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Jackson State Forest Needs Your Help

By Kathy Bailey, recently retired Chair of the Sierra Club Forest Conservation Committee

Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) is a 50,000 acre publicly owned forest near Ft. Bragg, in Mendocino County. A new Management Plan was released in April, 2001 A second Draft Plan and a Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)  was released May 17, 2002. The public comment period is now open.

The California Department of Forestry (CDF) runs Jackson, and under the proposed Plan, logging will continue to be the principal focus of the forestís management.

 Public interest in the forest and comment on the documents will be key to getting much needed improvements. Comments on both the draft Plan and the EIR must be received by CDF in Sacramento (see address below) by 5 PM on July 19.


Jackson Forest is, by far, the largest publicly owned forest in the redwood region of Mendocino and Sonoma Counties and is one of the largest tracts of public land in the coastal region north of San Francisco and south of Humboldt County. There are no federal forestlands in this area.

Within its boundaries a few groves of ancient trees still survive as do significant stands of 100-year-old second growth forest, Careful management of Jackson is particularly important because so much of the areaís natural heritage has already been lost, Aggressive logging on timber industry-owned lands has driven out wildlife, fouled streams, eliminated many plant species, reduced bird populations, and nearly exterminated a once vibrant salmon fishery, Only a three-hour drive from millions of people in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jackson has a crucial role in maintaining both the regionís redwood ecosystem and its outdoor recreation potential,

After years of citizen pressure, in the spring of 2001 CDF released a draft Management Plan revision, the first since 1983, For those looking for significant reform, it was a big disappointment, An overwhelming proportion of the forest continues to be designated for timber production, A third of the logging is still slated to be "even-aged management," including clearcutting dressed up under the name "variable retention." Even-aged logging removes most or all of the older trees, and variable retention simply means that a few trees or groups of trees are left after a clearcut, Another third of the logging is designated as "group selection," mini-clearcuts from 2 Ĺ acres to 5 acres, Watercourse protections, wildlife corridors, and old growth development areas are minimal, Recreation planning is deferred,

CDF has long resisted calls for management change, Reform efforts since 1996 include civil disobedience and arrests; public meetings; and creation of citizensí management principles. Sierra Club has been active in lobbying CDF, the Board of Forestry, and State and local elected officials, In 1997, former CDF Director Richard Wilson appointed a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC), After more than a year of meetings, in late 1998 they released Recommendations, which mostly have not been implemented. Recently, the Campaign to Restore Jackson Redwood Forest was created, hoping to restore the whole forest to old growth, The Campaign took CDF to court, which granted an injunction prohibiting logging until a new Management Plan was in place, CDF is now eager to complete the Plan so it can resume logging, The new plan is likely to guide management for at least the next ten years.

Commenting on the Plan

The legislative mandate and Board of Forestry policies regarding Jackson provide both challenges and opportunities for those wanting to comment on the Plan and the EIR, Board policy states, "Timber production shall be the primary land use on Jackson." A second policy states, "the primary purpose of State Forests is to conduct demonstrations, investigations, and education in forest management." These policies reflect commonly held interpretations of existing law, CDF will likely cite these laws and policies to assert that it cannot eliminate the commercial logging program, Others would challenge those interpretations,

Some see Jackson as a potential showcase for how logging ought to be done, While recognizing that some areas are too sensitive to be included in the timber program, they believe that Jackson ought to demonstrate that logging can be profitable without clearcuts, even-aged management, herbicides, bad roads, and massive slash piles, The Wilson-era Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) recommended that approach,

There is, however, consensus regarding many high priority issues, Research and demonstration regarding forest management is clearly central to Jacksonís mandate and comments should reflect that, All comments should include:

  1. Jackson Forest is regionally important, It is a key refuge for maintaining the biodiversity of the redwood region and is an outdoor recreation resource for millions of people.
  2. The entire forest should demonstrate how to manage for recovery of native plants and animals that have declined in the region and how to maintain and restore pristine water quality,
  3. To maximize research opportunities, every old growth tree should be protected, and stands containing even a few old growth trees should not be logged, Old growth development areas around the already-designated old growth groves should be expanded.
  4. The 10,000-12,000 acres of 80 to 110 year old second growth provide a unique opportunity to conduct controlled research on how best to accelerate the development of older forest characteristics and should be designated solely for that purpose,
  5. Stream-side buffers should be greatly increased, creating a network of wildlife corridors, Management within these zones should be limited to demonstrating conservation of native plants, fish, and wildlife,
  6. If logging is to continue, the timber programís overall goal should be to show how logging can coexist with the publicís enjoyment of the forest, Jackson should demonstrate only sustained yield, single tree and small cluster selection logging, the highest quality road building, and enhanced site clean-up, There should be no even-aged management, clearcuts, or herbicide use for site preparation.

CDF management in Sacramento wants the Management Plan done so logging can proceed, A massive public outpouring of support for Jackson Forest and true reform of its management will be necessary to change CDFís direction, Please send your comments to CDF as soon as possible. They must be received  by CDF prior to July 19.

Comments should be mailed to:

Chris Rowney, Deputy Chief for State Forests
PO Box 944246
Sacramento, CA 94244

Or faxed to Rowney at:

916-653-8957 (Note: faxes may not be accepted by CDF)

For sample comment letters, updates, and additional information on the Jackson State Forest Management Plan and EIR, visit