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A Vision for the Future
- Report of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group, January 15, 2011


Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) is a redwood and Douglas-fir forest of 48,652 acres located in Mendocino County, California. It starts near the coastal towns of Fort Bragg and Mendocino and continues 20 miles east. Most of the acreage was purchased by the state of California in 1947 and has been managed since by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE).

The Forest’s management direction derives from state statutes and from policies set by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. Board policy states that the primary purpose of JDSF is to conduct innovative demonstrations, experiments, and education in forest management; that timber production will be the primary land use on JDSF; and that recreation is recognized as a secondary but compatible land use on JDSF.

This report presents the recommendations of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group (“the JAG”). The JAG was formed in April of 2008 and charged with making recommendations on long-term management of JDSF to CAL FIRE and the Board of Forestry by January 2011.

The results of the work of the JAG are remarkable on two counts:

First, the JAG has created an exciting vision for the future of JDSF. The vision includes:

 Creating a world-class forest research and demonstration center
 Developing older forest conditions across much of the landscape, including growing trees to their natural ages2 in some portions of the forest
 Maintaining future options to shift land to different structural development goals
 Expanding public opportunities for camping, hiking, and outdoor education
 Maintaining and increasing timber harvests over time to support the local economy and to fund operations of the forest. The funding will support forest management, restoration of land and stream habitats, expanded recreation opportunities, forest research and demonstration programs, and enhanced public safety and resource protection.

Second, the JAG has achieved consensus to a degree some thought impossible on issues that had divided the community for over a decade.

The JAG brought together forestry professionals and managers, environmentalists, conservationists, recreationists, and forest researchers and scientists—thirteen members in all. Many members have technical knowledge about forests and forest management. Each member of JAG brings to it a unique and complex set of interests, values, knowledge, and perspectives.

On the one hand, the differing interests, experiences, and perspectives of JAG’s members made reaching agreement on some issues difficult. On the other hand, these same factors helped inform the discussions in ways that ultimately led to reaching consensus on a number of challenging issues. The JAG was given just  2-1/2 years to accomplish the daunting task of developing consensus recommendations for the future management of JDSF.

All members of the JAG supported the overall package of recommendations. Moreover, every individual recommendation in this report is supported by a strong majority, and in most instances by all, of the JAG.

These consensus recommendations provide a framework for future of collaboration among the diverse parties and the successful operation of JDSF.


Reaching Consensus

From the beginning, JAG members generally agreed on the goals and objectives of the 2008 JDSF Management plan, as well as on a number of important issues:

 Timber harvesting should continue at levels sufficient, at a minimum, to support the operations of the forest

 Research and demonstration are important and need to be of high quality

 There should be a significant effort to explore the distribution and extent of older forest attributes across the Forest

 Recreation and aesthetics are important

 Although there was much agreement on general goals, there were important differing viewpoints on the specifics of implementation. Background is provided here to enable readers to better understand how the JAG moved from disagreement to final agreement and why it is important for the recommendations to be considered as a whole, subject to subsequent review and analysis. The resolution of differing views required compromise. It was the balancing of differing interests within the overall package that made consensus possible.

The following identifies several areas of significant initial disagreement and describes key agreements and compromises that made consensus possible. Examples considered are:

  1. What should be the management goals and methods for areas of the forest not designated for older forest development or for research or demonstration projects?

  2. To what extent should areas designated for older forest development also be managed for timber production?

  3. How much even-aged management (including clearcutting) would be desirable to provide the structural conditions needed to support the research and demonstration program?

The steps to resolving these differences are described below.

Issues in the Matrix

The JAG adopted the term “the Matrix” to refer to all areas of JDSF not in Reserves, the Older Forest Structure Zone, or Special Concern Areas. The Matrix areas are likely to be the major source of revenues to support forest operations. Matrix lands will be the primary areas allocated to research and demonstration projects that require treatments not compatible with the goals of the OFSZs, Reserves, and Special Concern Areas.

