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Critics of Jackson Forest logging to hold rally; warn of potential civil disobedience when logging resumes

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Community, environmental and tribal activists opposed to renewed logging in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest plan to rally in the forest Sunday and warn of potential civil disobedience in the future.

The notice comes in response to a Cal Fire announcement that tree cutting would resume as early as this week on at least one of four incomplete timber harvest plans in the Mendocino County forest. Those plans were recently revised to halt removal of the largest trees.

The return of logging crews ends an eight-month pause on tree removal that allowed state officials to start rethinking priorities for the nearly 50,000-acre forest and begin negotiations with local tribes that are seeking co-management rights.

But critics say it’s still too soon to end the pause. They argue that ideas floated in a “vision statement” released last week don’t amount to the updated forest management plan demanded by advocates and promised by Cal Fire.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/critics-of-jackson-forest-logging-to-hold-rally-warn-of-potential-civil-di/

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Logging to restart in Jackson Forest as soon as this week

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Just days after releasing a new vision statement reflecting a greater focus on climate mitigation and wildfire prevention at Jackson Demonstration State Forest, Cal Fire announced a nearly eight-month pause on logging in the forest will end.

Wednesday’s announcement came as a surprise to environmental advocates, including members of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians who are in the middle of negotiating for co-management rights in the forest.

Four approved timber harvest plans in the state-owned forest were put on hold — one last year and the others over the winter — after public outcry over the removal of large redwood trees. Those plans are expected to recommence in phases before the end of the year, Cal Fire said.

Crews could begin cutting any day in the 737-acre Chamberlain Confluence harvest plan, where they already have spent recent weeks hauling downed logs that were cut and stacked last winter, State Demonstration Forest Manager Kevin Conway said.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/logging-to-restart-in-jackson-forest-as-soon-as-this-week/

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Cal Fire announces ‘new vision’ for Jackson Forest, reduces cutting of big trees

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Revitalizing Management of the Jackson Demonstration Forest (pdf)

Cal Fire has released what is says is a “new forward-looking vision” for Jackson Demonstration State Forest that reflects the realities of climate change and extreme wildfire risk.

And while it creates pathways for co-management with local tribal nations, future management of the nearly 50,000-acre state-owned forest will still likely include sustainable logging.

Cal Fire spokeswoman Christine McMorrow, resource management communications officer, described the vision statement as “a starting point” to guide development of a new forest management plan. It comes in the wake of a recent public outcry over commercial-scale logging, particularly near the coastal town of Caspar, where a timber harvest plan was brought to a halt by demonstrators in the woods last year.

Cal Fire and the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees it, promise “a renewed focus on climate science, restoration ecology and a new model for tribal comanagement” in the future, the vision statement says.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/cal-fire-announces-new-vision-for-jackson-forest-reduces-cutting-of-big/

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Two California fires in the Sierra Nevada have very different outcomes. Why?

Alex Wigglesworth, LOS ANGELES TIMES

The two fires started just 17 miles apart in the rugged terrain of California’s western Sierra Nevada — but their outcomes couldn’t have been more different.

The Washburn fire, which ignited July 7 along a forested trail in Yosemite National Park, was nearly contained, with no damage to structures or to the famed Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias.

But the Oak fire, which sparked almost two weeks later in the foothills near Midpines, confounded firefighters as it exploded to four times the size of Washburn and forced thousands to flee as it destroyed at least 106 homes. At times, the wildfire’s smoke plume could be seen from space.

Why was one fire so much more destructive?

Experts attribute the difference to variations in weather, vegetation and topography. The management history of each landscape also played a role: Yosemite boasts decades of active stewardship, including prescribed burns, while areas outside the park bear a legacy of industrial logging and fire suppression.

The Washburn fire started along a trail on the edge of the Mariposa Grove, just downhill from the road used by shuttle buses to ferry tourists from a parking lot.

Read more at https://www.yahoo.com/video/two-california-fires-sierra-nevada-120016849.html

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One of California’s tallest redwoods is 2,000 years old. Inside the fight to keep it safe

Gregory Thomas, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

See Guerneville Forest Coalition “The Clar Tree” for more information.

Standing on the side of Highway 116, which winds through the dense forests of western Sonoma County, John Dunlap looked across the Russian River into a stand of tall trees and pointed out one old redwood in particular.

