Board Meeting
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CDF and Board of Forestry Cooperate
to Circumvent Court Ruling


Where CDF wants to log: Camp 3


The following presents more details on the events leading up to and occurring at the meeting of the Board of Forestry on July 11, 2001.

On May 18, 2001, acting on a lawsuit brought by the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest, the Superior Court of Mendocino issued a Preliminary Injunction prohibiting the California Department of Forestry (CDF) from logging in Jackson State Forest under its long-outdated 1983 Management Plan.

Immediately after the decision, CDF and its oversight body, the Board of Forestry, began planning how to undercut the court ruling. CDF did not seem to care that Judge Henderson found that "Even a casual review of the [1983] Plan reveals that the conditions on which it was developed eighteen years ago have changed dramatically," and that further logging was likely to result in "substantial and possibly irreparable harm." Apparently, CDF cared only that his ruling had stopped the flow of profits from Jackson State -- profits that were funding a slew of state forestry programs.

Although the lawsuit was filed almost a year before, CDF had ignored the possibility of an injunction. It found itself short of funds at the end of the budget cycle and with state coffers depleted by the energy crisis. Although borrowing money from within the state was a feasible option, as discussion of the Board later made clear, CDF and the Board decided to try to circumvent the court.

The Plan

CDF and the Board's plan to circumvent the court had two parts.  First, the Board would amend the policies governing state forest to remove the requirement for a "current management plan," thereby eliminating the primary basis for the court’s injunction. Then, having removed that requirement, the plan was for the Board immediately to authorize a resumption of logging under the 1983 Management Plan!

All of this was to be done before significant public opposition could be organized. CDF and the Board gave no public warning of their intent to circumvent the court until two items signaling this intent were posted on the agenda for the Board of Forestry meeting of July 12. Although the agenda items were published two weeks before the meeting, CDF did not release the language of the proposed actions until one day before the July 12 meeting. Further, the meeting was to be held in San Bernadino, about as far from Jackson State Forest as possible.

The Campaign Responds

As soon as it learned of the planned action, the Campaign did its best to stop or slow it down.  Assemblyperson Virginia Strom-Martin and several other organizations wrote asking for a delay. Our lawyer, Paul Carroll wrote a letter telling them that their actions would violate the California Environmental Quality Act and would be held illegal in court.

The Campaign faxed letters to CDF and the Board of Forestry.  on July 9, only three days before the meeting, after waiting futilely for a week to obtain the language of the proposed amendments. 

The proposed amendments were not made public until Tuesday, July 10, the day before the meeting. A detailed analysis was created overnight and faxed to Stan Dixon, Acting Chair of the Board of Forestry, at the hotel where the meeting was being held.  There was no hope of having the analysis read by anyone prior to the meeting, but it was made part of the formal record of the hearing.

Theatre of the Absurd

The actual Board meeting was an elaborate staging of theatre of the absurd. Everyone was rehearsed and ready.  Board members fell over one another to praise the proposed replacement of the requirement to have a current management plan with a five-year review by the Board (with no standards for review and no expiration date for the plans): "Long overdue; makes the Board accountable; provides for public input."

The Board was so fixed on its path that no mention was made of Virginia Strom-Martin’s request for delay until after a member of the public brought it up, well into the Board’s deliberations. The letter from Paul Carroll was never mentioned to the Board, and it is questionable whether any of the letters received were distributed to the Board. Certainly no Board member ever mentioned any of the contents.

All references to the lawsuit were studiously avoided by the Board and CDF -- until a Board member asked why it was important to act today instead of delaying it.  CDF's Chief Counsel, Norm Hill, apparently flustered by the question, was  frank.  He said that Judge Henderson’s ruling had focused on the requirement for a "current management plan," and that if the Board eliminated that requirement, CDF could file immediately for a "writ of mandate" and expected to have the case dismissed. This would then allow JDSF to resume logging and generating revenue for their forestry programs. The policy change needed to be passed today because a month’s delay might make it too late for to get the injunction lifted in time to resume logging in this cutting season.

Mr. Hill had mentioned the importance of the logging revenues for funding forestry programs.   A Board member asked, "What would be the interest rate if CDF borrowed internal state funds to pay for the forestry programs?" Mr. Hill evaded the answer. The Board member persisted and asked again about the cost of loans.

The financial discussion was not in the script. There was supposed to be no connection between the policy amendment and the desire for revenue from Jackson State.  CDF Director Andrea Tuttle interrupted to shut down the financing discussion. "We’ve done a number of calculations, but this is not the appropriate place to get into them." Bob Heald then tried to reestablish the pretense, saying that the policy change was needed on its own terms, because it was good policy, and that it was coincidental that it was occurring now.

What this discussion revealed, was that even the underlying motive for amendment (the need to fund the forest programs) was not so compelling. Delaying action and allowing real public participation in the formulation of Board policy would mean only that CDF might need to borrow money to fund the forestry programs.

A vote was called and the amendment passed eight to one.

Will Logging Resume?

The Board turned to the next item: a resolution to authorize continued logging in Jackson State Forest until July 2000 or a new Management Plan was approved. Of course, if the Board could do this, it could continue extending the period for logging indefinitely, no matter how long it took for CDF to create a legally valid management plan.

