Attempt to Evade
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Chronology
Board Meeting

 

CDF and Board of Forestry Attempt
to Circumvent Court Ruling


Brandon Gulch - Planned Logging Area.  Large trees on left are marked for cutting.

July, 2001. Acting without regard for their environmental responsibilities, the public, or the courts, the California Department of Forestry (CDF) and the Board of Forestry are attempting to circumvent a court injunction that halted logging in Jackson State Forest. 

At the request of CDF, the Board of Forestry recently amended its policies governing state forests to remove the requirement that operations conform to a "current management plan," thus eliminating the primary basis for the court's decision.  CDF has now filed a motion to dismiss the injunction and suit on the grounds that "it can no longer be said that there is a 'violation' of Board policy in not maintaining the management plan ... 'current' simply because that policy no longer exists."

Having the ability to amend forest policies to make them whatever they want, gives CDF and Board of Forestry a decided legal advantage.  But, while they may be able to  nullify the lawsuit, they cannot change the facts.

Judge Henderson said in his decision,  "Even a casual review of the [1983] Plan reveals that the conditions on which it was developed eighteen years ago have changed dramatically."  Further, based on extensive evidence presented to the court, he found that logging under the outdated 1983 management plan was likely to result in "substantial and possibly irreparable harm" to the forest. 

The plans that were halted by the injunction would log the oldest and most ecologically valuable second-growth redwood stands in the forest.  They are in the section of the forest most heavily used for recreation.  A premier hiking trail runs through the middle of one of them.

In acting to circumvent the court, CDF and the Board of Forestry apparently are unconcerned that their actions will  do irreparable harm to a redwood forest owned by the people of California.  In light of their actions, one must ask, "Are they  appropriate guardians of our public forest?"

CDF's and the Board of Forestry's lack of concern for public resources raises broader questions about their role in protecting the public's interests in the vast private timberlands of California.

Because of this story's significance,  we have created an annotated chronology with references to an extensive collection of letters and documents.

An abbreviated version of the unfolding story follows below.  A longer version of CDF's and the Board of Forestry's actions to amend policies and authorize continued logging is available.

Prologue

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.

Government Response

Apparently immediately after the decision, CDF and its oversight body, the Board of Forestry, began discussing how to undercut the court ruling. They gave no weight to Judge Hendersonís finding that further logging under the old plan was likely to result in "substantial and possibly irreparable harm."  They appear to have cared only that his ruling stopped the flow of profits from Jackson State  -- profits that were funding a slew of state forestry programs.

Their Plan

CDF and the Board of Forestry developed a plan to amend the policies governing state forest to remove the existing requirement that operations on state forests be conducted under a "current management plan," thereby eliminating the primary basis for the courtís injunction. Then, having removed that requirement, the plan was for the Board immediately to authorize a resumption of logging under the 1983 Management Plan.

Quick Action

All of this was to be done so quickly that the public would not have time to organize opposition. CDF and the Board gave no public warning of their intent to circumvent the court until two items signaling this intent appeared on the agenda posted on June 29 for the Board of Forestry meeting of July 12. Further, the meeting was to be held in San Bernadino, about as far from Jackson State Forest as they could get.

The Board Acts - and Hesitates

At the meeting, the Board ignored all requests, including one from Assemblyperson Virginia Strom-Martin, to delay consideration of the two items. They quickly amended board policy to eliminate the requirement for a current management plan.  They did so after being made fully aware by CDF's Chief Counsel that CDF planned to file for dismissal of the court's injunction once the amendment passed.

The Board then took up a resolution to authorize a resumption of logging in Jackson State under the old management plan. In retrospect, now that CDF has filed for dismissal of the suit, it appears superfluous.  Perhaps it was planned as backup, in case the policy amendment fails to persuade the court.  At the time, the resolution seemed the greatest threat to the forest.  Based on the Board's quick action on the policy amendment, the resolution seemed headed for easy passage.

But, the impassioned and fact-filled testimony of Kathy Bailey of the Sierra Club, combined with a happy CDF miscue and Board time constraints, caused the Board to table further consideration of the resolution until August. At the time, it seemed that the immediate threat of further logging had been averted.

Latest Developments

The resolution to authorize continued logging in Jackson State did not appear on the August Board agenda.  Instead, CDF filed to have the court's injunction against further logging dismissed on the grounds that the changed policy eliminated grounds for the injunction.

Internal Documents Undercut CDF

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 CDFís argument that there is no harm in continuing to log under the 1983 plan. They state unequivocally that the 1983 plan did not even then "reflect current legal, social, or economic concerns," and that it was 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.

Distribution of the these documents did not deter CDF from it pre-determined course of action.  In the letter informing the Campaign of its filing of action to dismiss the suit, CDF's attorney responded to the documents by saying CDF would "assert privilege" and make a "motion to suppress" them as evidence.  Again, CDF has chosen to ignore the facts, even those produced by it own senior staff, apparently blinded by its need for logging revenues from Jackson State.

If you want more details, read the full story.

Reform Is Needed

The determination of CDF and the Board of Forestry to log Jackson State show that they cannot be relied upon to safeguard the values contained in this major publicly owned forest.  Reform is urgently needed.

To ensure the future safety of Jackson State forest, we need to pass legislation to reform the purposes and management of state forests.   If you are not a member, please join the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest