What Lies Ahead for Jackson Forest?

Fifty-thousand acre Jackson Demonstration State Forest is a major part of the landscape of the Mendocino County coastal community. It also has been a focus of controversy and division since 1995, when the Caspar Community protests against nearby logging began an escalating effort to reform management of Jackson Forest..

As memories tend to be short, many may have forgotten that during the 1990s, the state was cutting upwards of 60,000 trees per year from our public forest. The major management goal was “to get out the cut.” Timber harvests were concentrated in previously unentered 80 to 100 year-old stands, and also in local neighborhoods that adjoined the forest.

Public opposition culminated in the formation of the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest in 2000. The Campaign undertook a succession of lawsuits that effectively tied up all timber harvesting from 2001 until this year.

For the last two years, those at the center of the controversy have been working to find common ground. I am happy to report that these efforts have borne fruit.  An opportunity has been created to transform our local 50,000-acre Jackson Demonstration State Forest into a model of excellence, into a world-class demonstration forest that will bring pride to our community, the timber industry, the research community, and the forest managers.

In January, 2008, the Board of Forestry approved a new management plan that contained the essential features of a consensus reached among representatives of major county timber interests, the Campaign, and the Sierra Club. With this approval, the state can now legally resume logging in Jackson State. What does this mean for the forest and for you and me?

A new “Jackson Advisory Group,” is currently being appointed. It will have a balance of people with environmental, conservation, timber, and science concerns. Its charge is to work during the next three years to develop a consensus on a long-term landscape, recreation, research, and management plan. The advisory group will likely invite local people with knowledge and interests to join subcommittees focused on different aspects of forest management. Monthly meetings open to the public are likely. It also seems likely that the staff of Jackson Forest will welcome formation of a “Friends of Jackson Forest” to allow volunteers to assist in restoration and recreation projects.

During the time the public is working with the advisory group to develop a consensus management plan, until  2011, all harvests in Jackson Forest will take place under strong protections “to assure that long-term planning options, particularly in sensitive areas, will not be precluded.”

Protections include avoiding harvests in areas that have not been entered since 1920 or that have a significant density of large trees (with some possible initial exceptions), review of all harvest plans by the advisory group (which will provide a forum for public input), harvesting only by selection methods (no clearcuts), and retaining at least 70 percent of tree canopy (or the equivalent) and not reducing the average tree diameter in the harvested stands.

Thanks to reform legislation, revenues from harvests in Jackson Forest will only be able to be spent within the state forest system. During the first three years, harvest levels will be limited to those needed to finance operations of Jackson Forest. Harvest levels will be a fraction of those occurring during the late 1990’s.  

We are truly at the beginning of a revolution in management of our forest. Thanks are due to all of those in the community, the timber industry, the Board of Forestry, and most especially the Director of the Department of Forestry, Ruben Grijalva, and his staff, whose hard work and willingness to seek consensus made this possible.

Vince Taylor
March 13, 2008