The struggle to reform management of Jackson State
Forest may someday serve as a textbook example of how persistent,
effective public pressure can force the government to shift from narrow,
parochial interests to broad public interests.
Beginnings--Ukiah Rally 2002
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 Mendocino County timber interests,
the Campaign, and the Sierra Club. An
opportunity has been created to transform 50,000-acre Jackson State Forest
into a model of excellence, into a world-class demonstration forest that
will bring pride to the local community, the timber industry, the research
community, and the forest managers, while providing broad public benefits
in habitat, recreation, spiritual nourishment, and education. There is
more to go, but we’ve come further than anyone could have imagined.
The road to this point has been long, often
frustrating, sometimes exhilarating, and almost always maddeningly slow.
It began in 1995, with protests by the Caspar Community Watershed
Association (CCWA) against nearby logging plans in Jackson Forest.
Interestingly, in light of the theme of this
Branching Out issue, the protests focused on the failure of the state
to manage the public forest for the public benefit. The following quotes,
from CCWA’s March 1995 newsletter, This is Your Land, set out
themes that have been echoed up to the present day:
The California Department of Forestry,
CDF, is operating Jackson State Forest for its own benefit, rather than
for the benefit of the people who own it us.
CDF has a legal responsibility to
protect the public trust resources of Jackson State Forest These
resources include all parts of the forest that make up its ecology -- the
many species of birds, animals, fish, trees and other plants…
A primary use of Jackson timber-sale
revenue is to underwrite the cost of CDF reviews of the Timber Harvest
Plans of the big logging corporations. What this means is our public
forest is being liquidated to subsidize private timber owners…
The 50,000 acre Jackson Demonstration
State Forest is an irreplaceable asset that could provide great benefits
to future generations of Californians. Public ownership of the State
Forest provides a unique opportunity to save a redwood forest from the
devastation occurring in the privately owned forests that surround it...
Demonstrations escalated in the years after 1995,
with activists chaining themselves to gates in hopes of preventing logging
in redwood stands that had grown back untouched for nearly 100 years.
In response to the protests, CDF established a
Citizen's Advisory Committee in 1997 to review Jackson management
policies. Its recommendations, made after a year of hard work, were
completely ignored by CDF, which seemed concerned only with continuing the
cash flow into its forestry funds. More than 60,000 trees per year were
being cut, sending as much as $15 million per year into CDF’s coffers.
In 2000, the Campaign to Restore Jackson State
Redwood Forest came into existence, with the stated mission of restoring
the forest to old growth for recreation, habitat, education, and research.
The Campaign was led by people in Mendocino County who had tried to work
with the state to get reform and got nowhere. This time, they were
determined to prevail.
Unfortunately, in 2000, Jackson Forest was "the
forest no one knew." There was almost no awareness of Jackson Forest even
within Mendocino County and none outside of it. Mounting a political
campaign faced huge hurdles.
The key step, from which all further progress
emanated, was filing a legal challenge in June 2000. The suit claimed that
the management plan for Jackson, created in 1984, had long since expired,
and therefore any logging was illegal under state law. When the case was
heard, in April 2001, the court ruled in the Campaign’s favor and enjoined
Following years saw various efforts by the state to
evade the ruling or to satisfy the court with new management plans and
environmental documents, but without ever moving away from massive
industrial logging as the primary mission of the forest. Each time, the
Campaign successfully challenged the state’s actions, and the logging halt
Almost as important as the laws and courts was the
development of the internet and email communication. The Campaign combined
with other environmental organizations to harness public outrage at the
destruction of its redwood forest and direct it toward the Board of
Forestry. Each time CDF made an attempt to gain Board approval for a new
industrial logging program, the Board was deluged with many thousands of
letters of opposition.
Feeling that CDF was as likely to change its spots
as a leopard, the Campaign combined with the Sierra Club and Senator Wes
Chesbro in 2004 on legislation to mandate that state-owned forest be
managed for broad public interest. The bill, SB 1648, passed both houses
of the legislature. Governor Schwarzenegger received 2,000 letters in 10
days asking him to sign the bill, but the combined opposition of CDF and
the timber industry sufficed to make him veto it.
By now, though, Jackson Forest was transformed from
the forest no one knew to the one that everyone in the legislature, CDF,
and the Board of Forestry knew – and knew that the public was watching
their every move.
The stalemate continued for more years. The state
couldn’t go back to logging without a legally adequate Environmental
Impact Report (EIR). It was trying to create this complex document
internally, but the task overwhelmed its meager resources. Begun in 2004,
the EIR had still not been issued by 2006.
Then, a remarkable event occurred. A new director
was appointed, not a timber person, but a fire marshal. (The Department of
Forestry is part of the department that includes the much larger
fire-fighting department. The overall department was recently given the
short name Cal Fire to reflect its primary mission.)
In March 2006, the director, Ruben Grijalva,
invited me to meet with him and his staff to explore how to resolve the
stalemate. We agreed at this meeting that success would require a
consensus among the environmental community, the timber industry, and CDF.
Despite skepticism from others in the meeting, Director Grijalva and I
agreed consensus was possible. This meeting marked the turn from
confrontation to cooperation.
Soon after this meeting, I met with several timber
industry leaders, and we agreed to form a non-official “Mendocino Working
Group.” The group had 3 owners/managers of timber mills, one of whom
managed one of the largest timber holdings in the county; the largest
timber logging operator; a local, senior Sierra Club activist, and me.
Over the next months we worked cooperatively to resolve differences and
come up with a consensus plan for resuming operation. The group issued its
proposal in November 2006.
The working group’s proposal arrived while the
Board of Forestry and CDF, responding to the continuing outpouring of
public concern, were working to develop a more environmentally conscious
approach to management. The Board welcomed the proposal, as did the
Director of CDF. The staff of CDF was initially resistant to the working
group’s suggestions, but bit by bit, they incorporated the suggestions in
a new “Alternative G.” Through all of 2007, the working group continued to
negotiate with CDF.
In January, 2008, the Board of Forestry approved a
new management plan that contained the essential features of the working
group’s consensus plan. With this approval, the state can now legally
resume logging in Jackson State. What does this development mean for the
forest and the public interest?
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 seems likely
to draw upon local people with interests and expertise, as well as upon
experts in and out of government.
During the time the public is working with the
advisory group to develop a consensus management plan, until the end of
2010, 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 further
be limited only to those needed to finance operations of Jackson Forest.
Harvest levels will be a fraction of those occurring during the late
Before the end of 2010, the advisory group will
convey its recommendations for changes in the management plan to the Board
and the Director. Given the high visibility of the advisory group,
rejection of its recommendations will be politically difficult.
We seem truly to be at the beginning of a
revolution in management of our public forest. Though we are not yet at
the end of the process, it is time to extend thanks 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 brought us to the
For more details on the history of the Campaign to
Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest, visit
March 16, 2008
the Spring Issue of
Branching Out, a publication of the Trees Foundation
Adobe Acrobat version of the article
Copyright Vince Taylor, 2008