urge immediate halt to logging old-growth timber

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Environmentalists urge immediate halt to
logging old-growth timber By JOHN
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Former tree-dweller Julia
"Butterfly" Hill and dozens of other environmentalists demanded
an immediate halt Wednesday to old-growth logging -- a move authorities
said would affect half of California's private forests and more than $30
billion worth of timber.

Hill, part of a Northern California environmental coalition, said current
law allows the cutting of ancient trees, including redwoods, under
loopholes and exemptions abused by harvesters. The group filed an
emergency petition with the state Board of Forestry calling for an
immediate stop.

"This is all about protecting the trees, including the one I lived
in, which was more than 1,000 years old," Hill, 25, said during a
crowded hearing two blocks from the Capitol. Her group later rallied on
the Capitol's steps.

Hill lived for two years on a tarp-covered platform high up in the
redwood 250 miles north of San Francisco. She climbed down last month
after the Pacific Lumber Co., owners of the grove, spared the tree from

To order an immediate, across-the-board halt, the nine-member Board of
Forestry would have to decide that old-growth harvesting represents a
major public emergency -- an unlikely finding. Under the law, an
emergency means a direct threat to "public peace, health and safety
or general welfare."

Environmentalists contend old-growth logging has precipitated just such
an emergency because of its environmental impact.

"That is not the administration's view," said Stan Young, a
spokesman for Resources Secretary Mary Nichols, Gov. Gray Davis' top
environmental adviser.

But Young and other administration officials said the governor opposes
"cutting down trees without getting an environmental review."
The state will develop a "consensus-based" inventory of
California's old-growth timber to come up with a plan to help protect
critical habitats, they said.

In part, the inventory will determine which trees should be considered

There are several exemptions to the rules governing timber harvesting
that allow the cutting of trees that otherwise might be protected. The
most significant of the nine exemptions allows the taking of "dead,
dying or diseased timber," a category environmentalists contend is
too broad.

"Any old growth is 'dead, dying or diseased' by definition,"
said Paul Mason of the Environmental Protection Information Center of

A state forestry review of the potential impact of the emergency order
sought by the environmentalists said the ban "could apply to up to
half of all private forest land" in California.

The petition seeks to block the harvesting of all trees older than 150
years or with trunks larger than 60 inches in diameter at their widest
point. It would order a review and age measurement for trees 36 inches to
60 inches to see if they should be classified as old-growth. The petition
also seeks buffer zones around the oldest trees.

"If all trees greater than 36 inches would be classified as
old-growth, the no-cut rules would apply to 23 million trees making up 31
percent of the total timber volume on private land worth approximately
$31 billion. In addition, the no-cut buffer area could add 1.5 to 1.8
million additional acres, depending on how the buffers of individual
trees overlap," Bill Stewart of the California Department of

California has about three million trees larger than 60 inches in
diameter, and about 20 million in the 36-inch to 60-inch range, he

Just how much old-growth timber is harvested now is open to question.
State authorities have no current numbers; environmentalists say it may
be 10 percent or more.

But timber interests believe the environmental community has overstated
the issue.

"It is important to recognize that once you get through the
sensationalism and down to black and white facts, what you're not being
told by the other side is that 95 percent of ancient redwoods are already
protected," said Chris Nance of the California Forestry Association,
a trade group that represents timber and forest products companies.

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