The state's largest owner of private timberland is temporarily halting much-criticized clear-cutting of about 900 acres near the Calaveras County town of Arnold.
Executives of Sierra Pacific Industries said the Redding-based company stopped felling trees in the area Monday and will suspend logging there for a month while it revises its clear-cutting plans "in response to some of the concerns of Calaveras County residents."
The timber giant's increased clear-cutting on the 1.5 million acres of forest it owns in California has stirred controversy, particularly in Arnold, a former logging town now dependent on tourism and retirees.
The small mountain community has been in an uproar since Sierra Pacific began logging a patchwork of clear-cuts that are near a scenic highway and above a reservoir used for drinking water.
Farther north, in Nevada County, environmental activists have tried to disrupt the company's timbering near the Middle Fork of the Yuba River.
Sierra Pacific Resources Vice President Dan Tomascheski said Tuesday that his company has met with Arnold residents for the past three weeks and intends to modify its cuts so they will be less visible.
"I think we can go a long way to meeting concerns. But we're not saying we're going to stop cutting trees," Tomascheski said.
About a quarter of the acreage in the Arnold plan has already been cleared. On the remaining acreage, Tomascheski said Sierra Pacific may decrease the size of some of the clear-cuts, change their boundaries and leave more trees in some patches.
He also said the company will discuss future logging plans in the area with the county Board of Supervisors and will expand its water quality monitoring of the streams that feed the reservoir.
Though Tomascheski said the kind of changes Sierra Pacific is making in Arnold "could have some applicability elsewhere," he emphasized that the company has no intention of abandoning clear-cutting--in which virtually all trees are cleared from an area that is then replanted with seedlings and carefully managed.
Reaction to the company's announcement was mixed. "In a sense it's a victory, but it's not real substantive," said Warren Alford, a Sierra Club organizer and fourth-generation Calaveras County resident.
County Supervisor Merita Callaway welcomed the firm's move but added, "This isn't the end of the issue. We're not going to go away."