From: Don Thompson, Associated Press
Published March 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Calif. AG Sues Over Giant Sequoia Plan

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California's attorney general sued the Bush administration Thursday over its management plan for the Giant Sequoia National Monument, home to two-thirds of the world's largest trees.

The federal plan adopted in December would illegally allow commercial logging in the 327,769-acre central California preserve, the suit alleges.

The plan also violates former President Clinton's April 2000 proclamation creating the reserve south of Sequoia National Park, which bans logging unless it is "clearly needed" for public or environmental protection, the suit says.

The U.S. Forest Service adhered closely to Clinton's proclamation, responded spokesman Matt Mathes. The timber cuts are needed for fire protection, he said, to safeguard sequoia groves that have been threatened before by wildfires.

"One of these days, a fire is going to get into the smaller trees in the sequoia groves and travel up into the branches and create a crown fire _ and it will kill these giant trees," Mathes said.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer, in a statement, called the sequoias "majestic guideposts to our history and treasured symbols of our state" and accused the Bush administration of trying to turn naturalist "John Muir's big trees into dead wood."

Responded Mathes: "That's very vivid imagery, but our goal is precisely the opposite _ to keep them from becoming dead wood."

Lockyer's lawsuit alleges the management plan violates both Clinton's proclamation and a 1990 agreement negotiated by Bush's father when he was president.

Lockyer's suit contends logging under the new plan amounts to a commercial harvest of at least 7.5 million board feet each year _ enough to fill 1,500 logging trucks, the Sierra Club estimated in a statement hailing the suit.

Trees with diameters of up to 30 inches can be cut under the rules. Giant sequoias reach 30 feet in diameter.

The Sierra Club and five other environmental groups offered similar objections in a January lawsuit.

The 38 sequoia groves account for about 20,000 acres, or roughly 6 percent, of the total monument that Clinton carved from the 1.1 million-acre Sequoia National Forest east of Bakersfield.

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