Old Growth Forests
gging began in the Sierra Nevada with the advent of the Gold Rush in 1849 and peaked in the late 1800's as private timber companies moved further and further into the mountains. Hundreds of millions of board feet were harvested to supply the gold camps and to build extensive flumes systems. 300 million board feet of timber was required to build the snowsheds for the Central Pacific Railroad alone. Even the Giant Sequoia was harvested extensively during this period (primarily for fence posts and shingles).
With the setting aside of forest reserves in the 1890's logging abated somewhat, and the low demand for public timber, along with the Great Depression of the 1930's, reduced logging to relatively low levels during the first four decades of the 20th century. World War II and the postwar era renewed the demand for lumber, and logging in the National Forests of the Sierra peaked at an estimated one billion board feet annually in the late 1970's. Clearcutting was prevalent well into the 1980's.
As a result, relatively few areas of late successional or old growth (LSOG) forests remain in the Sierra. The map below indicates those areas considered to be LSOG by the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project. Not surprisingly, the largest areas appear in Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks, where logging was prohibited at an early date. The map is a little misleading, however, because it only considers areas of commercial-grade timber. Areas with oak woodland or high elevation forest are not included on the map.
Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, Volume II, Chapter 1, 1996.
Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Report, Volume II, Chapter 21, 1996.