildfire complex in history the Grindstone Ranger District (RD) on the east side of the Mendocino National Forest recently released a scoping notice for the Salt project. In essence, timber planners are looking to kill trees to save them from insects and disease. The project is within the Salt Creek watershed, where up to 3,000 acres could be logged with limited review of environmental threats, such as increased fire risk, and minimal opportunity for public involvement and legal recourse.
The 2014 Farm Bill, through changes made in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, allowed the US Forest Service in some areas to use a Categorical Exclusion (CE). This means no thorough environmental assessment. The Grindstone RD has already used this same CE authority, where industrial-logging techniques, such as overstory removal, were proposed on over 1,000 acres concentrated in one steep watershed.
The stated purpose of the Salt project is to improve forest health by conducting restoration treatments and the need is to benefit timber production and wildlife habitat. As wildlife disperses from the nearly adjacent fire area to find new territory and foraging areas to survive, it is imperative that all suitable habitat in the Salt project is protected.
The best available science tells us that large mature trees are more resistant to fire, create the best habitat and are essential to storing carbon and providing important hydrological functions. Common sense and science also shows that industrial logging techniques that greatly open forest canopies, increases wind speed and solar radiation which dries out the understory, increases brush growth and subsequently increases ground fuels and fire risk. Rather than target large trees and forest canopy removal, selective thinning of smaller diameter trees with underburning can in some instances improve forest conditions.
To use this CE authority, projects must be “collaboratively developed and implemented”! Unless interested people call the district, this scoping period for public comment is the only and best opportunity to influence how the project is carried out. It is important that the Grindstone RD hears from you. Please urge the Grindstone RD to incorporate your comments into project planning by retaining all mature trees, adequate forest canopy and wildlife habitat in the Salt Creek watershed.
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