CDF and the Board obviously realized that the resolution was on shaky legal ground. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, pronounced SEEQUA) lays down strict procedural requirements on state agencies when they take actions that affect the environment. The requirements include publishing of an Environmental Impact Review (EIR) and a period of public comment. Authorizing continued logging under the outdated 1983 Management Plan arguably would be a CEQA action, and CDF and the Board had good reason to expect the Campaign to ask a court to rule that this was the case.

Attempting to justify the action, CDF had had its Chief Counsel, Norm Hill, read an extended legal brief that quoted from an EIR prepared in 1982 for timber operations in Jackson State Forest. He argued that this EIR covered the current situation and was sufficient to justify Board authorization of continued logging. This was an absurd argument. First, the EIR did not even cover the 1983 Management Plan, as it predated its adoption and covered only timber harvest operations, not the management plan. Second, the court had already found that the environmental factors had changed significantly since 1983. No one on the Board had quarreled with Mr. Hill about the relevance of the 1982 EIR.

When the resolution was taken up by the Board, the first order of business was to shore up the legal justification as much as possible. Board Counsel Bill Cunningham, Bob Heald, Kirk Marckwald, and Norm Hill all added various "wherases" and other buttressing language.

Kathy Bailey Saves the Day

When the amending was done, the Board moved and seconded the motion. It looked like the Board was going to railroad the resolution through just like the policy change. Fortunately for Jackson Forest, Kathy Bailey of the Sierra Club, a Mendocino County resident, called out to chair that she would like to address the issue. Mr. Dixon agreed.

Ms. Bailey gave an impassioned and fact-filled speech. First she recounted the history of management of the Forest in the 1990s, how it had been run to generate revenue for CDF, not for research and demonstration, how local citizens had banded together to oppose the maltreatment of the forest, even to the point of chaining themselves to gates, how then-Director Wilson had appointed a diverse Citizens Advisory Committee (whose recommendations were ignored). She recounted that CDF had rejected the Sierra Club’s 1999 request for a moratorium on logging until the management plan was revised. She told how concerned citizens had then formed the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest and pointed out that the lawsuit was filed quite some time ago, so that the state should not have been surprised by the court order.

Ms. Bailey then spoke of the importance of Jackson State for recreation and environmental values. She described important ways in which the environmental setting of Jackson State had changed since 1983: the major increase in numbers and importance of tourism in Mendocino, the listing of the Northern Spotted Owl, Marbled Murrelet, and Coho salmon, the designation of Jackson Forest as critical habitat in the federal plan for recovery of the Marbled Murrelet, the publication of the Citizens Advisory Committee report, the acceptance by the state of Coho as a candidate for listing as endangered, and the destruction of the surrounding private forest lands.

She laid out in detail reasons why passing of the resolution would violate CEQA provisions and she "feared very much" that they would end up in court again if they passed the resolution.

Help from an Unexpected Quarter

Ms. Bailey’s presentation lasted over 20 minutes, causing Chairperson Dixon to bring up the Board’s schedule immediately after she finished. He mentioned that there were several critical items that needed to be acted on that day and a public hearing scheduled for later that day.

In perhaps the happiest accident of the day, Mr. Dixon asked Director Tuttle how the Department felt "about the necessity of dealing with that action today." Director Tuttle, quite likely still thinking about Ms. Bailey’s testimony, answered, "A lot of good points were raised. The Department will look at them carefully. Kathy did a really good job. I can understand your concerns, if I was a Board member I would have them. We can live with, agree to, a continuance of this item if you’d like to do that and take further information."

The Final Ending -- for Now

When the Board took up the resolution again, Mr. Heald, ignoring Director Tuttle’s offer of continuance, suggested a further amendment to resolution. When everyone was satisfied with his amendment, Kathy came forward to the microphone and repeated Director Tuttle’s offer of delay. Chairperson Dixon said he was aware of it but that it was up to Board members to bring it up if they desired. Board member Mark Bosetti, an industry representative, said, "I would be more comfortable personally if we delayed action." Another member said, "That’s acceptable to me." The steamroller had stopped.

Indicative of its agitated state, the Board took between five and ten minutes to figure out how to delay the vote, miring themselves ever deeper in Robert’s Rules of Order. Finally, new Board member Paula Ross said, "You can simply move to table the item." A motion to table until August was made and passed without dissent.

Afterward

Right after the July Board meeting, the Campaign obtained internal CDF documents written by senior CDF staff in 1994. These dramatically undercut the Board and CDF’s argument that there is no harm in continuing to log under the 1983 plan. One 1994 document states unequivocally that even then the 1983 plan did not "reflect current legal, social, or economic concerns." Another document characterizes the 1983 plan as based on "policies from the dark ages of American forestry." The Campaign immediately distributed these documents to state legislators, CDF and Resource staff, and the Board of Forestry.

Whether because of the release of the documents or because CDF and the Board realized their efforts could not stand up to public scrutiny, the resolution to authorize continued logging in Jackson State was withdrawn from the August Board agenda.

Vigilance, quick action, Kathy Bailey, and some lucky breaks saved the day this time. Jackson State will not be safe, though, until legislation is passed to that takes the profit motive out of management of Jackson State and makes restoration to old growth the primary goal for the forest.