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Sierra Nevada logging: Wikis


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Sierra Nevada Map

Logging in the Californian Sierra Nevada arose from the need to support growing communities in the area. The Gold Rush created a high demand for timber to build housing, for mining procedures, and especially to build railroads. In these days use was unregulated and in the first 20 years after the rush, a third of the timber in the Sierra Nevada was logged . Concern for the forests created a movement towards conservation at the turn of the 19th century creating state and national parks (Yosemite, Sequoia and Grant Grove) and forest reserves. The Sierra Club, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), was founded around this time by the famous preservationist John Muir. Between 1900 and 1940 agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and The National Park Service regulated the use of the Sierra Nevada’s resources. The economy boom after World War II dramatically increased timber production in the Sierras using clear-cutting as the dominant form of logging.



One method of logging is clear-cutting, removing all trees from a tract of land, which has caused major disturbances in the Sierra Nevada environment leaving patches of densely packed, single-specie, same-aged, tree plantations among the diverse old growth forest. Low-impact logging meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. This typically means smaller periodic harvests and removing the worst trees to eliminate danger to high value trees. Forest management, concerning harvest rate, reforestation, erosion control, and stream protection, is key to limiting environmental degradation from timber harvesting and to protect future resources

Logging industry

Although very significant in certain local economies, the overall economic impact of the forest industry in California in the 21st century is fairly modest. The total timber harvest in 2000 was some 2.0 billion board feet of wood, with a harvest value of $909 million. Sierra Pacific Industries, based in Redding, California, owns and manages roughly 1.4 million acres (5,700 km²) of forestland in California, making it the largest private forest owner in the state.

Environmental effects

Northern Spotted Owl

Logging practices have altered the majority of the native forests, transforming them into simplified forests of same-aged trees with a reduced ecological resilience, especially prone to catastrophic fire and mortality due to beetle infestation and disease. It has also caused fragmentation and increased edge effect, along with releasing pesticides and chemicals into the water and land. In the Sierra’s there are 218 endemic plant species that are considered rare or threatened, and three plant species are believed to be extinct. Sixty-nine terrestrial vertebrate species are considered at risk by government agencies. A famous North American endangered species, the California Spotted Owl, depends on large tracts of old-growth coniferous forests and its protection has been a major wildlife and forest management issue.

Preservation of the Sierra Nevada

The Sierra Nevada is home to the largest trees in the world (by volume) and half of the plants and animals found in California. In any case, logging alters forests, but with good managing strategies we can conserve forest biodiversity. It should be noted that the term "conserve" is not to be confused with "preserve" as it so often is. The Sierra Nevada forests are an integral part in supplying renewable resources to meet the consumer demands of everyone in California and the entire Western Region. Where forests are preserved by law as wildlife sanctuaries or National Parks, timber is not managed as a primary resource objective. Where land is owned by the USDA Forest Service or the State of California as working forests, timber is managed (conserved) on a sustainable yield basis as a part of the multiple-use principle that those lands were set aside under.


1. USDA Forest Service Gen. Tech. Rep. Chapter 11 PSW-GTR-133. 1992.

2. Beesley, David. Reconstructing the Landscape: An Environmental History, 1820–1960

3. Laaksonen-Craig S., Goldman G.E., McKillop W. Forestry, Forest Industry, and Forest Products Consumption in California. University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources: Publication 8070

4. Jensen, Torn, Harte. In Our Own Hands: A Strategy for Conserving California’s Biological Diversity.

5. Call DR, Gutierrez RJ, Verner J,. Foraging Habitat and Home-range Characteristics of California Spotted Owls in the Sierra-Nevada. CONDOR 94 (4): 880-888 NOV 1992



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