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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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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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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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Refuge no more: Forested Sonoma County enclave laid bare by Walbridge fire — and now, by salvage logging

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A group of ravens fled south against the bright summer sky, escaping the noisy chopper that rose above the ridgeline, starting its daily shift plucking charred, downed trees from steep canyons within the Walbridge fire footprint.

The disturbed birds weren’t the only ones troubled by the din and commotion that have penetrated the once serene Mill Creek watershed — a lushly forested haven before lightning-sparked wildfire ravaged the region last summer.

The flames burned hottest in the remote creek canyons here, west of Healdsburg, and around Guerneville’s Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve, which remains closed, the risk of burned, standing timber still deemed too high for visitors even 11 months after the fire.

Residents and landowners traumatized by the loss of their homes and community last August are grieving a changed environment, as well, and what feels to many like an invasion, as an occupying force of heavy equipment operators and crews from multiple agencies remains at work in the area.

But what was simply a prolonged intrusion to be endured became acutely personal and painful over the past few weeks, as Pacific Gas & Electric contractors began tagging stately coast redwood trees for removal from burned-out home sites.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/refuge-no-more-forested-sonoma-county-enclave-laid-bare-by-walbridge-fire/

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Gualala River logging project clears hurdle in state court as federal case ramps up

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

A legal battle over plans to log in the lower Gualala River flood plain is heading into a fifth year, despite a recent victory in state appeals court by Gualala Redwood Timber and Cal Fire which first approved the project back in 2016.

The fight over the 342-acre timber project in the northwest corner of Sonoma County adjacent Gualala Point Regional Park is now shifting to a new case gearing up in federal court.

But the bottom line is still the same. Gualala Redwood Timber and its owner, Roger Burch of Healdsburg, want to cut timber from the watershed to feed local sawmills that Burch also owns.

Friends of the Gualala River, a 30-year-old grassroots nonprofit organization supported by like-minded groups around the region, is seeking to block the harvest, which is targeting stands of second-growth forest including some century-old redwoods.

At issue is what’s described in the group’s federal suit as “one of California’s last remaining mature riparian redwood forest.”

Charles Ivor, president of Friends of the Gualala River characterized the forest as having evolved over thousands of years to provide a rich and balanced ecosystem only to be nearly wiped out by the log production that helped build San Francisco and much of the North Coast.

Gualala Redwood Timber agents have consistently maintained their plan adheres to state forest practice rules and restrictions developed specifically to protect imperiled steelhead trout and salmon runs in the Gualala River.

Read more at: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/gualala-river-logging-project-clears-hurdle-in-state-court-as-federal-case/?

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Op-Ed: Don’t believe self-serving messengers. Logging will not prevent destructive wildfires

Chad Hanson, LOS ANGELES TIMES

My community of Big Bear City, in the mountains east of Los Angeles, had a tense week recently. For a few nerve-racking days, the El Dorado fire, which has burned more than 20,000 acres in and around the San Bernardino National Forest, threatened to move our way.

The fire had seen little movement in the previous days, despite the fact that it was burning in dense forests with many dead trees and downed logs. Weather conditions had been cool and calm. Then things changed, and quickly. The weather shifted to hot, dry and windy. Right away, the El Dorado fire began spreading much more rapidly, toward Big Bear. We were notified to prepare for potential evacuation. Several days later, temperatures cooled again, winds died down and fire activity calmed.

Scenarios like this are playing out across the western United States, especially in California and Oregon. Many homes have been lost and, tragically, at least 30 lives too. Numerous communities have been forced to evacuate, displacing thousands of families. People are scared and looking for answers.

Meanwhile, as wildfires continue in parts of the West that don’t often burn, a troubling new form of climate change denial has crept into the public dialogue, and it is only increasing the threats to public safety.

The logging industry — and the Republican and Democratic politicians whose reelection campaigns it finances — are busy telling the press and the public that they should focus on “forest management” in remote wildlands, rather than on climate change and community wildfire preparedness. Joining this chorus is a group of agency and university scientists funded by the Trump administration.

Logging bills are now being promoted in Congress, ostensibly as solutions. Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) introduced a bill last month that would severely erode environmental laws to increase commercial logging in our national forests. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced a bill that would triple funding to subsidize logging on federal forestlands.
Continue reading “Op-Ed: Don’t believe self-serving messengers. Logging will not prevent destructive wildfires”

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Chopping down and burning our forests for electricity is not a climate solution

Mary Anne Hitt and Danna Smith, THE HILL

Addressing the climate crisis has finally become a major national priority for the public this election season, but that’s also prompted troubling discussions in the energy sector and on Capitol Hill about increasing the use of biomass energy, or burning plant materials like wood, to produce electricity.

We need to set the record straight on this: chopping down our forests and burning them for electricity will not reduce carbon pollution and will actually exacerbate the climate crisis. The best course of action is to dramatically build out our clean energy resources, like solar, wind, and energy efficiency, and retire all biomass and fossil fuel plants. Period.

Forests should never be used to serve our electricity needs, they are too valuable as “carbon sinks” – sucking carbon out of the atmosphere as opposed to putting carbon into it. Additionally, biomass energy inevitably leads to deforestation. For example, the EU’s use of biomass in place of coal is already accelerating logging in wetlands and coastal hardwood forests across the Southeastern U.S. After being ripped out of these historic forests, trees designated for biomass are reduced to wood pellets and shipped to power plants where they are burned, releasing large amounts of carbon pollution in the process.

The reality is that utility companies and the biomass industry are attempting to paint burning trees as “renewable, green, climate friendly energy” so that they and their allies can exploit government subsidies and continue raking in big profits at the expense of public health and technologies that are actually sustainable. The biomass industry’s argument depends on claims that the forests they cut grow back, thereby reabsorbing any carbon that was emitted. But, this is not the case.

The truth is that when forests are clear-cut and the trees burned for fuel, carbon that was otherwise stored in the forest is emitted to the atmosphere. It can take a forest anywhere from 40 to 100 years of regrowth to reabsorb that same amount of carbon, and the science shows that our climate can’t wait that long. To have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate impacts, we must reduce emissions rapidly over the next decade and start restoring degraded forests across the world, including here in the U.S.

Read more at https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/energy-environment/456977-chopping-down-and-burning-our-forests-for-electricity

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Humans are speeding extinction and altering the natural world at an ‘unprecedented’ pace

Brad Plumer, THE NEW YORK TIMES

Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.

Read more at: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/06/climate/biodiversity-extinction-united-nations.html