Friday, December 16, 2005

Letter to CDF re the Big Granite Trail

Hi all,

I finally obtained the Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) for the CHY and SPI lumber companies, in the Big Valley/Little Granite Creek area. Below, my first letter to William Schultz of CDF (the California Dept. of Forestry administers timber harvests on private lands).

This area is where damage recently occurred to the historic Big Granite Trail.

Very many other trails in the area have already been, not just damaged, but obliterated. I consider this intolerable, then and now.

I have my doubts whether the public comment period is even still open for the CHY THP. I am asking that the comment period be extended until next summer. It would not hurt for any of you to send a note to Mr. Schultz, asking that the public comment period for THP 2-04-169 be extended.

December 15, 2004

William Schultz
6105 Airport Road
Redding, CA 96002

re: Timber Harvest Plan 2-04-169-PLA; damage to historic trails

Dear Mr. Schultz,

Please keep the public comment period open for THP 2-04-169-PLA; I had much difficulty in obtaining a copy, and although my telephone calls to CDF began in October, I did not get a copy until around December 10.

In the very same area is SPI's current "10% Exemption" harvest plan, 2-04EX-1061-3-PLA. I refer mainly to the basins of Big Valley and Little Granite Creek, south-flowing tributaries of the North Fork American River.

Please note that Foresthill District Ranger Richard Johnson of Tahoe National Forest tells me that TNF has contacted both CHY and SPI about further TNF land acquisitions in this area, including all of the CHY and SPI holdings in the basins of Big Valley and Little Granite Creek. I strongly support these acquisitions, which have been progressing slowly for years.

I had wrongly imagined that the devastation already caused by SPI and CHY harvests in the area was finished, and that TNF would be able to buy these lands before any further damage occurred.

Perhaps you will recall that I raised objections to a Siller Brothers THP last year, near Blue Canyon, around the gold mining townsite of Lost Camp. In part, I was concerned about the historic "China Trail," from Lost Camp to the North Fork of the North Fork American River.

Actually, the China Trail crossed that river and climbed to the crest of Sawtooth Ridge, across the canyon from Lost Camp; but the Sawtooth side of the China Trail had already been obliterated by logging. Hence I described the trail as leading to the river.

With regard to THP 2-04-169-PLA, and 2-04EX-1061, once again historic trails figure into my objections. I am quite familiar with the area, having hiked and skied there since 1972. It is an important part of Placer County's "high country." It is threaded through and through with historic trails, many of which have been utterly ruined by logging. Others have become logging roads.

One of the most popular hiking destinations in Tahoe National Forest, the Loch Leven Lakes, including Salmon Lake, is in this same area. The very popular North Fork American Wild & Scenic River is adjacent, to the south. The recreational value of the entire area is enormous.

In October, I heard from two different sources of recent damage to what remains intact of the Big Granite Trail. I was unable to get up there myself to see the damage before snow fell and blocked the roads up.

The Big Granite Trail led from Cisco, on the railroad, past Huysink Lake (named for Bernard Huysinck of Dutch Flat, an avid outdoorsman of the 19th century), into Little Granite Creek at Four Horse Flat, and then down Little and Big Granite Creeks into the North Fork American canyon.

Placer County appears to have expended money maintaining the Big Granite Trail in 1896 (Minutes of the Board of Supervisors, 1896). It is an historic public trail, like the other trails which have been either entirely or partly obliterated, in the same general area: the Big Valley Trail, the Sugar Pine Point Trail, the Cherry Point Trail, the Mears Meadow Trail, the Monumental Creek Trail, the Big Bend-Devils Peak Trail, and the Snow Mountain Trail. These were all once maintained by Tahoe National Forest.

In attempting to discover which lumber company had caused the most recent damage to the Big Granite Trail, I found CHY THP 2-04-169-PLA on your CDF website, and assumed CHY was the culprit. However, I knew that CHY lands bordered SPI lands in the area of most recent damage, that is, around the common line between sections 4 and 9, T16N, R13E. And emails to Jeff Dowling of CDF elicited the information that SPI has an active "10% Exemption" harvest plan in the area, including Section 9.

