the Board of Forestry approved the new management plan for Jackson State
Forest on January 9, 2008, it marked a milestone in the long struggle to reform
management of Jackson Forest.
In thinking about where
the reform effort goes from here, I found myself thinking about how we
got to this point.
1995 marked the first
public demonstration against the industrial logging practices that had
characterized management of Jackson Forest since it started operations in
the early 1950s. Demonstrations escalated in following years, with
activists chaining themselves to gates in hopes of preventing logging in
redwood stands that had grown back untouched for nearly 100 years.
failed to halt the first logging in what was then 10,000 contiguous acres
of prime, old, untouched second growth redwood stands in the center of
the forest. In 1996 and following years, the California Department of
Forestry (CDF), focused its logging on these older, untouched second
growth areas. In each of 1996 and 1997, nearly 100,000 trees were cut,
sending over $10 million in each year to fund general forestry programs.
As protests mounted,
the then Director of CDF, Richard Wilson, established a Citizen's
Advisory Committee in 1997 to make a review of Jackson policies. The
committee met for over a year, and despite strong restrictions on its
scope of authority, it recommended sweeping changes in the management
practices. The recommendations were completely ignored by CDF, which
apparently was concerned only with continuing the cash flow into its
In 2000, the Campaign
to Restore Jackson State Forest came into existence, with the stated
mission of restoring the forest to old growth for recreation, habitat,
and education. The Campaign was led by people in Mendocino County who had
tried to work with the state to get reform and got nowhere. This time,
they were determined to prevail.
Unfortunately, in 2000,
Jackson Forest was "the forest no one knew." There was almost no
awareness of Jackson Forest even within Mendocino County and none outside
of it. Mounting a political campaign faced huge hurdles.
The Campaign began by
trying to negotiate with CDF, to no avail. When CDF rebuffed requests to
halt logging until a new management plan could be developed (the last
update to the plan was in 1985), the Campaign filed suit asking that the
existing plan be declared out of date and legally invalid. CDF paid no
The suit came before
the court in 2001 after the state approved two huge timber harvest plans
in the unentered stands of old second growth that were in the heart of
the prime recreation area -- Brandon Gulch and Camp 3.
Much to the amazement
and consternation of CDF and the local timber industry, Judge Henderson
of the Mendocino Superior Court issued a restraining order against
logging these plans in April, 2001 and followed this with a preliminary
injunction in May.
The state made various
efforts to evade or circumvent the rulings, but all efforts were turned
back. In 2002, the state reached an agreement not to do further logging
until a new management plan was in place.
The next five years saw
repeated efforts by the state to push through management plans that were
simply rewrites of its old plans, accompanied by inadequate environmental
documents. The Campaign brought suit and won again in 2003 -- although
CDF did get free of court restraints for 5 days, during which it cut down
2,000 trees in Brandon Gulch.
Giving up hope that the
state would ever listen to reason, the Campaign and the Sierra Club
persuaded state Senator Wes Chesbro to sponsor a reform bill in 2004. The
bill, SB 1648, passed both houses of the legislature but was vetoed by
Even though the bill
was vetoed, the Campaign had gained over 5,000 new members, most
legislators learned a lot about Jackson Forest, and the Board of Forestry
now knew that it had a hot potato on its hands.
Still, CDF remained
steadfast in its position of ignoring public concerns and recommendations
as it continued to work on a new set of environmental documents to
support the same old kind of logging-oriented management plan.
The tide turned,
ironically, because of the big fires in Southern California in 2005. This
led Schwarzenegger to appoint Ruben Grijalva, a fireman, to be the
director of CDF -- which is formally the Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection. For the first time, a non-timber person was the head of CDF,
and Mr. Grijalva lost little time in breaking down the walls that CDF had
built against allowing the public into the policy process.
In April, 2006,
Director Grijalva invited me to meet with him and his staff. In the
course of a long and open discussion, Mr. Grijalva and I agreed we would
work toward a consensus solution to the stalemate over Jackson.
The rest, as the phrase
goes, is history. We have now reached consensus among all of the major
interests -- the timber industry, the environmental community, CDF, and
the Board of Forestry. A plan for resuming operation has been approved by
all -- but the story is not over.
When the Mendocino
Working Group that developed the consensus plan that has been adopted, it
recognized that it could not and should not attempt to develop a detailed
plan for management of the forest. This would require more time and
resources that the group could commit.
The group's solution
was to propose that harvest operations resume at a low level with
relatively low-impact harvests in non-controversial areas. An advisory
committee would be organized with balanced representation and charged
with developing a consensus on a long-term landscape plan for the forest.
It would be given three years in which to complete this plan, during
which time harvesting would continue to be severely constrained.
The advisory group has
now been authorized and given a clear charter to do the work. The next
step is the appointment of its members. There is good reason to expect
that the advisory group will be well balanced among the different
interests and have competent and dedicated members. It will need all of
those qualities, plus more, to develop a plan that all will feel is fair
and effective. I am optimistic they will succeed.
January 10, 2007