CLOVIS - Young
Sequoias growing on logged-over land in Central California and the
North Coast, probably do not have the environmental niche they will
need to grow to the economic potential that lumber men assume. The
primordial Sequoia was under attack in 19th Century logging ventures
that created such California towns as Sanger, Fresno, and Redwood
Horse & cattle grazing and careless
wood cutting in Sequoia groves in the State led to federal protection
and eventually to the creation of the Yosemite and Sequoia National
parks in Fresno County in the late 1800's.
Now, the fight for the California Sequoia
begins anew.Today, as in the early days of California, the fight is
one to save the Sequoia redwood forests from total destruction. Many
of the younger groves are still in private ownership.
Privately owned Sequoia forests make
up about 99% of 620,000 acres of industrial Sequoia redwood land available
The fight is over only one percent,
the 6,000 acres of ancient trees - 500 to 2,000-year-old giants -
primarily owned by Pacific Lumber Co. At the heart of the battle
is the Headwaters Forest, a 3,000 acre plot of undisturbed,
old-growth redwoods located about 15 miles inland from Eureka.
The irreplaceable ecological value of
the evolved and complex old growth Sequoia forests is pitched against
their present economic value of more than $100,000 for each and every
mature Sequoia tree. Timber buyers pay that kind of cash money for
high-grade Sequoia lumber and wood products. Only the rare teak wood
frorm the Orient's ancient tropical rain forests bring as much economic
value in the market.
Arguments for harvesting Sequoia trees
assumes that the Sequoias will replace themselves, through the process
of plant succession, someday. That theory has yet to be scientifically
proven. These old growth Sequoia forests, however, represent an ecological
moment in time which may not be reproduced again in many thousands
The old growth provides important habitat
for wildlife, say scientists. In its forests, downed logs, snags or
broken top trunks, beds of moss and lichen, towering canopies of branches
and leaves, and cool streams provide homes for martens, fishers, coho
salmon, marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl.
And there is more subtle value, they
say. Fungi help the trees absorb nutrients and resist insects. Decayed
trunks build soil or hold water like a sponge. The tall trees trap
and hold moisture. Branches and needles catch dust and dirt, thus
cleansing the air. Plant photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide gas
from the atmosphere. Roots bind soil against erosion.
"We have absolutely no assurance that
we can regrow old growth in any less time that it took to produce
it originally, 300 or 400 years, said David Perry, professor of ecosystems
studies at Oregon State University.
Pacific Lumber maintains that
selective logging in ld growth regions of both Sierra & Sequoia
national forests offer a great public benefit to forests in thinning
out and removing dangerous ladder-fuels from the dense understory.
This is correct. It is nowhere more obvios than in dense old stands
of Red Fir and White Fir forests in the upper ridges of the Sierra
"The big logs have a finer grain" said
Art Harwood, president of Harwood Products in Branscomb. "They
have more 10 to 20 growth rings per inch compared to three to six
rings in a smaller tree."
It is an economic fact that Sequoia
trees have economic value. Sequoia wood is so strong and naturally
resistant to moisture and insects. Yet, those qualities can be artifificially
applied to inferiror timber when treated with preservatives. The clear
grain of the Sequoia, however, cannot be artifically produced.
So, the lumber mill pays $1,200 per
1,000 board feet for an old growth compared to $700 for a younger
tree. An average old growth Sequoia log is twice the diameter of a
younger tree and has the economic value of four times as much.
A 5-foot diameter 40-foot log produces
6,760 board feet. A 10-foot diameter 40-foot log produces 27,800 board
feet. Sequoia redwood is competitively priced with other woods. This
is the result of using young Sequoia redwood trees.
Consumer demand for Sequoia redwood
is strong because it holds up so very well under weather in siding,
decking, hot-tubs, and fencing. It has natural resistance to decay
and insects, and is less apt to warp and crack. Those characteristics
lead to its long-lasting beauty. Sequoia redwood is particularly valaues
above all other wood because it is beautiful.
Agricultural economists say that Sequoia
redwood trees should be left standing, particularly because of their
economic value and the danger of the complete depletion of this resource
within the next 10 years. Foresters have no idea whether we can produce
[Editor's Note: This story originally
appeared on the Front Page November 1, 1995 edition of the Fresno