Response to PD
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Editor
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
P.O. Box 910
Santa Rosa, CA 95402
Fax: 707 521-5330

Dear Editor,

The article "Anti-logging Activist Settles Timber Violation" (August 16, by Mike Geniella) should have been titled: "State Ends Harassment and Settles with Pro-Forest Activist." The settlement of charges brought against me by the California Department of Forestry (CDF) dismissed an initially proposed $3,000 fine and stipulated that the charges had been fully mitigated by a conversion exemption plan ACCEPTED BY CDF MORE THAN ONE YEAR BEFORE CDF FILED THE CHARGES AGAINST ME.

CDF settled very much on my terms because I showed their lawyer compelling evidence that I was being singled out for illegal "retaliatory prosecution." I was the target of CDF because I head the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest.

Legal action by the Campaign has halted CDF’s illegal logging of the public’s 50,000-acre redwood forest since mid-1991. Until stopped, industrial logging of Jackson State Forest by CDF was pouring $10-15 million into state-financed forestry programs – programs that primarily subsidize the private timber industry.

CDF uniquely singled me out for prosecution for converting timberland (in this case cutting 15 trees 12" or more in diameter) without a permit. Only 17 notices of violation have been issued in Mendocino County since 1997 for similar cause. In none of these were legal charges filed, as in my case. Rather every other landowner was allowed to mitigate the violation by preparing a conversion exemption plan. I had already had been granted and implemented a less than 3-acre exemption before CDF even inspected my property and over a year before they filed charges against me. The settlement to which I agreed conformed to the terms accorded every other similar violation in Mendocino County (although no one else had to go through the time-consuming legal process I did).

More telling on the point of retaliatory prosecution, I examined all the cases prosecuted throughout the entire state since 1990 on similar grounds. In only one out of the 50 cases was a landowner who hired a licensed timber operator fined (and in the one case, the landowner directed the operator to violate a permit). In all but the one case, the forestry professional involved was fined. In my case, the timber operator who I hired and who did the cutting was not even cited.

The state and the timber industry have been desperate to resume the flow of profits from logging the public’s forest. Because I lead the group that has enforced the laws protecting the forest, they wanted to discredit me and cause the Campaign to fold.

CDF tried to bring this about by treating a minor, inadvertent violation as though it were a deliberate major violation. The violation consisted of cutting 15 trees greater than 12" in diameter as an initial step in clearing land for a house site. This cutting took place only after I had gained permission from the County Planning Department and had spoken with a CDF forester who told me I did not need a permit if the trees were being cut for my personal use. Most importantly, I had the logging performed by a Licensed Timber Operator, who was required by his license not to cut any trees in violation of the law. He never mentioned that a permit was needed.

Mr. Geniella’s article, inspired by timber interests, makes much of the cutting of 15 trees on my property and the subsequent prosecution by the CDF. Yet, your newspaper made no criticism of CDF when it recently rushed to cut 1500 trees in publicly owned Jackson State Forest immediately after a Mendocino Superior Court judge announced he would soon invalidate their environmental documents and management plan. Logging without a management plan is illegal under state law. The judge has since the ruled that the state failed to follow the state’s environmental protection laws and invalidated the management plan. This questionable skirting of the law was taken by the agency charged with enforcing environmental protection for our forests!

The true scandal that the Press Democrat should be reporting is the arrogant flaunting of the laws and the public trust by the California Department of Forestry. Your paper should be applauding and thanking the Campaign and the thousands of members who have sacrificed money and time to enforce the law and protect our public redwood forest.

Sincerely,

Vince Taylor
Executive Director