To manage the Matrix lands, early proposals were to use “light touch” or “thin from below” silviculture to continually grow stands to higher volumes and larger tree diameters, allow some portion of trees to grow indefinitely (to old forest conditions), and to continue sustainable timber harvesting in perpetuity.

The initial proposals met with multiple concerns and objections. Some were concerned that a uniform management style across the landscape would not create sufficient diversity of conditions to support research and wildlife needs. Some members worried that if the trees got too big, the public would shut down logging. Others worried that the proposed approach would lead to lower harvests over time. Yet others were concerned that JAG would be applying an untested management method as a standard.

Agreements that led to developing consensus include:

 Creating carefully crafted guidelines for selection silviculture prescriptions in the Matrix that includes flexibility for varying site conditions to limit the risk of uniform application.

 Encouraging focused research and demonstration projects in the Matrix that use prescriptions other than the standard silvicultural prescriptions.

 Adoption of a 40-year term for JAG recommendations that, in effect, defers the decision on allowing trees to grow old to a later generation of managers and stakeholders.

 An agreement not to allow trees, other than old growth trees, to grow beyond the largest feasible size for harvesting during the planning period.

 Guidelines for approvals of research and demonstration to ensure that the integrity of such projects would be maintained.

Older Forest Development versus Late Seral Development

The 2008 Plan contains a band of older forest, termed the Older Forest Structure Zone (OFSZ) that runs primarily along the northern boundary of the eastern half of JDSF, with some smaller areas on the eastern boundary.

Many on the JAG felt that the functionality of the OFSZ for habitat could be improved by enhancing connectivity, keeping the general concept of the OFSZ as a band, and adding a north-south corridor to link with the Woodlands and Marbled Murrelet Late Seral Development in the southwest quadrant of the forest.

Debate occurred in JAG about how much of the additions to the OFSZ should be Older Forest Development Areas (OFDAs), in which sustained timber harvesting would be one priority, and how much should be in Late Seral Development Areas (LSDAs), in which older forest restoration would be the primary goal. Concerns were expressed about moving land into Late Seral Development because of loss of future harvest potential and reduction of the research and demonstration capacity of the forest.

Several factors led to JAG reaching a near-consensus on the division of added land between OFDAs and LSDAs. The 40-year planning horizon adopted by JAG helped create a pathway to consensus. Many of those wanting more late seral forest agreed that in the 40-year planning horizon there would be little difference in forest development between the two designations. Decision makers in the future would still have the option to shift areas from Older Forest to Late Seral Development with little loss of structural development.

The JAG also agreed that one component of the overall research and demonstration program should be research on the relative benefits of OFDAs versus LSDAs, and to apply the findings in future reviews of the allocations as new information becomes available.

Concerns over the impact of the OFSZ allocations on research and demonstration were alleviated by agreement on formation of a Research Planning Team, as part of the overall Research and Demonstration plan. The Planning Team would review these allocations in the context of recommending overall forest allocations to support the R&D program. The JAG also agreed that, when an analysis of the economic impacts of JAG landscape recommendations becomes available, the recommendations would be reviewed for possible revision.

After acceptance of these conditions, several larger proposed Late Seral Development areas were changed to Older Forest Development Areas. JAG added 137 acres of Late Seral Development, largely around old growth groves, in addition to designating for LSD 641 acres that had recently been harvested under Late Seral Development prescriptions agreed to in a prior negotiated settlement. With only a few exceptions, the final allocation recommendations were supported by all JAG members

Even-Aged Management

Another challenging area of debate was the issue of even-aged management, particularly in the context of providing diversity of structural conditions across the landscape. The main focus of debate was on the roles of diversity and use of even-aged silviculture in support of research and demonstration objectives.

The 2008 Management Plan proposed that even-aged management could occur on up to 2,700 acres per decade, as necessary to create a diversity of stand conditions for future research and habitat.

Largely because of the strong public sentiment against even-aged management, and the substantial even-aged habitat in surrounding commercial forests, general agreement was reached fairly quickly on restricting the use of even-aged management to research and demonstration. This did not resolve the issue.

