ANTI-LOGGING ACTIVIST SETTLES TIMBER VIOLATION
|Byline: Mike Geniella
The Press Democrat
Published on August 16, 2003
© 2003- The Press Democrat
Inaccuracies and BiasComments by Vince Taylor
|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.
||True but misleading, because the
settlement was a major retreat for CDF, which had brought a civil
action to impose a hefty fine for what was a minor, inadvertent
infraction. Normally, it would have been handled by issuing a
citation, at most, and allowing it to be mitigated by preparation of a
conversion permit. The conversion permit was issued by CDF more than a
year before it brought the civil action.
|State officials said Taylor's illegal
logging operation last year was on private property in a zone
protected by the California Coastal Act.
||The location of the property in the
Coastal Zone was not at issue in the action. The operations were in
conformance with provisions of the Coastal Act and specifically
authorized by the County Planning Department, which oversees
enforcement of the 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. (Emphasis added.)
||These were allegations only, based on
evidence provided to CDF by the forester that I hired to prepare my
3-acre conversion permit.
Evidence from this forester, Lee Susan of Fort Bragg is highly
suspect. Although in my hire, Mr. Susan
never informed me of any possible infractions of the law. Rather he
wrote to CDF behind my back and submitted photos that are the basis
for the allegations. CDF never inspected the site to confirm that the
photos were on my property and accurate.
The red tree vole evidence (resin ducts left after the vole
consumes a tree’s needles) is particularly suspect because it was
found on a young pine tree, and typically red tree voles live in
mature Douglas fir trees. Indeed, Mr. Susan, who prepared the
conversion permit application, never found evidence of a red tree vole
in the hundreds of trees within the harvest zone
that he inspected for the permit application
Coast Lilies do grow on my property, but they continue to be alive
and well, especially along the edge of my street, which is mowed each
year by the county and which is hundreds of feet from where the timber
Mr. Susan found no evidence of Coast Lilies in the conversion area
that had not been cleared prior to his work.
Note that no CDF permits are required for brush clearing and
that the Planning Department had given permission to carry out the
brush clearing that did occur before the conversion permit was issued.
|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.
||This is accurate but only a half truth
and very misleading.
The whole point of the civil action was to impose a fine on me. The
complete dropping of the fine is compelling evidence that CDF was
(justifiably) concerned that I might bring
and win a suit against them for retaliatory prosecution (see
my letter to the PD editor).
In none of the entire 40 list of similar cases prosecuted by CDF
since 1990 did CDF settle for less than two-thirds of the originally
proposed fine. In my case they eliminated the fine completely, as I
What Mr. Geniella omitted, and what was central to the settlement
from CDF’s standpoint, was that I agreed not to pursue further legal
action against CDF in this case.
What Mr. Geniella also omitted, and which was central to my
willingness to admit that I had inadvertently violated the forest
practice act (see
my letter to the PD), was the stipulation by CDF that the
violation had been fully mitigated by their issuance of conversion
permit, which not incidentally was issued a year before they initiated
the civil action.
|Taylor also agreed to pay his own legal
costs incurred during months-long negotiations with state officials to
resolve the case.
||My agreement to pay legal fees is put in
such a way by Mr. Geniella that it seems like a penalty, which it was
not. Both parties agreed to pay their own legal costs, as is
standard when neither side is a prevailing party.
The state’s costs were probably ten to a hundred times mine. CDF
spent more than a year investigating, assembling, and debating their
case, and they had a state attorney prosecuting the case. Except for a
few hours of initial legal advice, I represented myself and did all
the work myself.
|It stems from a 2002 tree-cutting
operation on property Taylor owns near the town of Mendocino on Little
||The trees were cut in April 2001. The
civil action was filed in October 2002.
|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.
||The two citations are for the one action
of cutting trees. There was no doubt in my mind now that the tree
cutting required the permit, but at the time I had sought substantial
professional advice (including that of CDF and the Licensed Timber
Operator who cut the trees). No one even hinted
that a permit might be required.
I was very surprised to
learn, as you may well be too, that you require a CDF permit to cut
one tree in forested property on your land if you intend not to
let it grow back!
This is the provision of the law that CDF found to charge me under.
As I found that they had applied this law in other situations in
Mendocino County (albeit generally larger in scope), I was willing to
admit the violation. All that I asked from the beginning was that I be
treated like any other person and not singled out because of my work
to protect Jackson State Forest.
|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
|All the facts in cited in the two
paragraphs were what caused me to believe that no permit was required.
|``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.''
||A reasonably accurate quote. Note,
though, that this was obtained in an informal conversation. Mr.
Geniella did not appropriately inform me that he intended to publish
the story. I obviously would have had more to say.
|``There was no real harm done,'' he said.
||I don’t recall saying this. More
accurately, CDF’s issuance of the conversion permit shows that it
would have permitted the tree cutting had the permit been requested
ahead of time.
|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. (Emphasis added.)
||Mr. Geniella buried
this important agreement by CDF as the second sentence in a
paragraph near the end of the article. Why would CDF agree to keep
quiet about a violation that they were attempting to blow up into a
major scandal for me? Obviously, because they had far overstepped
the bounds of propriety and felt compelled to allow me to dictate this
provision. I did not want CDF going around everywhere whispering and
the story with the unfounded innuendoes that the Press Democrat has
|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
||Mr. Geniella has repeatedly and
inaccurately located the Campaign in Caspar. Our public offices were
in Fort Bragg. I live in Mendocino. The Campaign, though, is a state
and even country wide organization. More than 2,000 of the 3,000 plus
supporters live outside of Mendocino County.
The Campaign started
publicly in March of 2000. It is now in its fourth year of its
The goal of the Campaign is not to curtail commercial logging,
although this would be an effect of reaching its goal. Rather, the
Campaign wants to see Jackson State restored to old growth for
habitat, recreation, education and research. Within this mandate,
logging operations could take place to enhance the return to mature
redwood ecology and to demonstrate ecologically beneficial practices.
|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.
|These are current supposed
purposes, although not established by the original legislation. The
actual purpose is to generate revenue for the state forestry
programs. The massive logging operations serve no research or
education purpose, other than to show that one can log a redwood
forest for profit. Each operation usually cover hundreds of acres,
involves the cutting to more than 10,000 trees, and more often than no
employs variations of clearcuts. There is never a research plan,
baseline data collection, provision for followup measurements, or
plans for dissemination of results. The logging in Jackson Forest is
industrial logging plain and simple.
|Over the years, it has become the
best-stocked timberland on the North Coast and a significant provider
of logs to local mills.
||What has happened is that Jackson State
has arguably maintained its initial inventory (although eliminated all
old growth and much of its oldest second growth) while the surrounding
industrial timberlands were decimated.
Jackson State has become the
"best-stocked" forest in Mendocino County by default. And, this is
just the reason that it should be protected from any further
degradation by logging.
Jackson is less than five percent of Mendocino’s timberland and the
only substantial public redwood forest between Humboldt and San
There is no shortage of timberland but a great shortage of public
forest. The people want recreation and habitat in their public forest,
not the cutting of logs to subsidize forestry programs that benefit
the timber industry.
|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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.