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Byline: Mike Geniella
The Press Democrat
Published on August 16, 2003
2003- The Press Democrat


Vince Taylor, a Mendocino Coast activist who has led a high-profile campaign to stop commercial logging in Jackson State Forest, has admitted violating state timber harvest rules by illegally cutting down trees to make way for a new home.

State officials said Taylor's illegal logging operation last year was on private property in a zone protected by the California Coastal Act. The tree cutting created potential harm to the habitat of the red tree vole and coast lily, ``two species of special concern,'' according to the state.

To settle a pending enforcement action by the state Department of Forestry, Taylor stipulated that he violated state laws governing timber cutting operations. In return, the state agency dropped plans to impose a $3,000 fine on Taylor.

Taylor also agreed to pay his own legal costs incurred during months-long negotiations with state officials to resolve the case. It stems from a 2002 tree-cutting operation on property Taylor owns near the town of Mendocino on Little Lake Road.

State foresters said Taylor failed to obtain a state permit to convert land zoned for timber production to a non-timber growing use. He also failed to submit a timber harvest plan for state approval, according to the settlement.

Taylor said Friday he ``inadvertently'' violated state law. He said he believed, based on conversations with county planning staff, that because he intended to remove fewer than 15 trees greater than 12 inches in diameter, he wasn't required to obtain the state permits.

Taylor said the trees were cut by a licensed timber operator, and that all the timber cut was for his own personal use.

``Because of what's involved, I know a lot of people want to make more out of this,'' said Taylor. ``But really, it was an inadvertent violation of the law.''

``There was no real harm done,'' he said.

The settlement was signed June 20 by Taylor, and two weeks later by Andrea Tuttle, state director of forestry. As part of the deal, the state agency agreed not to release news of the deal unless otherwise asked.

State forestry spokesman Louis Blumberg confirmed the agreement had been reached, but he declined Friday to discuss any of its terms.

A copy of the agreement and supporting documents show that Taylor originally faced a $3,000 civil penalty for violating state timber laws.

Taylor is executive director of the Caspar-based Campaign to Restore Jackson State Forest. The organization has waged a contentious two-year campaign in the courts and before state agencies to curtail commercial logging operations in the state forest.

Jackson State was established in the 1940s by the Legislature to be a working forest dedicated to research, education and the demonstration of sustainable forestry practices. Over the years, it has become the best-stocked timberland on the North Coast and a significant provider of logs to local mills.

But a successful legal challenge to long-term state management plans for Jackson was filed by Taylor's group, resulting last month in the blocking of a $7 million timber harvest deal with two Mendocino County timber companies.

At the time, Taylor said state forestry officials' attempt to move ahead with the disputed logging operations was ``not reason enough to ignore legally mandated environmental protection for the public forest.''

You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or Keywords: TIMBER ENVIRONMENT SETTLEMENT