“It’s really a hidden gem here that’s kind of out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean it isn’t deserving of our attention.”

Up from the riverbank near Guerneville is the county’s tallest tree, an estimated 2,000-year-old, 340-footer known as the Clar Tree. Once thought to be the highest tree in California, it carries the name of a timber family that lived in the area back when it was a logging capital. It is easily identifiable by its dead, forked crown — the result of a lightning strike some years ago.

Passersby wouldn’t be able to glean the tree’s significance at a glance — its prominence is somewhat camouflaged by its brethren — yet the Clar is at the center of an impassioned dispute over how best to care for California’s iconic, old-growth coast redwoods, the towering titans that have inspired generations of naturalists but were nearly cut to extinction during California’s frenzied development 150 years ago.

The tree stands at the edge of a 224-acre property of redwoods, firs and oaks that has been logged in pieces for decades and is considered a “high fire hazard severity zone.” The Cloverdale timber company that owns the land, Redwood Empire Sawmill, is intent on harvesting redwood there “sustainably” and as soon as possible.

Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/travel/article/Sonoma-redwood-tree-California-forest-17331172.php?

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Landowner under fire for post-Walbridge salvage logging violations

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

To hear Ken Bareilles tell it, the worst thing to happen on his land west of Healdsburg since the 2020 Walbridge Fire was the felling of charred Douglas fir trees that now lie on the ground, dried and cracking, because there’s so little demand at the mills.

To hear his neighbors tell it, the worst thing to happen since the Walbridge Fire has been Ken Bareilles.

It’s not just the neighbors. He’s seen as a bad actor by environmental watchdogs, regulators and others who have watched his emergency timber operation unfold on 106 acres in the sensitive Felta Creek watershed. Set among lush redwoods and ferns, the creek is a last refuge for endangered coho salmon.

Bareilles, for his part, has a different take on the unauthorized creek crossing, the hillside erosion, the flowing sediment, the tractor driven into the bed of Felta Creek and the host of violations documented by three state regulatory agencies over the past year.

According to him, they are the result of bad luck, poor advice, miscommunication and the relentless griping from residents who object to him logging fire-damaged trees up the hill from their homes along a narrow, private road.

He says Cal Fire and other agencies are only trying to pacify the critics by cracking down on him, and anyway, it’s only words and paper. So far there have been no fines or interference in his logging — though he remains under investigation by at least two state agencies. His one-year emergency logging permit, initially set to expire in October 2021, was even extended a year, like everyone else’s.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/landowner-under-fire-for-post-walbridge-fire-salvage-logging-violations/?ref=moststory

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Utilities need to do more to improve power grid, reduce wildfires, state audit finds

Kimberley Morales, THE MERCURY NEWS

A 91-page report by the state auditor says California utility regulators need to do more to ensure utility companies reduce the risk of wildfires.

According to the March audit, utilities led to two of the largest wildfires in the state from 1932-2021 including the Dixie Fire, caused by a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. line, which burned 963,000 acres and sits as California’s second-largest wildfire, and the Thomas Fire, which the report said was caused by Southern California Edison and burned 282,000 acres. The audit later adds that the cost of fighting fires has nearly doubled when comparing the 2016-2017 season to the 2020-2021 season from $1.9 billion to an estimated $3.5 billion.

The audit included that the state Office of Energy and Infrastructure Safety has failed to hold its standard for granting safety certifications to utilities such as PG&E despite serious deficiencies in mitigation plans.

“The office approved plans despite some utilities’ failure to demonstrate that they are appropriately prioritizing their mitigation activities, and subsequent reviews have found that some utilities failed to focus their efforts in high fire-threat areas,” wrote Michael Tilden, acting California state auditor in the public letter to the California Legislature.

Read more at https://www.mercurynews.com/2022/05/15/pge-is-not-doing-enough-to-reduce-wildfires-state-audit-finds/?

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The myth of forest biomass energy

Jenny Blaker and Janis Watkins, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE

Please ask your Supervisor to ban the local processing of forest biomass to bioenergy, and prohibit the export of local forest biomass for bioenergy.