So I am uncertain which company, CHY or SPI, ran a bulldozer in beside the trail, above and in Four Horse Flat, and, so I hear, caused quite a lot of damage.

SPI seems to have been responsible for most of the destruction of the Sugar Pine Point Trail, although CHY contributed to its ruin in the Pelham Flat area. The more southern part of this trail remains partly intact, as it passes through the south half of Section 17 to its terminus in TNF Section 20. In the Exemption document 2-04EX-1061, there is a map showing this Section 17. Note the pass, on the ridge dividing Big Valley on the west from Little Granite Creek on the east, where roads fork, in the SW 1/4, at the head of a small tributary of Little Granite Creek. The relatively intact part of the Sugar Pine Point Trail parallels the more eastern road, south of the pass. Then, as soon as it crosses into Section 20, it is undamaged.

Incidentally, there is interesting lithic scatter at that very pass, suggesting that it may be on the line of a Native American trail. The lithic scatter has been exposed by construction of a log landing. Not far away, in Section 20, is a more significant prehistoric site associated with the Martis Complex.

There is also an active Northern Goshawk nesting site in Section 20.

SPI and CHY have not touched the land lightly. They have destroyed trails and left scars which will mar the scenery for generations. The great grove of centuries-old Incense Cedars in Big Valley is gone, only a torn-up weedy meadow studded with stumps showing it ever existed. The grove was directly on the line of the Big Granite Trail.

This is an area of great scenery, with many fine overlooks, in direct contrast to assertions made in the CHY THP. I love the view down Big Valley to the American River Canyon, from near Huysink Lake, for instance. There is a very unusual geology in the area, with narrow bands of metamorphic rock (the Taylorsville Sequence), much more broadly exposed in the Feather River country to the north, making their southernmost appearance here. Fossil ammonites are found in the Sailor Canyon Formation near Huysink Lake. The glacial history is also of special interest, as these canyons received overflow from the South Yuba ice field to the north; the North Fork American is anomalously deep, in part, because it robbed the South Yuba of its own Yuba ice, as it were. The Emigrant Gap Mafic Complex, with its quite unusual intrusive rocks, gabbros and dunites, flanks the area on the west.

There are many small ponds and wet meadows in the area. It is a lovely place, which partakes of the special magic of the North Fork American. Tremendous, unconscionable damage has already occurred to the historic trails there. Rather than harvesting more timber, CHY and SPI should mitigate the damage they have already caused.

Of course, CDF presided over these timber harvests.

A good start on CHY's and SPI's mitigation would be to give the lands to Tahoe National Forest, or at the least, agree to sell the lands to TNF at very favorable terms, deferring further harvests until funding becomes available.

Considering CDF's role, let the State of California contribute its millions of dollars to the task of restoring these lands to public ownership and revegetating the roads and skid trails, and restoring the ruined foot trails. President Lincoln was wrong to give these lands to the Central Pacific Railroad. True, the gift helped make Republicans rich, but it is costing all of us of every political party very dearly, in the long haul.

It seems that "10% Exemption" harvests are exempt from both environmental review and public comment. I will remark however, that every piece of land involved in this Exemption harvest is not only known to me personally, it is important to the future of Placer County's and Tahoe National Forest's wildlands. And that includes the SPI parcel(s) out on Sawtooth Ridge, where for years I have advocated restoration of the obliterated Sawtooth Ridge Trail, and acquisition of the private inholdings by Tahoe National Forest.

I have more comments I wish to make on CHY THP 2-04-169, so, in conclusion, please keep the public comment period open. It would be best if the comment period remained open long enough to make a direct examination of the harvest areas, now under snow.

Thanks for your consideration of these matters.


Russell Towle
Box 141
Dutch Flat, CA 95714

cc: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger

Russell Towle

No comments: