Brandon Gulch
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A Walk Up Brandon Gulch

bg4.jpg (37706 bytes)On Sunday, July 23, 2000 I took a walk through the Brandon Gulch Timber Harvest Plan (THP), one of the three Plans the California Department of Forestry (CDF) hopes to sell in Jackson State Forest this year. The THP covers 540 acres. It is about 7 miles east of Fort Bragg and several miles north of Highway 20. For those who are familiar with the central area of Jackson Forest, it is north of the (salmon) Egg Collecting Station, off Road 360. Sunday was beautiful but slightly foggy at my house.

My friend and I left at about 11:00 A.M., heading toward the entrance into Jackson State from Highway 20. I located the entrance on the JDSF big map, but even so went by it initially. There are no signs at all on Highway 20 to indicate that the road heading north goes to the major recreation area within Jackson State Forest.

To my pleasant surprise, I found that road 360, which goes north from the Egg Collecting Station, was open to vehicles. We passed several occupied, large campsites on our way. These campsites are free and have a 14-day use limit. Some of these sites are very well located, with streams running by them.

The weather was perfect, in the seventies, with clear blue skies. We arrived at the the confluence of roads that marked the southeast corner of the THP. After studying the map for a while, I decided that the best route to take was the continuation of Road 360, which at this point stopped being the main road and became a walking trail (also apparently used by some Off-Road Quadricycles).

Upon walking about a hundred yards up the trail, I fell into stunned silence. What lay before me was a fairy-tale trail, heading through stands of towering redwoods, with a tinkling stream running along one side. The trail was level and wide -- heading right through the middle of the Brandon Gulch THP.

The further we went, the more amazed I became. The beauty of this trail compares favorably with any trail I've ever been on in redwood forests, including those in old-growth forests. To think that this amazing recreational resource has been right in my backyard for over ten years, and I never knew about it! CDF has certainly succeeded in making Jackson State "the forest that no one knows."

And, to think that CDF is planning to destroy the integrity of the mature redwood forest that surrounds this trail! True, this is to be logged "selectively," but the canopy will be opened and roads cut through areas unentered for nearly 100 years. The balance of light, shade, trees, and ferns that the forest has created will be once again be destroyed -- requiring many decades of healing to restore the balance.

When we walked to the top of Road 360, where it intersects Road 1000 (a ridge-top road), we came to the edge of Jackson State Forest and the beginning of former Georgia-Pacific (now Hawthorne) land. The walking trail continued across into the G-P land, marked by a sign that identified it as the "Little Lake-Sherwood Road Hiking and Equestrian Trail." I assume, therefore, that the trail on which we walked through the Brandon Gulch THP is a continuation of this historic trail.

Road 1000 also offered a graphic, striking display of the need to retain the remaining mature, undisturbed forest within publiclyowned Jackson State Forest. Standing on the road and looking northward, one sees only sparse, sun-baked, small trees. Looking southward, one's gaze follows the walking trail down into a magnificent redwood forest -- a view marred only by the blue rings (meaning "cut me") on several big trees right on the edge of the walking path.

There is a panoramic view of the GP lands in the Noyo watershed from the edge of Road 1000. The extent of recent clearcutting and the young age of all of the earlier clearcuts is all too apparent. The view brings alive the statistic that GP land has less than 10,000 board feet per acre of trees, compared to a healthy, recovered redwood forest with 80,000+ board feet per acre.

Seeing the contrast between the clearcuts on one hand and the healthy forest on the other drove home to me the importance of preventing further destruction of the rare forest in Jackson State. CDF argues for keeping Jackson State as a "demonstration" of commercial logging. There is no shortage of demonstrations of commercial logging on the private lands in California. There is a great and rapidly increasing scarcity of real redwood forest. At this time in history, preservation and restoration are the obvious best uses for Jackson State Forest.

The first priority for those who support the idea of a Jackson State Restoration Forest is to halt CDF's current logging plans -- all of which are within the vanishing area of Jackson Forest that contains mature, unlogged second-growth forest. Although Jackson State Forest has been logged intensively since being acquired by the state in 1947, it still contains 5-10,000 acres of land where the second growth has been recovering for 80 and more years -- areas fully as beautiful as Brandon Gulch. All three of the pending harvest plans for Jackson State are within this "heart of the forest." If allowed to be carried out, the plans will destroy 10 to 20 percent of the remaining mature forest in a single year!

If you share our goals, please join the Campaign.   Working together, we can save our public forest from further destruction.

Vince Taylor