Clearcutting in Sierra Nevada timberland will do nothing to protect the planet from climate change, an environmental group contends.
The Center for Biological Diversity is asking the state to rescind new rules that allow the practice as part of climate-friendly forestry.
The rules aim to increase the amount of carbon that is absorbed by trees rather than drifting into the atmosphere, where it could contribute to global warming.
The timber industry contends that on some low-performing sites, cutting almost all the trees and planting new ones could increase total tree growth and carbon storage over a century.
The center, based in San Francisco, disagrees.
"Clearcutting damages forest ecosystems, water and wildlife habitat, while releasing greenhouse gases in the short term and reducing a forest's natural ability to clear the air of carbon pollution over the long term," center attorney Kevin Bundy said in a news release.
The center is asking the California Air Resources Board to take another look at rules it adopted in September. The rules are the basis for projects in which forest owners could get payments for their efforts from other businesses that are unable to meet carbon-reducing goals.
Sierra Pacific Industries, the state's largest lumber producer, last month announced a pilot project on carbon capture. It will carry it out on about 60,000 of its 1.9 million acres, including 20,000 in Tuolumne County.
The effort was billed as the largest of its type to date in the United States.
On some sites, only some of the trees will be cut so the remaining timber can grow faster and be more resistant to fires. On other patches, clearcutting is the preferred method.
This type of logging, and its inclusion in the carbon-reducing rules, also drew fire from the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center in Twain Harte.
"The state needs to adopt carbon offset protocols that make carbon credits go hand in hand with positive, sustainable ecological practices," Executive Director John Buckley said in an e-mail. "We shouldn't reward the very companies that are contributing to the problem."
Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2385.