Some JAG members and outside researchers felt it was important to do regular even-aged management so there would always be even-aged stands at different stages of regrowth for potential future research. Other outside researchers and members did not share this perspective and thought that even-aged harvesting should be done only for specific research projects.

This issue represented one of the most challenging issues for the JAG.

The final outcome was agreement that even-aged management would be tied to specific research and demonstration projects. Important factors in reaching this agreement were:

 Bringing in outside experts. Outcomes from a workshop of scientists confirmed early thinking by JAG to focus research on a limited number of “Centers of Excellence” and to design silvicultural allocations to support specific research programs.

 A decision to recommend establishing a Research Planning Team that would develop a Strategic Research Plan based on Centers of Excellence and recommend silvicultural allocations that would provide sufficient diversity of forest structure conditions to support the Plan.

 Agreeing that the entire forest was available for research, and that research-driven harvests could expand the extent of structural diversity across the landscape.

 Limiting even-aged management to specific research projects that would be peer-reviewed, restricted to the minimum size required for scientific validity, and for which funding was reasonably assured.

Keys to Consensus

The review above identifies the content of significant decisions and accommodations that made consensus possible, but how was it possible to come to these? Several aspects stand out:

 The charter established consensus as the goal, and this goal was always at the forefront of all discussions. Whenever an apparent impasse arose, members kept searching for common ground, often looking for creative solutions.

 The viewpoints of members were generally treated with respect by other members, even when they disagreed. Respect for others was crucial to moving people to middle ground.

 Consulting with outside experts when members couldn’t agree. This was central to resolving several contentious issues.

 The identification by all members of their “core or bottom-line needs” and “red flags” made a crucial contribution. At a point when progress was stalled, core needs were put up against the list of proposed recommendations, and members could see that most core needs were being met. The JAG was then able to focus on meeting remaining core needs and removing red flags.

 Looking at the recommendations as a whole. Members became more willing to give ground in some areas when they felt their core needs had been met in other areas.  The dedication and hard work of the members.  Last but not least, Jackson Demonstration State Forest was large and “rich" enough so that it could accommodate the core needs of the diverse stakeholders.



Summary of Major Recommendations

Landscape Management

Planning Horizon: Limit JAG allocation and silviculture recommendations to a 40-year planning horizon. Reasons include higher degree of confidence in modeling projections, and to achieve a higher degree of consensus for the Late Seral allocations. 

Matrix Forestry: A set of goals and guidelines for applying single-tree selection silviculture at JDSF, including group selection under limited circumstances, to be applied on areas of the forest not designated for Older Forest Structure, Reserve, or Special Concern, and when no research and demonstration project is proposed.

Older Forest Structure Zone: Allocate more Older Forest Structure (OFSZ) to fulfill the Goals and Guidelines of the Management Plan and to provide more substantial buffering for old growth groves; to recognize the negotiated litigation settlement regarding two Timber Harvesting Plans; to provide strengthened contiguity for the Older Forest Structure Zone; and to create a more robust north/south Older Forest Structure corridor.  Specific Goals and Guidelines apply.

Older Forest Structure Zone (OFSZ) Components: Old Growth Groves, Reserves, Late Seral Development (LSD) Areas, and Older Forest Development (OFD) Areas. Logging is permitted in LSD Areas and OFD Areas to differing degrees.

Late Seral Development: Areas to be managed for goals identified in the Management Plan.  Predominantly use single-tree selection with additional provisions applied.  LSD Areas will, at some point, reach a stand condition where manipulation is no longer necessary.  

Older Forest Development: Areas to be managed for goals identified in the Management Plan, including timber harvest of trees of all ages and sizes.  Utilize single-tree and group selection, and commercial thinning, with additional provisions applied.

Requested Research: As a component of the overall research and demonstration program, conduct research to determine whether Late Seral Development provides significantly more benefits than does Older Forest Development, which allows more timber harvest. The intent is to provide a scientific basis for discussions and to help guide future decision makers.

Other Reserves: Designated to recognize and study special attributes, forest stand types or particular stand histories to assure management consistent with maintaining them for research and demonstration, and other purposes

Hardwood Study Reserves: Designation of a specific set of hardwood-dominated areas to provide habitat and to study the ecology and appropriate management of hardwoods in the landscape.  

