Logging will be limited in California's Sequoia National Forest, and giant sequoias will be fully protected under an agreement among the state and federal governments, loggers, conservationists and others, according to the National Forest Service.
The agreement, reached after nearly 17 months of talks, will ban logging in giant sequoia groves and reduce by 22 percent the annual average harvest in the rest of the forest. In return for these cutbacks, conservationists agreed to drop administrative appeals that were tying up logging this year elsewhere in the forest, officials said Friday.
"This is truly an historic agreement," said Paul F. Barker, regional forester for the Forest Service. California Attorney General John Van de Kamp called the settlement "an important step toward saving our old-growth forests."
The settlement stemmed from administrative appeals filed by Van de Kamp, conservation groups, loggers and others against a 1988 Forest Service land-management plan for Sequoia National Forest. The state and conservation groups wanted less logging; the loggers wanted more.
The forest, in the southern Sierra Nevada, contains the largest number of giant sequoias outside of protected parks. Giant sequoias are the world's tallest trees, and old-growth forests provide important habitat for a variety of wildlife.
Van de Kamp said the agreement will protect habitat for the Sierra Nevada red fox, pine marten, fisher, bald eagles, goshawks and condors. Clear-cutting will be reduced from 2,000 to 600 acres a year, and only 236,000 of the more than 1 million acres in the forest will be logged at all. Before the settlement, logging was permitted on 346,000 acres.
"I think it is high time those trees have been saved, and I hope this agreement really preserves them," said Mickey Dulas of Redwood Summer, a coalition of conservationists who are planning nationwide demonstrations this summer calling for protection of old-growth forests. Dulas said the coalition will have to study the settlement further before deciding whether to call off a planned demonstration at Sequoia National Forest later this month.