Yosemite National Park undergoes forest thinning

For more than a century, Yosemite National Park has been viewed as a refuge, where nature triumphs undaunted by man-made forces amid a picturesque backdrop of granite cliffs, waterfalls, and waterfalls. giant mountain range.

But this year is different. The park has now become the latest cauldron in controversial federal deforestation practices taking place on public lands in the West in response to climate change, drought and fire risk. catastrophic forest.

A judge in the US District Court on Tuesday is expected to hear a request from the nonprofit Earth Island Institute for an initial order to halt the Public Service’s ongoing “biomass removal project”. National Park on nearly 2,000 acres in the park. In a lawsuit filed a day earlier, environmentalists argued that the building violated federal environmental requirements.

The project allowed the teams to remove thousands of dead and healthy aoerosa pines, cycads and cedars to reduce fire risk for Yosemite Valley, Merced and Tuolumne giant Sequoias groves , habitat for rare species including Pacific fish and great gray owls and communities including El Portal, Foresta and Yosemite Village.

“Immediate action is needed,” the project website warns, “to protect these areas from high severity fires.”

The project will be one of the largest federal logging efforts ever undertaken in Yosemite, attracting about 4 million visitors each year.

But it has sparked a fight with the Earth Island Institute, which filed a lawsuit against Yosemite National Park on Monday, with Director Cicely Muldoon, the US National Parks Service and the US Department of the Interior seeking to stop the project. project until the completion of the environmental analysis and public review process required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The lawsuit alleges the defendants violated the basic purpose of the units of the National Park System: to preserve landscapes, natural and historic objects, and wildlife in a way that means they will not be affected for the benefit of future generations.

Yosemite officials were not available for comment.

But the documents show that in this case, park officials wanted to bypass the standard requirements for environmental assessment and public participation by using a loophole in NEPA known as the “severance category.” except for the environment”.

Exclusion directives allow the agency to streamline projects that it deems to have limited environmental impact and is essential to the health of the forest and surrounding communities.

The project was approved and signed by Muldoon in August 2021, according to the lawsuit. However, the Earth Island Institute was “not aware of the practice of large-scale logging” until May 11, when one of its members noticed the teams were cutting down healthy trees and piling up logs. Get on the truck for transportation out of the park.

The next day, the environmental team could only find a two-page description of the project on a park website, which contained references to supporting documents including an “Environmental Impact Statement.” of the Fire Prevention and Fighting Management 2004”.

“Because these documents are relied upon to license the project,” the lawsuit argues, “they should be publicly available and included on the project website. They do not.”

In the end, the plaintiffs obtained some of the documents they were looking for. As for the 2004 fire management statement, however, “We’re still asking for it, and park officials are still refusing to give it to us,” said Chad Hanson, a member of the Earth Island Institute. know.

As described on the website, the project is using a combination of manual work, bulldozers, crushers and prescribed incineration to remove trees up to 20 inches in diameter within 200 feet of the center of the roadway. on both sides of nine segments, including one along Highway 41 and it indicates another along a stretch west of Highway 120.

“These smaller diameter trees are ‘stair fuel’ that propel fire into the canopy and can propel fire into the treetops and promote burning,” it says.

A healthier, safer forest in the targeted areas “should leave 24 to 130 trees per acre to mimic pre-settlement density,” it said, adding that the business Proceeds generated from the sale of felled trees to commercial processing plants “will offset project costs and will not support park operations.”

The project is similar to that proposed by the US Forest Service to remove tens of thousands of Jeffrey pine, white fir, juniper and oak trees on 13,000 acres of public land north of Big Bear Lake, a mountain resort heavily used elevation in San Bernardino Mountains, just a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. Yosemite National Park undergoes forest thinning

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