On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump assumed the Presidency. The forest product industry almost immediately pushed a lobbying campaign to fully legitimize burning forests for energy. In 2016, industry scientists claimed to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that burning forest biomass is carbon neutral. Independent scientists said burning trees for energy is dirtier than coal.

In 2018, Republicans passed legislation establishing biomass as a “carbon neutral” fuel. This act was implemented by successive EPA heads – disgraced Scott Pruitt and coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler – and MAGA stalwart Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, along with corruption-prone Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. Our nation’s climate policy was in thrall to industry.

Forest “Health”

Trump is gone but his biomass legacy endures. Nationally and locally we are told the forests can be burned for “renewable” biomass energy because this helps improve forest “health.” Neither statement is true. We cannot trust slanted industry studies and models that claim we need forest treatments. They cherry-pick evidence and make questionable assumptions to reach pro-industry conclusions. The influence of money is driving the narrative recommending large continuing forest “treatments” to provide “feedstock” for biomass energy generation.

For example, the Forest Service’s budget depends on making money on logging. Its strategy for the wildfire crisis focuses on “thinning” (logging) on public lands to prevent wildfire intrusion into communities, targeting 80% removal in some areas. Many other scientists dispute this is the best way to mitigate community risk. “Thinning” makes the forest hotter, drier and windier – and more susceptible to wind-driven fire. Still, the industry pushes for more forest “feedstock” to fuel experimental biomass plants sited in the forests.

In 2022, the State of California issued a Roadmap targeting over 1 million acres of forest lands annually for “treatment.” This vast initiative also targets Emerging Opportunities for Forest Biomass, including biofuels.

Read more at https://www.sonomacountygazette.com/sonoma-county-news/the-myth-of-forest-biomass-energy/

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For 70 years, a Mendocino forest has been used to promote logging. Is it time to change its mission?

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

MENDOCINO COAST — Even in the fading light of dusk, a 200-foot-tall redwood known as the “Mama Tree” is an exalted presence.

Her imposing height and girth show she has been on earth far longer than anyone who might find comfort in her shade.

Near her base, a downed log serves as an altar, displaying stones, a seashell, pictures, a pink crystal triangle and a bird’s lost feather — talismans left by visitors who travel along a well-used trail nearby.

In Mama Tree’s branches, 65 feet above ground, a tented wooden platform occupied by a variety of committed protesters last year is vacant, waiting, a long banner hanging just below it.

“Save and Protect Jackson State,” it says. “The Forest of the People.”

For more than a year, this spot in the sprawling Jackson Demonstration State Forest has become a rallying point in an intensifying battle over the future of the nearly 50,000-acre expanse of public land, an area nearly twice as large as the city of San Francisco.

The forest, which extends east from the central Mendocino Coast about 100 miles northwest of Santa Rosa, was set aside seven decades ago to extol the virtues of responsible logging.

Now, however, activists say it’s time to rethink its purpose. Each massive redwood that is cut down can no longer absorb and store carbon from the atmosphere and becomes one less weapon in the battle against climate change.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/for-70-years-jackson-state-forest-has-been-used-to-promote-logging-is-it/

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Permit Sonoma releases updated draft of county Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Katherine Minkiewicz-Martine, SOCONEWS

This week Permit Sonoma, in collaboration with local fire agencies, community members and organizations, released the updated draft of the Sonoma County Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) for public review.

A CWPP is a detailed document that measures wildfire risks specific to an area and identifies ways to mitigate risks in a comprehensive plan. The plan also provides a prioritized list of projects that if implemented, can help reduce wildfire hazards.

Before the plans are submitted to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors for approval, Permit Sonoma will host a draft review meeting in each county district in order for the public to learn about the plan and provide input.

The virtual meeting dates for each district are as follows:

District 1 – Jan. 20, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

District 2 – Jan. 13, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

District 3 – Jan. 19, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

District 4 – Jan. 26, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

District 5 – Jan. 27, 6 – 7:30 p.m.

The public comment period for the draft CWPP is open until Feb. 28. Comments may be submitted to the Community Wildfire Protection Plan project page or via email at PermitSonoma-WildfirePlan@sonoma-county.org.

Read more at https://soconews.org/scn_county/permit-sonoma-releases-updated-draft-of-county-community-wildfire-protection-plan/article_e12e6f6e-749b-11ec-8a2a-17fd9e118f52.html?