Allocations: Fourteen allocation changes include Other Reserves, Older Forest Structure Zone Reserves, Late Seral Development Areas, and Older Forest Development Areas.  

Woodlands STA: Close cooperation and early information sharing between JDSF and California State Parks whenever management activities are considered for the STA. 

Compared to 2008 Management Plan Allocations

The figure below summarizes the allocations   recommended by JAG and compares them to those in the 2008 JDSF Forest Management Plan. [Click on image to enlarge.]

The following maps show the allocations to older forest in the 2008 Management Plan with modifications made by the JAG. [Click on image to enlarge.]

Research and Demonstration

JAG is recommending a Research-Oriented Management Framework that would move JDSF toward becoming a world-class research and demonstration forest. The main elements of this framework include:

 Organizing research and demonstration within up to three Centers of Excellence that would integrate multi-disciplinary research in a manner that would resolve complex (often difficult) management challenges

 Developing a strategic research and demonstration agenda and research-oriented landscape allocation that incorporates a regional perspective and the needs of stakeholders in scientific, landowner and conservation communities

Assurances that the entire forest is available to Research and Demonstration while providing guidelines for silviculture constraints in support of landscape objectives

Establishing an Experimental-Basis for Management that would leverage management activities as opportunities to test hypotheses

Considerations for integrating the framework with monitoring and adaptive management practices

Implementing the program through:

  • Convening a Research Planning Team (short-term consultant) to develop the Strategic Research Plan and associated land allocation. §

  • Establishing a Redwood Research Group (science staff and mangers) to administer the program. §

  • Forming a Regional Research Consortium of landowners and agencies to guide continued collaboration


To the extent feasible, incorporate the recommendations of the recently formed JDSF Recreation Task Force for expanded low-impact recreation and education in the new Recreation Plan for JDSF. [Task Force Recommendations]


The JAG favors expansion of low-impact recreation opportunities in Jackson Forest. Recreation is one of the cornerstones of public support for the forest.

Taken together, the recommendations of the Task Force provide a practical vision for long-term future expanded recreation that is consistent with the recreation goal of the management plan. The JAG endorses that vision. It also wishes to emphasize that the elements of the Task Force recommendations need to be consistent with the Recreation Plan that is ultimately adopted

Key elements of the Task Force recommendations are:

1.      Provide dedicated funding and staffing for recreational and educational projects, maintenance and programs.

a.      JAG recommends increasing security in recreation areas.

2.      Designate a dedicated, enthusiastic staff member responsible for education and recreation in the JDSF.

a.     JAG qualification: The JAG recommends at least one dedicated staff member, but possibly more.

3.      Develop three sets of looped multi-use trails, each in different areas of the forest.

a.     JAG qualification: the JAG does not support any specific number of sets of trails.

4.      Increase the number of access points with sufficiently large parking areas to accommodate equestrian trailers.

5.      Expand and modernize existing camps; provide backpacking camps; make group camps available throughout the year.

6.      Establish a target shooting range.

7.      Increase promotion of recreation and education, including development and maintenance of a JDSF recreation website, contact with public schools throughout the state, and by establishing and maintaining informational kiosks in the forest for easy access by visitors.

8.      Help establish an unaffiliated but cooperating non-profit “Friends of Jackson Forest” to gain grant funds and facilitate volunteer support of recreation facilities.

9.      Consider developing legal OHV use, with careful attention to potential environmental, potential user conflicts, and other regulatory issues.

a.     JAG qualification: The JAG acknowledges that OHV user groups are interested in using JDSF for OHV activities. The JAG takes no position on OHV issues at this time, but points out that currently, the MP Recreation Goal is to “provide enhanced levels of low impact recreational opportunities.”  

 As soon as possible, hire a single contractor to develop a recreation plan and associated user survey.

 Prior to the completion of the Recreation Plan process, proceed with recreation maintenance and improvements to existing sanctioned trails and facilities as needed or as recommended by the Recreation Task Force.

