Board of Forestry Rebukes CDF, Approves Management Plan

A New Day for Jackson State Forest (Vince Taylor, Campaign)
Board of Forestry Slams CDF on Jackson Forest Plan (Kathy Bailey, Sierra Club)

by Vince Taylor

On Wednesday, November 6, the Board of Forestry administered a stinging rebuke to the California Department of Forestry (CDF) for its refusal to respond to the public desire to see Jackson State Forest restored to old growth for habitat, recreation, education, and research. Although the Board approved CDF's management plan for the forest, it incorporated three directives to CDF that served notice of its unhappiness and determination to force changes.

The Board's most telling action was to prohibit CDF from logging in Brandon Gulch and Camp 3 until it reports to the Board how these and other logging plans will affect the restoration of the forest to old growth. Brandon Gulch and Camp 3 are the two timber harvest plans that the Campaign stopped with its prior lawsuit. They were approved and ready to go. They would have devastated some of the oldest and most ecologically and recreationally valuable redwood stands in the forest. There is now a reasonable prospect that these plans will be halted or altered to ensure that they contribute to restoring the forest rather than to the coffers of CDF.

Board members told CDF that a plan that drew overwhelming opposition and almost no support was not viable. A Board member privately stated that "CDF puts the Board in an impossible position when it brings a plan to the Board that is overwhelmingly opposed by the public." The Board directed CDF to report back in six months to a year on steps it has taken to establish a meaningful dialog with the local population. Translated into English, this means, set up an advisory board and listen to it!

The Board also directed CDF to develop and bring to the Board within a year a fully detailed research and demonstration plan for Jackson State, including the effects of logging operations on the full spectrum of forest values, not simply timber volumes. In the past and under the new plan, CDF has called all of its industrial logging operations "demonstrations," but without any experimental design, data collection, or dissemination plans. The Board has now served notice to CDF that this will not be acceptable in the future.

We should all applaud the Board of Forestry for its actions. At the same time, what happened yesterday is only a bare beginning. The approved plan still calls for clearcutting half the forest and logging tens of thousands of redwoods every year. Jackson State is a unique, publicly owned redwood treasure. We can't rest until the state agrees to preserve and restore it for future generations.

The Campaign recently filed a lawsuit challenging the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Jackson State Forest. We will continue this lawsuit to ensure that CDF corrects serious errors in the EIR and management plan and provides all of the environmental protections required by law.

Board of Forestry Slams CDF on Jackson Forest Plan
By Kathy Bailey

The California Board of Forestry approved the Jackson Demonstration State Forest Management Plan on November 6, but conditions it placed on the approval were a strong rebuke to the California Department of Forestry (CDF), which created the Plan for the 50,000-acre forest near Ft. Bragg. A strong showing of opposition was made during the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) review in which more than 4800 conservation minded comments opposing the Plan were received, along with hundreds of pages of expert comment opposing specific elements of the plan. Comments opposing the Plan outnumbered comments in favor by 100-1. The Board action represents a victory of sorts, but continued vigilance will be essential to make sure there is meaningful follow-through. In addition, financial support for pending litigation on the Jackson Plan is urgently needed.

Representatives from the Campaign to Restore Jackson Redwood Forest, Forests Forever, and Sierra Club reviewed for the Board some of the major problems with the Plan: It allows commercial logging in most of Jackson’s 10,000 acres of 80-110 year old second growth redwood groves, some of the last in Mendocino County; and in spite of CDF publicity to the contrary, widespread clearcutting is also allowed hiding behind the guise of so-called “variable retention” logging. Other major problems include stream protections much less than those recommended by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and failure to implement recommendations made by the federal Recovery Plan for marbled murrelets.

The Board was clearly upset with CDF for bringing such a controversial plan to them for approval. Under the leadership of Senate President Pro-tem John Burton (D. San Francisco), the Senate Rules Committee had held up confirmation in 2002 of most of Governor Gray Davis’ appointments to the Board, resulting in one appointee failing to be confirmed during the required time period, a second resigning from the Board, and a third member in limbo, with his confirmation put over until January 2003. In the weeks leading up to the election, Governor Davis made two new appointments that were viewed favorably by most in the environmental community: David Nawi, an attorney with a background in environmental regulation, and Dr. Susan Britting, a PhD forest ecologist who is Board President of the California Native Plant Society. Sierra Club was instrumental in encouraging the Legislature to closely scrutinize Davis Board of Forestry appointees.

Those familiar with the Board’s long history of rubber-stamping anything brought to them by CDF were exhilarated by the apparent dawn of a new day that the conditions placed on the Plan’s approval seem to represent:
1. Prior to logging two already-approved Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) in a particularly sensitive part of Jackson’s older redwoods, CDF must explain to the Board the future conditions they are striving for and compare the THPs to operations that would be conducted in other groves slated for acceleration of old growth conditions. This report provides the Board with the means to provide additional direction on these THPs.
2. CDF must bring to the Board a specific list of demonstrations and experiments proposed for the near-term. Although the forest is theoretically a “demonstration” forest, this function has long been subsumed by commercial timber production that generates revenue for the state budget.
3. CDF must provide a detailed explanation of how it intends to implement “variable retention” in Jackson’s even-aged management units. Neither the Plan nor EIR contained information on this crucial point.
4. CDF must create a mechanism to allow for communication between Jackson’s managers and the local community. A Citizen’s Advisory Committee that had been established by Governor Pete Wilson’s CDF Director had been disbanded under the Davis Administration leaving no on-going feedback mechanism.
Long-time member Bob Heald, who has been the Board’s environmental conscience for a decade, took the lead in crafting the conditions with strong support from Kirk Marckwald, and new member Sue Britting.

Meanwhile, litigation proceeds. State law requires litigation to challenge the sufficiency of any EIR to be started within 30 days of EIR approval. In late October, the Campaign to Restore Jackson Redwood Forest (Campaign) and Forests Forever sued CDF for its approval of the Jackson EIR alleging that the EIR had no cumulative impact analysis and had not adequately responded to public comments. The suit asks that no THPs be implemented prior to a ruling on the litigation. Although not named plaintiffs, Sierra Club supports the litigation and has been providing non-monetary assistance.

In another litigation development in late October, Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Richard Henderson ruled against the Campaign’s request for a fee award in their previous litigation that stopped logging at Jackson prior to completion of the updated Management Plan. The Plan had been last updated in 1983. In spite of issuing a preliminary injunction that stopped logging, and a settlement agreement between the Campaign and CDF, Henderson inexplicably ruled that the Campaign’s suit had not provided a public benefit, one of the tests required in awarding attorney’s fees. Campaign attorney Paul Carroll is determining whether to file a motion for reconsideration or to appeal the ruling. Although Sierra Club was not a named plaintiff in that litigation, both the Redwood Chapter and SC California strongly supported it because our repeated requests to CDF to halt logging until a new Management Plan was completed had been refused. Without the litigation it is extremely unlikely that CDF would have ever completed a new Plan.

Even though Sierra Club is not a named plaintiff, we can and should help support the litigation financially. Please send contributions to the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter at PO Box 466, Santa Rosa, CA 95402, with a notation that it is for support of the Jackson Forest litigation. Money is urgently needed to help hold CDF’s feet to the fire on Jackson.

Looking to next year, Legislation may be introduced to update Jackson’s management mandate to require a stronger focus on environmental values. Meanwhile, working with our allies, we will continue to advocate for strong protection for forest resources at Jackson Demonstration State Forest.