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Since when is clear cutting considered sustainable?

  • Dec 26, 2009
  • by
Take a look at the Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) website. Looks honorable, right? Reminiscent of a leader in sustainability? Well, looks can be deceiving and you shouldn't take anyone at their word. Not even me for that matter. Find out for yourself what SPI is doing to California forests. I was never born a tree hugger, yet common sense tells me that what they are doing is not right. To summarize:

"Even though the forests of Northern California are an important defense against global warming, are a home to countless rare plants and animals and provide much of the state with its drinking water, these forests are under threat from logging company called Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI).  SPI owns about 1.7 million acres in the state and is pursuing an aggressive plan to clearcut and convert to biologically sterile tree plantations at least one million acres of forest within the next 40 to 50 years.  This forest destruction results in the absence of plant and animal habitat and leaves a legacy of devastation for future generations.  Among the many creatures at risk from SPI's logging is the Pacific Fisher.  This rare, furry relative of the otter and the wolverine depends on mature forest conditions for their survival-conditions increasingly absent across SPI's landscape due to their logging."  

Since I am a professional in the field of Interior Design and Architecture, this issue hits close to home. You see, SPI supplies wood to large door and window manufacturing companies such as JELD-WEN, Andersen, and Kolbe and Kolbe - as well as their own line Sierra Pacific Windows. This means that by specifying their windows, my colleagues and I are fueling this destruction. This must stop! At least ForestEthics is doing something to shed light on this destruction. I could not attend Greenbuild this year in Phoenix, but it was there that ForestEthics exposed SPI and the phony SFI (Sustainable Forestry Initiative) program.

Their homepage image of a family walking through an old growth forest is very deceiving. So is their tagline of "Growing forests for our future". Growing forests? Really? After you first clear cut the one that has been there for hundreds of years? After destroying the species that depend on it for survival? Thanks, but I don't want my children to inherit neat rows of artificially planted forests and to never witness the natural beauty of the land.

Since when is clear cutting considered Since when is clear cutting considered

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June 24, 2011
Good reporting job !
February 13, 2010
Its just terrible what they will do to our country. Nice review
February 13, 2010
Yes, it is sad. Thanks for commenting :)
December 28, 2009
In order to believe that SPI is not harvesting its timber in a sustainable manner, one would need to think that multiple state agencies have given permission to operate that way. That's not the case. California has the most stringent forest practices in the world, and harvesting can not take place unless and until permits are approved by the state. State laws and regulations require the protection of water, wildlife, soil and other public trust resources during timber harvesting. Further, California is the only state that does not allow landowners to harvest more than they grow - and state regulators must approve growth and harvest projections for the next 100 years. Viewing a picture of a recently harvested area, no matter where it its, does not tell the whole story. Every acre harvested by SPI is replanted with diverse native species of trees. In addition to meeting stringent state rules, SPI is certified under the independent Sustainable Forestry Initiative to be managing its lands in a sustainable manner. Don't let anti-logging activists sway your opinion without knowing all the facts. Please visit SPI's web site at www.spi-ind.com, or follow us on Twitter.
December 30, 2009
Thanks Mark for bringing up those points... Now I am confused, are you the same Mark as the one who commented below? If you are a different Mark, I would love to see your viewpoint in a review as well, the more opinions the better! As long as we have some common ground on other subjects I think it is alright for us to disagree. Thanks once again and I am looking forward to reading what you have to say (your comment is a great start for a review by the way!) :)
December 31, 2009
Mark and Sierra Pacific Industries,     
  I and many others, are honored in protecting the glorious Sierra Forests, and the glorious Forests of the Pacific Northwest ! You should feel disgusted with your clear cutting of these glorious Forests ! I tell people everywhere I can, to stop buying Lumber "Trees" that are from your Sierra Pacific Industies Clear Cuts ! You will be out of business soon ! Sierra Pacific Industires !
January 02, 2010
Well, not quite - Here are the facts. All of SPI's timber harvesting plans are reviewed by multiple state agencies including CDF, Fish & Game, Water Quality, and often the Geological Survey. CDF is the lead agency per CEQA, but the other agencies provide their input through the THP review process. The Regional Water Quality Control Boards can stop any THP that they believe will harm the environment, and F&G can do so when sensitive wildlife species are found or through an appeal process. With regard to herbicides, CDF is not the responsible agency - that falls to the Department of Pesticide Regulation. Forest chemicals can only be applied by a licensed applicator using only state and federally-approved chemicals under a strict protocol developed by county agricultural commissioners. Forestry use of chemicals in California is small by agricultural standards -- in fact forestry ranks 54th of reported uses and represents less than one percent of commercial applications in the state. In addition, forest chemicals are typically applied once or twice in an 80-year period whereas much of agricutture applies the same chmicals (on our food) every year. SPI monitors application of pesticides, and has found no detectable amounts of chemicals in water courses after 4,000 analysis samples checked by EPA-approved labs. In summary, forestry on private timberlands in California is sustainable from the standpoint of wood product productionh as well as environmental protection.
January 02, 2010
Aw, common guys, you have all hijacked my review with your great comments... ;) Would you mind writing a review of your own so that we can all have your opinion all in one place? That way I wouldn't be the only one looking at it :)
February 11, 2011
First, I don't doubt that Mark's points hold some water about state review of logging practices. Yes, these things end up being reviewed by multiple state agencies.

