California Official Sues U.S. Forest Service

A 15-year fight over how much timber to cut in the Sierra Nevada Mountains (search) just got longer.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer (search) is suing the U.S Forest Service (search) over its management plan. The issue: how much wood should be cut in 11-million acres of federal woodland.

Under the new plan, developed by the Bush administration, the agency would cut 115,000 acres and trees up to 30 inches in diameter; that's about a 10 percent increase over the Clinton administration's plan to cut 105,000 acres of trees and none larger than 15 inches in diameter.

"There's a lot of wood there but they're [contemplating] cutting 30-inch diameter trees," Lockyer said. "Well, that's a very large tree and certainly the only reason for doing that is the politics of trying to benefit the timber companies and their friends."

Lockyer, a Democrat, said the Bush administration is being influenced by the $8 million in campaign contributions that Republicans received from ranching and timber interests.

But Jack Blackwell of the Forest Service said: "There has been no attempt by the Bush administration to tell us what to do."

Agency veterans say it has nothing to do with political pressure but with forest fires. Blackwell said the aim of the forest plan is to better the old one.

"It's to create a series of speed bumps, if you will, that will slow down catastrophic fire," Blackwell said.

The Forest Service is proposing to cut less than 1 percent of the 11-million-acre forest but no one is happy. Both timber cutters and environmentalists recently sued the agency — one for cutting too much wood in the Sierras, the other for not cutting enough.

Click on the video box above for a complete report by FOX News' William LaJeunesse.