for California State Forests
May 23, 2005
Timber Industry versus Public Interests in California's
To date, the timber industry has effectively controlled
public policy over forests that cover 25 percent of California's land area. The
management of these forests is obviously of importance to the timber industry,
but how these forests are managed significantly affects the quality of life of
The disparity between the timber industry's economic
importance and its political power is staggering. The timber industry
accounts for less than one one-thousandth of the state's total economic
The timber industry is hardly a blip on the economic landscape. Yet, for as far
back as anyone can remember and right to the present day, the timber industry
has dominated California forestry policy.
From a public-interest standpoint, a miniscule economic
interest should not dominate the governance of California's forests.
Californians care strongly about their forests, for legitimate reasons, and
their concerns and desires should be uppermost in the minds of those setting
An opportunity for the Advisory Group
The members of the Demonstration State Forest Advisory
Group have an opportunity to set priorities for state forests that reflect the
overall public interest.
The charter for the group says, "Each member is to
represent the public." The priorities set by the group should, therefore,
reflect the interests of the public in the management of California's forests.
The state forest advisory group has an opportunity to
appropriately balance public and industry concerns. While industry concerns
should not be ignored, they ought to be considered in the context of the
public's desires for healthy forests and clean streams.
One of the initial tasks assigned the state forest
advisory group is to make recommendations about the research and demonstration
programs of the state forests. If these programs are to reflect the interests of
the public, the primary priority should be to improve understanding of how to
restore and maintain healthy ecological processes in our forests. Research and
demonstration on timber extraction activities should take place within the
context of the primary priority.
Forest and Timber Background
[The following text and figures are
excerpted from The Changing California, Forest and Range Assessment 2003,
prepared by the California Department of Forestry. Highlights to the text are
supplied by the author and did not appear in the original.]
Lumber production in California reached a low in 2001 of
just over 2.7 billion board feet, with an approximate wholesale value of
$1.1 billion dollars (Figure 77). This is the lowest year in the last two
decades, continuing to follow an overall downward trend both in number of
sawmills and lumber output.
To meet the growing demand for lumber and other forest
products, a demand that is equivalent to over 10 billion board feet of
lumber, paper, and other wood products annually, Californians rely
heavily on imports.
Estimates of wood product inflows from other states into California indicate
at least three billion board feet of lumber was imported from other western
states (Western Wood Products Association, 2002). In 2002, Oregon was
California’s single largest supplier of lumber. Additional lumber was also
imported from Canada as well as other countries and southern states. In
addition, California imports nearly all of its pulp and paper.
Value of products from
forest product sectors
The percentage of the state GSP
[Gross State Product] represented directly by the
lumber and wood products industry in 2000 is just under 0.3 percent (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Lumber,
wood, paper, and allied products Gross State Product as a percentage of
California Gross State Product, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000 (1996 constant
Department of Commerce, 2002b
covers a vast landscape of over 100 million acres, of which over 80 percent are
defined as forests and rangelands (Table 3, Figure 10). The geographic scope of
forests and rangelands are addressed by statute as those suitable for timber
production or grazing by domestic livestock, and other forested lands (Figure
Note: This paper was prepared for the first meeting of the
Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group, meeting in Santa Rosa, California on
May 25, 2005
Acrobat PDF version.