However, just because the state is satisfied that specific practices are sustainable within the definition of state laws does not mean that the practices are, in fact, sustainable.  In fact we may not even know what is sustainable in this area since forests are extremely complex systems.  Although forests are generally homeostatic, how much clear-cutting and replanting will push them over the edge?  I don't know that there is an answer here that is generally accepted in the scientific community.

I don't know that we can say that California's timberlands are or are not sustainably managed.  We just simply do not know.  What we can hope is that as we learn more, rules can be substantially tightened as needed.
February 12, 2011
Thanks for your thoughtful comment Chris.
December 28, 2009
EcoMama...If you would like the truth about Sierra Pacific Industries, feel free to contact me at 530 378-8271. Getting your information from Forest Ethics and writing like it is the gospel truth is very mis-guided. I would be happy to discuss it with you. Thanks, Mark Lathrop
December 30, 2009
Thank you for the comment Mark! Though instead of discussing this with you on the phone I would love to see your thoughts and points in a review! It would be a great way for other Lunchers to see both sides of the story. Although we might differ in our views I hope we can find some points of common ground, I already know we have one thing in common - we are both parents!
December 26, 2009
Wow, very, very disappointing to learn about.  This totally reminds me of Philip Morris.  Seeing the anti-smoking tv commercials that they sponsored, I always thought they were a totally anti-smoking company, then in high school, I learned that they were pretty much the biggest heavy hitters in the tobacco industry.  Total hypocrites.  Thanks for shedding light on the Sierra Pacific Industries, Eco Mama!
December 27, 2009
Thanks for the comment Debbie. Yes, can't stand hypocrites - I seem to come across them much too often!
December 26, 2009
An extremely powerful review. One of the best you have ever done. Looks like what this company is doing is an absolute travesty. Reminds me of what I have seen in West Virginia where coal companies have decimated the landscape. Keep your eye on this situation for us and let us know of any new developments. I will certainly be watching SPI from now on!
December 27, 2009
Thanks Paul! I was really shocked at this too. It would be one thing if they were open about exactly what they are doing, but it really bugs me that they call this practice "sustainable". Ugh...
More Sierra Pacific Industries reviews
Quick Tip by . December 24, 2009
Stop the greenwash please! There is nothing sustainable about clear cutting California forests.
About the reviewer
Anastasia B ()
Ranked #22
I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a friend, a Christ follower, an Interior Designer, a blog author, a cook, an artist, an eco-conscious consumer, a nature lover, … more
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Sierra Pacific Industries owns and manages about 2 million acres of timberland in California and Washington. Through its network of sawmills the company produces millwork, lumber, and wood fiber products, fencing, aluminum-clad and wood patio doors, and windows. SPI also operates cogeneration plants that recycle wood waste into electricity for its plants; excess electricity is sold to local energy service providers. In addition to the timber business, the company is involved in residential and commercial real estate. SPI traces its roots to the late 1920s when it was founded by R. H. "Curly" Emmerson. The Emmerson family continues to own and operate SPI.
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