Published in the Fort Bragg Advocate News and the
Ukiah Daily Journal, September 16, 2004
The California Department of Forestry (CDF) is mounting an aggressive
effort to get the governor to veto SB 1648, Senator Chesbro's bill to
reform management of state forests, especially of Jackson State Forest.
Indeed, the only strong opposition comes from CDF. What accounts for the
vehemence of its opposition?
First, we can eliminate two of its major arguments:
1) SB 1648 will turn Jackson Forest into a "park," and 2) SB 1648 could
delay the resumption of timber harvesting in Jackson Forest. The first
argument is a pure fabrication and is contradicted by the bill, which
specifically lists timber production and research and demonstration of
forest management, including timberland productivity, as uses of the
forest. The second argument is equally unfounded.
Rather than delaying resumption of timber
harvesting, SB 1648 contains extensive provisions that remove legal
obstacles to the immediate resumption of timber harvesting. By contrast,
defeat of SB 1648 will invite further legal challenges that could delay
resumption of harvesting for an unknown number of years.
The real reason for CDF's opposition is that the
bill would establish an appointed advisory committee to oversee management
of Jackson Forest. Although CDF dismisses the advisory committee as an
"unnecessary… bureaucratic layer" (Chris Rowney, CDF Deputy Director), its
real fear is that the oversight would end its use of Jackson as a "cash
cow" for funding forestry programs and, perhaps, reveal to the public the
extent and cost of its mismanagement.
CDF's record of mismanagement, affirmed by two
separate courts, shows that oversight is long overdue.
CDF's mismanagement has cost the state perhaps $50
million in lost revenues and cost timber workers a thousand or more
person-years of lost work. No timber harvest plan has been approved and
carried out in Jackson Forest since 1999. The courts have enjoined all
later plans until CDF comes into compliance with the law. Thus, five years
of revenue and jobs have been lost. Timber harvests in Jackson Forest were
generating about $10 million of revenue and several hundred jobs each year
The courts have laid the responsibility for the
logging halt and revenue loss squarely upon CDF mismanagement. Logging
plans were enjoined because CDF had not updated a "10-year" management
plan completed in 1984, despite the legal requirement that management
plans be maintained current. In granting the injunction, Judge Henderson
of the Mendocino Superior Court found, "It is also apparent that CDF has
known for years that its Management Plan for Jackson Demonstration State
Forest was out of date and in need of comprehensive revision."
The logging halt was extended in 2003 by the same
judge, with obvious great reluctance, when he ruled a new environmental
document (EIR) for the forest was invalid, "However, the failure of CDF to
prepare an EIR that complies with the minimal statutory standards leaves
me with no alternative but to direct CDF and the Board [of Forestry] to
rescind the approval of the EIR."
Though there is not room for details here, CDF's
internal management failures are as great as their planning failures.
Jackson Forest, a 50,000-acre publicly owned redwood forest within a few
hours of San Francisco has great values for salmon restoration, wildlife
habitat, recreation and research. CDF has almost totally neglected these
values in its single-minded pursuit of logging revenues. On the logging
side, it has even failed to keep an accurate, current inventory of the
trees in the forest, as required by law, continuing its vulnerability to
further legal challenge.
CDF's continued obstinate opposition to all efforts
to improve its management of the forest testify to the need for SB 1648,
as does the need to get Jackson Forest back into operation.
Vince Taylor, Ph.D.
Jackson Forest Action Coalition