In defense of Jeffrey Pines

bigspringsSince timber sales in the 80s, the number of old Jeffrey Pine trees in Mono County diminished substantially. Many consider the pines that are left national treasures. So when the Forest Service cut down a third Jeffrey Pine in Big Springs Campground near Mammoth, local resident Evan Smith objected.

Smith has long championed the pines and managed to save some over the years. In fact in the 80s, Smith organized the Friends of Big Springs to try to stop timber sales in the area. He said 4% of the big old trees remain.

Deb Schweizer, Public Information Officer for the Forest Service said crews did cut down one pine tree this year and two last year. She described the tree recently cut down at Big Springs as a “hazard tree.” Schweizer said the definition of a hazard tree means signs of rot, a snag top, bug kill and a tree generally starting to fail with a target like people, vehicles and campsites below. For the tree in question, she said the “top two-thirds was dead.”

Mr. Smith, who saw the tree cut down and lying in the campground, said the tree needles were green clear to the top. He thinks the designation of “hazard” tree is a guise for taking down trees and selling them for firewood. “Why not move the picnic table instead of cutting a tree down,” said Smith.

Schweizer said, “For us, Big Springs Campground is a designated recreation area – a campground.” She said it is not a Wilderness area. Schweizer said the Jeffrey Pines are tall and with the top two-thirds dead, there could be a potentially serious fall that would hit people, tables and cars.

She said, “We don’t take this lightly. We consider Jeffrey Pines special, and we do protect Old Growth. In recreation areas,” she said, “we protect people.” She said the Forest Service is more lenient with failing trees that are not in developed recreation areas.

Mr. Smith and other members of the public see it differently. Smith said in a letter to the editor, “It appears as though another three hundred year old tree was too close to a picnic table, was deemed a hazard, and was killed by the US Forest Service.” He said there were a lot of animals that needed that tree. Smith pointed to the historic significance of the Jeffrey Pines. He said in 1910, the Indiana Touring Company brought passengers, including President Teddy Roosevelt, through the forest. That’s when Roosevelt planted a tree in Big Pine and visited Big Springs and other forest places.

While the Forest Service claims the pines that were cut down were diseased, Smith said they were all principally healthy trees that survived many events but not chainsaws. “The Forest Service should leave a few examples of these 300-year-old trees, and a campground is a good place for them.” Smith said Wilderness designation will eventually come to the Big Springs area. He said the Forest management plan counts on planting trees to replace ones cut down. Smith called that “very weak science. The healthiest thing,” he said, “is to leave them alone.”


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12 Responses to In defense of Jeffrey Pines

  1. Tony Cumia June 20, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    A little flim flammery going on here 4% is not the case……The area between Deadman Summit and TOML is one of the world largest stands of these trees.I know, Im in that forest every day. They are every where. ‘Old growth’…trees eventually die, be it from age,fire, bugs and lightning, and guess what…seedlings grow new trees. Its called nature.There are a lot of these trees in bad shape in the Big Springs area. As there are in the Deadman Creek CG and Shady Rest. If this guy has a problem w/ people using wood as a heating source, what is his solution? Using fossil fuel to heat your house? Rather than take some activists word, go see for yourself. There are plenty of these trees in the area and eventually they will get big and become ‘old growth’ for another generation long after this guy, and you and I are gone. The cycle of life is amazing.

  2. A June 21, 2014 at 1:34 am #

    Good for Evan – save ’em all! If it’s called ‘nature’ let ’em fall naturally.

  3. Ken Warner June 21, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I say cut down all the trees — make more room for tourists. That’s where the money is. Trees don’t have any money and they don’t buy tee-shirts. Put a sign up where each tree stood. We love signs….

  4. Wayne Deja June 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Ken….Don’t be giving these entrepreneurs up in Mammoth any ideas…or we’ll be seeing a condo sign and site on top of Deadman Summit and a proposed MX track across highway 395….remember what that one guy was saying when he was stalking and following around that family up in TOML…..millions of tourist $$$$ every weekend….

    • Ken Warner June 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm #

      Wayne: Money is everything. Condos on Dead Man Summit — hey, that’s a good idea. Great views…

      • RAM June 22, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

        I’m offended by the name Dead Man Summit. I think they should change the name.

  5. Curly Q. Link June 21, 2014 at 11:07 pm #

    Who’s stalking who? Your motorcross story pops up yet again – you should be thanking that guy for giving you inspiration (one year later) to keep talking about it. You are both on the same wavelength and need to do lunch, perhaps out at the track?

  6. Paco Shinola June 22, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    “He said 4% of the big old trees remain.” According to what, his faulty memory? Is there any evidence backing this statistic?

    Again, “Mr. Smith, who saw the tree cut down and lying in the campground, said the tree needles were green clear to the top.” Sorry Mr. Smith, pics or it didn’t happen.

    And Mr. Smith trying to trivialize the USFS’s effort to keep campground visitors safe by claiming the tree was only threatening a picnic table, only weakens his argument.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for preserving old growth, I know the trees make more money for the community, standing rather than cut down (at a taxpayer subsidized discount with the profits going into private hands).

    But making wild assertions without logic or evidence doesn’t help Mr. Smith’s cause. And printing them without (factual) due diligence doesn’t do much for Eastside journalism either.

  7. wilderbeast June 22, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    More wild land firefighters are killed or injured by falling trees then fire or other accidents each fire season. Hazard trees are just that. When they do come down, they don’t give warning and kill or injure silently. Most will never see the aftermath of these tree incidents but they leave a life long impression when you do. Err on the side of safety not sentifment.

    • Offroader June 23, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      My friend and I like to go out and look for trees that are about to fall over. Then we give them a little push with just our hands and watch them fall.

      It’s surprising how many are teetering and could fall at any time.

      • Wayne Deja June 23, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

        offroader…..With your comment here,you sound like a typical offroader….if it isn’t leaving trash and beer cans behind,it’s toppleing over trees…….or both.

  8. OHV June 24, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    More wild land firefighters are killed or injured by falling trees then fire or other accidents each fire season.

    spare me I’m saving firefighters lives


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