The Lookout THP - Sierra Pacific Industries

In the forests surrounding our communities, in the forests of northern California, Sierra Pacific Industries threatens to destroy over a million acres of forest in California. Once home to Ishi's people and the Yana, long gone now from these lonely hills, Digger Creek flows west from the heart of Waganupah--Lassen Peak--in Lassen Volcanic National Park. Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) has laid plans to carve up the entire Digger Creek watershed, west of its headwaters at Heart Lake in the Lassen National Forest, and now separated by brutally cut logging roads and miles and miles of clearcuts.

The “Lookout Timber Harvest Plan” is scheduled to clearcut 809 acres of native forest on the slopes surrounding Digger Butte Lookout, and another 900 acres further upstream within the next five years. The net result of this clearcutting, combined with the thousands of acres of existing clearcuts to the north and south of Digger Creek in the Battle Creek watershed, will spell death and destruction for the wildlife and plants and will permanently impair the water quality of this ecosystem.

Digger Creek is spring fed water filtered through miles of volcanic rock deep within the heart of Lassen Peak--Shasta's sister mountain. At the headwaters of Digger Creek, the meadow system surrounding Heart Lake is a massive wetland fed by some of the coldest and purest water in California. Streams flow west and converge into Digger Creek, flowing through Lassen National Forest lands and then through a stretch of forest now owned by Sierra Pacific Industries. From there, Digger Creek flows into the little town of Manton. The Lassen Peak watershed is the greatest source of water in the entire Sacramento River and one of the most important water sources in the west.

West of Manton, a deep waterfall marks an ancient Yana Indian village site, and drops into Battle Creek, home to federally listed threatened and endangered fish-the once abundant Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead. Last year, restoration plans were finalized for the Battle Creek Restoration Project, a multi-agency plan whose projected cost is approximately 101.5 million dollars. Battle Creek was chosen by a consensus of fisheries experts as the premier stream capable of recovering the imperiled fish, because of its cold, spring fed water, and the deep canyons and shaded pools that exemplify the watershed. Digger Creek is one of its main tributaries, located right in the middle of the watershed-its heart.

It is here, in the upper parts of the Battle Creek watershed, that Sierra Pacific Industries-SPI-is busy implementing its forest liquidation plan that includes clearcutting 70% of its entire ownership of nearly 1.5 million acres of California forest lands. SPI's clearcutting, or “evenaged management” as they prefer to call it, includes dense replanting after clearcutting, with mostly single species commercial pine, followed by heavy applications of toxic chemical herbicides to kill all the natural regrowth of native plants that occurs after clearcutting.

Where nine species of conifers once grew, one species of conifer will be replanted. Where hundreds of species of plants once grew in the shade of the giants, nothing but weeds and non-native grasses will remain-those few species that survive after the spraying. Gone will be the lady slipper and coralroot orchids, along with the rare mushrooms and truffles that provide food for little mammals that form the prey base for wide ranging carnivores like the Pacific fisher, wolverine, and marten, and for other old-growth dependent species like the goshawk and spotted owl. Gone will be the medicinal pipsissewa and wild ginger, the hazelnut, wild plum, and the dogwood. Gone will be the massive downed logs draped with mosses and ruby red tipped lichens, that form the foundation of the forests' soil ecology; gone will be the oaks that produce the acorn mast that is the very foundation of the forest food web, supporting hundreds of species of birds and mammals. Gone will be the homes of cavity nesting birds and mammals, like the pileated woodpecker and the olive-sided flycatcher.

Local citizens opposed to the project submitted a petition with over 150 signatures, numerous comments, letters, photographs, and e-mails to CDF--the agency charged with approval of the plans--and the California Department of Fish and Game, charged with regulating and protecting the state's trust resources, the water and the wildlife. We also engaged in numerous phone conversations and face to face meetings with CDF staff, in our attempts to make the agency aware of the potentially significant cumulative impacts of the project upon natural resources in the area, including wildlife and wildlife habitat, vegetation communities including rare native plants, and impacts to water quality and domestic uses of water.

After exhausting all of our other remedies, a coalition was formed called the Battle Creek Alliance, and joining with the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation, we filed suit to stop the Lookout THP on January 18, 2008. The key complaint of the lawsuit is the failure of CDF and SPI to disclose the extent of clearcutting activities that have already taken place in the area. Disclosure of past projects is specifically required by the Forest Practice Rules, under California state law. Over 5,000 acres in the vicinity have already been clearcut since 2000, many of which can be easily seen in Google Earth's online satellite images. These pictures do not lie. Yet, the true picture is far worse--thousands of acres of additional clearcutting have taken place since the Google pictures were taken. Disclosure of past projects is necessary in order to fully understand what the potentially significant cumulative impacts of additional clearcutting may have upon natural resources, including wildlife and their habitat.