Recent CDF Actions Underscore the Need for Reform

The determination of CDF and the Board of Forestry to log Jackson State despite the court's findings are powerful arguments for reform.  The Board and CDF have shown that, in the current circumstances, they cannot be relied upon to safeguard the values contained in this major publicly owned forest. 

What should be done?  Two reforms seem necessary.  First, the present financial incentives to log the forest need to be eliminated.  Second, a broadly based advisory committee with mandatory review authority needs to be established.

Remove the Profit Motive

Why would the agencies of the state charged with safeguarding forest resources attempt to circumvent a court order issued to prevent “significant and possibly irreparable harm” to a public forest? The answer in one word is, “Money.”

Revenues from Jackson State have in recent years have funded the Forest Resources Improvement Fund (FRIF) to the tune of about $15 million per year. The FRIF contains a number of forestry programs highly valued by CDF and others.

Although the lawsuit was filed almost a year before the injunction, CDF made no contingency plans. It found itself short of funds at the end of the budget cycle with state funds depleted by the energy crisis. Borrowing money from within the state was a feasible option, as Board comments at the July meeting made clear, but CDF and the Board determined instead to try to circumvent the court.

This episode is only the latest and most dramatic example of the long-standing harm caused by using Jackson State as revenue source for the state. Profit incentives have caused CDF to manage Jackson State Forest like a profit-driven corporation instead of a guardian of valuable public-trust resources:

 In order to get more net revenue for its favored programs, CDF Sacramento has never allowed Jackson State a staff sufficient to provide modern management for the forest.

 Jackson State could not update the 1983 management plan because all available staff had to be devoted to “getting out the cut” set by CDF Sacramento.

 The legally mandated maximum level of timber harvesting in Jackson State was exceeded in every year from 1997 through 2000. This violation is directly attributable to CDF Sacramento’s perceived needs for revenue.

Profit incentives need to be removed from the management of Jackson State Forest. The first and most important step is to fund FRIF from the general revenues. This would place FRIF programs on an equal basis with other state programs, as they should be. It would also prevent future FRIF funding problems arising from unpredictable drops in redwood prices and decreases in permitted logging caused by new environmental constraints.
To entirely remove the profit motive from the management of Jackson State,  revenues generated by logging in Jackson State should be spent only within Jackson State. Only enough logging would be done to pay for forest management, repair of past environmental damage, and restoration of the forest toward old growth. Financial incentives would then work to enhance the forest – as should they should for a publicly owned forest.  This is the current policy for Soquel State Forest in Santa Cruz County.  Jackson State deserves the same.

Establish an Oversight Committee

CDF and the Board of Forestry have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to safeguard the ecology, recreation, and habitat values of the state forests.  Headquartered in Sacramento, they are apparently concerned primarily with finding revenues to fund programs unrelated to the health of the state forests. 

Appropriate, concerned management of state forests requires oversight by persons with broader concerns than profit and timber harvesting, by people who are directly affected by the uses of the forest. 

Legislation for Soquel State Forest in Santa Cruz County provides a model.  It mandates appointment by the director of CDF of an advisory committee.  The committee must include representatives of the County Board of Supervisors, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Board of Forestry, the adjoining state park, and the Department of Fish and Game. 

For Jackson State Forest, the advisory committee should  include representatives of the Fort Bragg City Council, the Woodlands,  neighbors of the forest, and environmental groups.

Legislation for Soquel Forest requires that the management plan be approved by the advisory committee prior to adoption by CDF.  This key provision should be made applicable to all state forests.  It will ensure that management of state forests  reflects the desires of  local government, neighbors, and the public for environmental preservation, habitat for endangered species, and recreation.

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