 JDSF staff should develop, in coordination with the JAG, situation-appropriate guidelines, including measurable guides where appropriate, to apply to Timber Harvesting Plans for protecting recreation resources wherever located in the forest and for protecting aesthetic resources along highly traveled roads (e.g., Hwy 20 and Road 350).


 Identify cost centers and develop quarterly profit-loss statements with allocation to each based on revenue sources and time or supplies spent in the categories.

 The timber sale program should reflect the standards for silviculture consistent with JAG landscape allocation recommendations.

 If feasible, and gradually as market conditions allow, a three-year “Prudent Reserve” fund should be established with the funds to be invested in a money-market-type fund. Interest earned should be applied to state forest programs.

 A year-by-year projection of individual research project costs should provide for annual budget allocations as a line item.

 JDSF-initiated research projects should use the above recommendation for annual and future budgets, and other projects should be required to provide long-term projection of costs with assurance of budget support by the project initiator.

 JDSF should continue to support local utilization of materials produced in nearby forest and saw mill operations in order to raise net values from timber sales.

 Capital support for basic infrastructure should serve all or major portions of JDSF and be separate from direct operation of an individual timber sale.

 Consistent with the applicable authority of law and policies of the Board of Forestry, JDSF should charge fees for forest uses, other than and in addition to, the sale of forest products.

 CAL FIRE should obtain professional grant-writing capability as a way to gather funds for the science program.


Although the current use of herbicides on the Forest is very limited, we recognize public sensitivities and concerns regarding the application of herbicides – especially on public lands – associated with potential or perceived impacts on human and wildlife health, water quality, and aesthetics. Because of these concerns the JAG recommends that, in addition to provisions in the JDSF Management Plan, particular attention be given to the following:

 Explore alternative treatments with a goal of eventually eliminating herbicide utilization on JDSF.

 All significant herbicide applications/programs should be reviewed for their potential to contribute to addressing the objectives and questions of the research, demonstration, and monitoring programs.

 All scheduled herbicide applications should be posted in the field and at the JDSF office to enable the public to be aware of areas to be treated. The minimum posting requirement will be for a period extending an order of magnitude beyond the label posting requirement.

 In particularly sensitive habitats and public use areas, such as campgrounds, roads, and trails, an enhanced level of evaluation should be utilized.  All herbicide use should be limited to non-aerial applications using minimum effective doses and concentrations recommended for treatment success.

 All operations should be prepared and conducted recognizing the need to minimize, to the extent feasible, the development of conditions that potentially lead to the introduction of invasive weeds or excessive hardwood regeneration.

 As with all research and demonstration on the Forest, use and evaluation of herbicide applications should be incorporated in public outreach and information programs.

 JAG recognizes the important ecological values of hardwoods and supports the JDSF Plan goal of maintaining hardwoods on the forest at historic levels. JDSF should establish guidelines for what level of hardwood cover will trigger use of herbicides for their management.

 With respect to invasive plants, JAG supports the careful and limited use of herbicides to control their development in context with the Integrated Weed Management Program.


Move ahead with the many provisions in the 2008 Management Plan.

 Provide funding and facilities that ensure the development of a high-quality and effective outreach and public education program.

 Provide grants and technical assistance to schools and colleges to establish study areas within existing and proposed allocation areas to enable successive classes to gather time-series data on ecosystem dynamics and management.

 Form a collaborative Outreach Consortium that fosters complementary outreach and education interests, goals, and programs among interested parties.

 Develop an imaginative, high-quality JDSF Website that provides information to the public on all programs, activities, and publications on JDSF.

Personal Overview
Vince Taylor

The adjoining columns contain excerpts for the Introduction and Summary of the Report of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group (JAG Report). [Obtain the full report here.]

The excerpts are accurate reflections of the contents of the report, but the busy reader may fail to gain a full appreciation of the significance of the report and its recommendations. Let me provide some perspective.

Historical Background

During the 1990's,  Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF or Jackson Forest) became a major source of revenue for the Department of Forestry. Toward the end of the decade, Jackson logging revenues were putting $10-15 million per year into the state treasury and supporting a variety of forestry programs.

