The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brendan Cummings, (760) 366-2232 x 304
Jan Chatten-Brown, (310) 314-8050

Lawsuit Filed Over Sierra Nevada Logging Plan's Greenhouse Gas Emissions


Today the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the California Department of Forestry over the agency's failure to analyze the carbon and climate consequences of clear-cutting when it approved a logging plan in the Sierra Nevada. Despite well-established law that state agencies must analyze and mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions from a project when they approve it, the Department of Forestry failed to carry out any project-specific analysis of the emissions that would result from a plan by Sierra Pacific Industries to clear-cut over 400 acres in Tehama and Butte Counties.

"If California is serious about actually reducing its greenhouse emissions, it must start addressing the substantial carbon dioxide emissions resulting from logging our forests," said Brendan Cummings, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Unfortunately, state agencies continue to approve clear-cut logging without any regard for the serious carbon consequences of doing so."

Undisturbed forests generally act as carbon sinks, continuously absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and storing it in the forests' trees, shrubs, and soil. Logging can convert a patch of forest from a net carbon sink to a carbon source. Clear-cutting generates the most greenhouse gases of any logging method. Globally, deforestation accounts for about a quarter of all greenhouse emissions.

The California Department of Forestry is responsible for approving all logging plans on private land in California and must ensure that each proposed plan complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. Under this law, state agencies and local governments approving projects must analyze the projects' effects on greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, as well as the cumulative impact of related logging. However, rather than attempt to calculate the carbon emissions that would result from Sierra Pacific Industries' actual logging plan, the Department of Forestry simply asserted that over a 100-year time frame enough trees would grow back on the company's lands to render the logging carbon neutral.

"The law is clear that agencies must look at the greenhouse emissions of the specific project they approve," said Jan Chatten-Brown of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the law firm representing the Center in today's suit. "The Department of Forestry cannot escape this mandate by simply claiming the project's impacts will be offset elsewhere, which is in any case, a dubious claim."

The lawsuit, filed in superior court in Tehama County, alleges the state violated the California Environmental Quality Act and the Forest Practices Act when it approved the timber-harvest plan without disclosing, analyzing, or mitigating the CO2 emissions that will result from the logging. Over two dozen similar logging plans by Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns nearly 1.7 million acres of forest land in California, are awaiting approval from the Department of Forestry.

"While forest management in a changing climate is increasingly complex, one thing is abundantly clear: You cannot clear-cut your way out of the climate crisis," added Cummings. "California should quickly move to ban clear-cutting."

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

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