Lawsuits stall Quincy Library Group vision
Clearing 1,700 miles of fuel breaks would be a massive task.
But that's the goal of pilot projects created by the Quincy Library Group and supported by the U.S. Congress 11 years ago in an effort to prevent massive wildfires in eight Northern California counties, including Shasta and Tehama.
But the once-promising plan has been stalled by lawsuits and timber sale permit appeals, group members say.
"We've watched as large fires have changed the landscape where it should have been treated," said Ed Murphy, a forester for Anderson-based Sierra Pacific Industries and a member of the group.
The group continues to meet and its initial five-year pilot project has been extended twice, first for another five years and recently to 2012.
Murphy said the group has completed only 5 percent of the fuel breaks and thinning it called for almost 10 years ago in Shasta, Tehama, Lassen, Plumas, Butte, Sierra, Yuba and Nevada counties.
The blockade is the result of nine lawsuits and 157 appeals of timber sales, and counting, said Frank Stewart, a professional forester who represents six of the eight counties in the group.
"We are falling way behind," he said.
There are problems with the Quincy Library Group's plans, said Richard Fairbanks, fire program associate with The Wilderness Society, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation group.
One is that the fuel breaks aren't effective, he said, because they are cut with tools and not followed by controlled fire.
"They tried to do it all mechanically, and that just doesn't work," Fairbanks said.
Another problem is that the Quincy Library Group is trying to pay for the fuel breaks and other projects with select logging of large, old pine trees, he said.
Those are the same kinds of trees that environmental groups are fighting to protect.
Other critics have said the scope of the Quincy Library Group's project - 2.5 million acres of national forest lands - is simply too large. Opponents say that projects focused around communities and organized locally would be more effective.
Launched in 1992 in the tiny northern Sierra Nevada timber town of Quincy, the Quincy Library Group grew out of talks among a timber industry forester, a county supervisor and an environmental attorney who wanted to revive what they called sustainable forestry.
As the group grew to 30 members, the amount of land it covered also grew. Now there are eight counties in the pilot project area.
The group received federal financial support for its pilot project in 1998 from federal legislation introduced by Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, and Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif.
Reporter Dylan Darling can be reached at 225-8266 or firstname.lastname@example.org.