The profitability of the forest resulted in substantial pressure on Jackson Forest managers to keep logging at high levels. At the same time, the operating budget of the forest was kept at a low level. Staff had difficulty in simply "getting out the cut." Recreation got little funds or attention, and even important road maintenance and decommissioning was deferred. Larger and smaller clearcuts (groups) were used routinely.

Starting in the mid-1990s, the aggressive logging program aroused increasing  opposition from Mendocino County residents. Protests and direct action took place. Responding to public outcry, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) appointed a "Citizens Advisory Committee" in 1998; but its process was compromised by participation of JDSF staff, and all of its recommendations were ignored.

After all requests for revisions in management practices were ignored, the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Forest (the Campaign) was formed in 2000. After its efforts to negotiate with state were rebuffed, it filed a series of lawsuits over the next four years -- all of which were successful and led to a cessation of logging that lasted until 2008.

CDF and the local timber industry were both angry at the loss of timber and money. For years, coming together seemed impossible, as CDF tried to ignore the Campaign and local timber interests criticized it for causing the loss of timber jobs and timber supply.

In 2006, Ruben Grijalva, a new director of CDF, started a dialog with me, the principal of the Campaign. We quickly agreed to seek to bring all stakeholders in the forest together to develop consensus recommendations for future management of the forest. Measures to implement this approach were placed within a proposed 2008 Management Plan for JDSF. With the approval of this plan, the Jackson Advisory Group (JAG) was formed and given the charge to provide consensus recommendations for long-term management of Jackson Forest.

Reaching Consensus

Given the diversity and breadth of interests of the JAG and the contentious history, it might seem that only a miracle could bring about consensus. Whether it was a miracle or not, consensus was achieved -- and it was a robust consensus, with all members supporting the overall package. Further,  every individual recommendation was supported  by a strong majority, and in most instances by all, of the JAG.

A major impetus toward consensus was a unanimous desire to put the past confrontations and animosity behind. But, even more important was a realization, which developed over time, that everyone could have their core needs met without denying those of others. It took hard work and creativity to come up with the final package, but the end result is impressive for its detail and comprehensiveness.

My own key concerns were: One, that clearcutting and other forms of even-aged management would be used only for legitimate research and demonstration projects and would be on the smallest reasonable scale; and two, that the forest as a whole be put on a course consistent with eventually restoring the trees in large portions of the forest to their natural ages. Both of these concerns were met.

What I originally termed Natural Forestry was renamed to Matrix Silviculture, but  kept the core concepts. It made the "default" management for areas not in research or with more constrained management.

To be clear, only a minority of the forest will be directly managed to restore old forest conditions, but most of the remainder will be managed to grow older, bigger trees during the planning period of forty years.  If future managers wish to grow more of the forest to its natural age, they be able to do so with little loss from the timber operations that will occur in the planning period.

All members supported more attention to recreation and protection of aesthetic and spiritual values. We can look forward to Jackson Forest becoming a major recreation resource for Mendocino and the state.

The report includes recommendations intended to make Jackson Forest into a major center of research and demonstration on redwood forestry. Importantly to me, clear safeguards are recommended to ensure that only legitimate, peer-reviewed, funded research projects will be allowed to use timber operations inconsistent with Matrix Silviculture.

All those who supported the Campaign and its goals should take satisfaction in what has been accomplished. We have come from having our ideas completely ignored to having them become central elements in the JAG Report.

Equally or perhaps more important, timber representatives and scientists feel the JAG recommendation meet their needs, too. The consensus of all parties means that we will all work together to see that the JAG's recommendations are adopted by the California Board of Forestry and CAL FIRE, the department responsible for managing Jackson Forest.

The Board of Forestry will receive the report from the Jackson Advisory Group on Wednesday, February 2, 2011 in Sacramento. [Agenda] This will initiate the next step in the path toward getting the recommendations integrated into the JDSF management plan.

For those who want to understand the recommendations in more depth,  download the entire report.