Thursday, July 20, 2006

PL's Mattole Watershed Analysis- A Threat to the Mattole

Pacific Lumber has not filed any new Timber Harvest Plans (THP's) in the Mattole this year. At first this may seem like good news to forest advocates and defenders. There is, however, a huge potential threat looming in the fog.

PL's "Watershed Analysis" for the Mattole River and Bear River threatens to reduce protection for watercourses. This would allow extensive logging closer to creeks and springs.

What seems to be widely unknown is the fact that most of PL's THP's in the Mattole over the last several years have included clauses allowing entry into streamside protection zones (buffers) in the event that protections are reduced.

A large portion of the remaining 2,000+ acres of Old Growth forest is within the current streamside buffers.

There are no-cut buffers as well as buffers that limit the amount of trees that can be taken from a given area.

What do these buffers do?
They shade the watercourses which keeps the water cold and suitable for salmon.
They can sometimes stop sediment runoff from logged-over areas.
The roots of the trees act sort of like rebar, holding the streambanks together during high water flow and when the soil becomes saturated with water during the winter rains.

A THP will expire after 3 years unless the company asks to extend the life of the plan. Extensions can keep the plan open for up to five years.

This quote is from one of the logging plans.

"These areas are proposed as "Deffered No Harvest" and may be modified through amendment prior to THP expiration to allow timber harvesting pursuant to prescriptions agreed upon in the watershed analysis process (HCP"

Basically, if buffers are reduced, there will be an onslaught on the streamside areas in the Mattole. Pacific Lumber would be required only to file an amendment on any previously logged THP and then go in and cut.

There will likely be a comment period on these amendments. The amendment process would be much more rapid than the full THP approval process.

Even if they don't take advantage of this clause, reduced buffers will allow PL or any future landowner to file new THP's and cut in the fragile zones along watercourses.

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