Preserving California’s old growth

On Wednesday you read that private landowners conduct the majority of timber harvesting in California. This is due to the de facto moratorium placed on timber harvesting within national forests (state and national parks do not allow harvesting except for reasons of public safety). And, perhaps you wondered if old-growth timber could be removed. Well, fear not. National and State governments own, and have placed 99.5 percent of California’s 2.56 million acres of old-growth timber in California off-limits to any harvesting.

Nat'l and state govts hold 99.5% of old-growth. Source: USDA Forest Service, "Area of old-growth forests in California, Oregon, and Washington" by Bolsinger and Waddell

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If California’s timber industry falls, will anyone hear it?

Lands owned by state and federal government now contribute little to California’s wood supply (see the graphic below). Private landowners (the green area) now carry nearly all the burden for California’s timber harvesting and its wood demand. (Source: California Forestry Association CA Timber Harvest Statistics 1978-2009.)

As previously noted on this site:

Our California forests have the capacity to produce all the wood we need and export some as well, yet we import 75% of our wood. You can bet the wood we import wasn’t harvested under restrictions as comprehensive as those within California’s Forest Practices Act. Did any of the harvests have a Timber Harvesting Plan that took water and wildlife into consideration?

And just how much wood do we Californians consume? According to a paper published by the University of California at Berkeley, Californians used somewhere around 8.5-9 billion board-feet in 1999. Given that CA’s consumption grew by ~3 to 4 BBF from 1990 to 1999, we may currently consume 11-12 BBF. How much do we harvest in California? According to data from the California Forestry Association, about 1.6 BBF, i.e., about 15 percent of what we use, leaving 85 percent to come from other places.

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