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Some 2000 virgin acres of the Headwaters Forest are likely to be logged soon under an exemption logging plan filed by Pacific Lumber Company and approved by the California Department of Forestry.
Under an exemption, dead, diseased, or dying trees-- up to 10% of a forest's total volume of trees--can be removed without a formal timber harvest plan.
Pacific Lumber has not filed for an exemption on the Headwaters Forest before. Said Tom Osipowich, Deputy Chief of CDF, "We assume that if they submitted it, certainly they are going to execute it."
But according to Mary Bulwinkle of Pacific Lumber, Pacific Lumber is only "exploring doing it." Exemptions, she said, have been filed yearly by all logging companies.
Logging could begin after the 15th of September, which marks the end of the marbled Murrlet's nesting season, and that has environmentalists worried.
A rally has been planned by various environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, for the 15th of September at Pacific Lumber Company at Carlotta in Humbolt County. Bulwinkle called the rally "counter productive." Said Bulwinkle, "It won't resolve the issues."
The issue is the purchase and preservation of Headwaters Forest, or allowing Pacific Lumber to go ahead and log it.
Pacific Lumber is a "willing seller," said Bulwinkle, but so far no deal has been arranged to purchase the 6,000 acres of forest with an untouched core of 3,000 acres. Some of the protesters, said Bulwinkle, "spend more time there than we do." She claimed baracades have been erected to keep Pacific Lumber out.
Mary Pjerrou of the Greenwood Watershed Association called the exemption of the Headlands Forest "sneaky." Said Pjerrou, "For Pacific Lumber to file an exemption on an old- growth forest that has never been touched is simply outrageous." She claimed that Pacific Lumber is treating old-growth trees as "dead, dying, or diseased."
According to Pjerrou, an increasing number of exemptions are being filed because timber harvest plans are undergoing tighter scrutiny by CDF.
She cited the example of a 1000-acre exemption that was filed by Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in an area upstream of the town wells in Elk in Mendocino County. Under a normal timber harvest plan, an environmenal impact report would be required, as well as notification of the water district. But an exemption requires neither. Exemptions, said Pjerrou, "are automatic logging plans" without review.
Osipowich of CDF acknowledged that an exemption is "easy to get. That was the Board's (CDF Board's) wish all along." In general, said Osipowich, CDF must approve all exemptions. The most CDF can do under the law is make sure the exemption paper work is "in proper order," he said .
But in the case of the Headwaters exemption, said Osipowich, extra restrictions were added. For instance, only trees on the ground may be removed. Also, the removal will be inspected by CDF--not standard with other exemptions.
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