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SPI forest practices upheld by state Supreme Court

By: Staff report
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Sierra Pacific Industries has announced that the California Supreme Court handed it a decisive victory in a case involving the environmental review process for three Timber Harvesting Plans. The case was brought by anti-logging activists who challenged the approval of the plans for harvesting Sierra Pacific’s private lands in Tuolumne County. The Supreme Court reversed an appeals court decision that held that the state’s regulatory process is insufficient and was not properly followed in the preparation and approval of these plans. “We’re nine for nine,” said Sierra Pacific spokesman Mark Pawlicki, explaining that this is the ninth timber harvesting plan that environmental activists had tried to block in the courts. “Effectively, the California Supreme Court rejected their arguments raised in all of the cases.” At the heart of the decision is whether the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s regulations of assessing “cumulative impacts” of timber harvesting is adequate to protect sensitive wildlife species such as the California Spotted Owl and the Pacific Fisher. It also addressed the use of herbicides to control brush after harvesting takes place. “This is a total victory for Sierra Pacific Industries and the regulatory process and a stinging rebuke to anti-logging activists” Pawlicki said. According to Pawlicki, the court recognized that scientific disputes are properly within the jurisdiction of biologists, foresters and other professionals, and the role of the courts is to assure that the government adequately considered all the relevant impacts of timber harvesting. “The court recognized its role was to review how the agencies with the expertise to make these complicated resource management decisions reached their conclusions – not to usurp policymaking through judicial fiat,” Pawlicki said. The court examined the environmental analysis procedures in the harvesting plan process and held that “this mode of analysis complied with the Forest Practice Rules as to the geographic scope required of a cumulative-impacts assessment.” The court also found that the process for assessing the use of herbicides was properly followed by Sierra Pacific.