The Willits News
Locals divided on forest bill
Friday, July 16, 2004 -
Ditto Brooktrails board and Willits City Council
Claudia Reed/Staff Writer
Members of the Brooktrails board knew in advance they wouldn't be
able to reach consensus on a controversial state forest bill.
Consequently, they declined to discuss it. No letter of support or
opposition would be forwarded to the state.
Other than county Supervisor Hal Wagenet, who brought the matter to
the board, Tuesday evening, no one in the thinly populated audience
had any comment.
The opposite scenario with the same result took place at
Wednesday's city council meeting. After three and one-half hours of
passionate testimony from both council members and citizens who packed
the chambers, the council decided consensus was unreachable and
individual letters would have to do.
Citing a legal conflict of interest, Councilman Bruce Burton
declined to participate in the discussion.
When voting time came, no one made a motion to support or oppose SB
(Senate Bill) 1648, which would elevate the goals of "study,
maintenance, restoration, education, recreation, and public enjoyment"
to the same status as the existing "maximum sustainable timber
production" at Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Councilman Ron
Orenstein's compromise motion: support for the process of bill
creation, died for lack of a second.
Vice Mayor Tami Jorgensen called the bill a move in the right
direction but said she couldn't support its most recent version. She
stressed, however, that SB1648 would create local employment by
permitting some logging to take place during the wait for development
of a new management plan and related EIR (environmental impact
Tree harvesting at Jackson State has been on hold following a
successful legal challenge to the EIR submitted with the existing
Councilman Denny McEntire predicted SB1648 would leave permanent
and economically destructive harvesting limitations in place.
"The (forest) board is working on the EIR, as directed," he said.
"Then everybody goes back to work. Now comes (state Senator Wesley)
Chesbro and mixes right in the middle of it for God-only-knows what
McEntire opposed language he said would prohibit logging within
12,000 acres of 80- to 100-year-old, second-growth redwoods. He said
the characteristics making redwood desirable as lumber, including the
red color and naturally rot and insect resistance, are in short supply
in younger trees.
Representing the timber industry, Chris Baldo said such a
prohibition would encourage forest owners to cut down their trees
before they reach no-harvest age. Consumers, lacking naturally
resistant redwood, would turn to the pressure-treated variety, despite
the possible toxicity of the treatment chemicals.
"I don't see anything in this bill that prevents harvest in the
12,000 acres," Jorgensen countered.
At issue is a paragraph (Article 5, Section 4665, Part b)
describing those acres and then the "459 acres of old-growthin 11
protected groves." Following is the sentence:
"These old forest components are uncommon assets in the region.
Management of these stands shall be consistent with their biological
importance and regional scarcity."
Since the bill explicitly prohibits harvesting of old-growth, does
the prohibition extend to the over-80 second-growth?
"When you say "regional scarcity" it's a special management class,"
offered city Planning Director Alan Falleri. "You protect scarce
Falleri also pointed out what he saw as a "cart-before-the-horse"
procedure requiring the EIR for the new management plan to "be
consistent with" the provisos in the bill (Article 5, Section 4669,
Part b). An environmental impact report is just that, Falleri said.
After the likely impact of various actions is understood, regulations
are developed, he said.
Kathy Bailey of the Sierra Club said portions of the bill had been
deliberately left ambiguous in order to permit flexibility in
developing the management plan. She said there was room for harvesting
within the "last 100-year-old stand in the county" on a site specific
basis with conservation goals in mind.
"You can log to develop old-forest values or the reverse: cut the
biggest and best trees for commercial value."
Wagenet, on record as opposing the bill, may be moving in the same
direction with his promotion of a "CAL-100 Standard." The standard
would establish a "trademark or stamp" certifying lumber from trees at
least 80 years old has been produced "in accordance with good forest
If the bill is not rushed through the legislature, the process of
refining it can be "a useful dialogue in which both sides bring
something to the table," Wagenet said. SB1648 has passed the State
Senate and will be considered by the Assembly's Appropriations
Committee early next month.