SACRAMENTO — California forestry officials grappled Wednesday with proposed logging rules that would ease timber-harvesting restrictions next year across thousands of acres of forests.
Facing a deadline, Board of Forestry members considered whether to put the rules to a final vote next month – a critical procedural move required for any rules to take effect Jan. 1.
Logging interests and forest landowners generally supported the new rules, contending they were superior to emergency regulations adopted in March that contain tighter limits on how much timber can be cut and where.
They noted that if new rules are not approved, the emergency regulations will remain in effect.
But environmentalists said the latest regulations would remove limits on key aspects of logging, including how many trees must be left standing near streams, how much canopy must be retained overhead for shade, and how close to streams loggers are allowed to cut.
This issue, the proximity to streams, is the crux of the dispute. The streams serve as the habitats for fish, and environmentalists fear the latest rules would hurt wildlife.
Supporters of the new rules say there are sufficient safeguards.
“That’s what all these hearings are about: Whether they (loggers) will have to leave 10 trees standing alongside a stream for every 330 feet. And whether the buffer zones around the streams will be bigger or smaller,” said Kathy Bailey of the Sierra Club.