June 23, 2006. Signaling a welcome change at the top, managers of the California Department of Forestry (CDF) came from Sacramento to Jackson Forest expressly to tour the forest with Kathy Bailey of the Sierra Club and me, Vince Taylor, Executive Director of the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest.
In April, I was invited to meet with Ruben Grijalva, the newly appointed Director of the California Department of Forestry, and his staff in Sacramento. All present stated their desire to find a way out of the impasse that has shut down all timber operations in Jackson Forest since 2001.
I approached the meeting with hope but fear that CDF would maintain the stonewall that has prevented all progress on Jackson Forest reform for six years. To my surprise and delight, Mr. Grijalva quickly expressed a willingness to explore new solutions and seek consensus.
Early in the meeting, I said that to get an acceptable solution, CDF must be willing to fund its unrelated forestry programs from sources other than cutting trees in Jackson Forest. In the 1990s, timber revenues from Jackson funded almost one-third of the total budget of CDF. The drive for timber revenue led to the neglect of other forest values and, ultimately, to the formation of the Campaign. Until this point, CDF had steadfastly refused to consider lowering its timber harvests to promote other forest values. Jackson revenue was viewed as too important to sacrifice.
Mr. Grijalva replied that he had already publicly stated that he was willing to fund the department's forestry programs from alternative sources, and that he meant it. Suddenly, the discussion moved beyond fixed positions to seeking mutually acceptable solutions. The rest of the long meeting affirmed that a breath of fresh air has blown into CDF.
I believe that CDF is committed to seeking a consensus on how to manage Jackson Forest for broad public benefit. The Campaign has been invited to participate in the process of reaching consensus. We welcome the invitation and pledge to work constructively and honestly with all parties.
There is still a long way to go, but a major obstacle that has halted progress is now gone. The prospects for preserving and restoring Jackson Forest are the brightest they have ever been.
It is too early to celebrate, but not too early to thank all of those who have contributed their time, energy, words, prayers, and dollars to reach this point.