Chad Hanson and Char Miller, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
Responding to the tragic losses of homes and lives in wildland fires in California over the past year, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a “major offensive” against fire, in the form of a “Forest Carbon Plan.” The governor proposes to use $254 million of taxpayer money to double logging levels in California’s forests — to “at least” 500,000 acres a year — and to achieve it, he wants to reduce environmental protections.
Although the governor’s May 10 proposal is ostensibly designed to protect human communities from forest fires and to mitigate climate change, it ignores and misrepresents current science. The Forest Carbon Plan will exacerbate climate change while doing little to protect communities from fire.
Most of the devastating impacts to communities from recent California wildland fires have occurred in grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands — not in forests. This includes the October 2017 fires in northern California, and the December 2017 Thomas fire and Creek fire in southern California. Claiming to protect towns from fire by increasing logging in remote forests is a bit like proposing the construction of a sea wall in the Mojave Desert to protect coastal populations from rising oceans.
Moreover, reducing environmental protections in forests, and increasing logging, as Brown proposes, does not tend to curb fire behavior — in fact, it typically does the opposite. This is because logging reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy, creating hotter and drier conditions, and removes tree trunks, which don’t burn readily, while leaving behind “slash debris” — kindling-like branches and treetops
Read more at http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-hanson-miller-governor-fire-orders-20180525-story.html
Nigel Duara, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
During the dry summer of 2011, wind gusts sent a 75-foot aspen tumbling into a power line, sparking a fire on federal land that burned for five weeks over an area the size of Manhattan. All that was left in the hottest burn zones was a silent swath of blackened trees and ash-covered ground.
Federal foresters decided the towering ponderosa pines would never return and declared the area dead, the first step in a process to allow timber companies to harvest trees on public land that would otherwise be off-limits.
But a growing body of fire research indicates that the federal salvage strategy creates more problems than it solves by stunting tree regrowth, denying habitat to a variety of species and increasing the risk of erosion.
Salvage logging destroys the forest’s initial regrowth efforts in nutrient-rich soil and needlessly removes shrubs that are probably beneficial to sapling trees, short-circuiting the natural life cycle of the forest, according to research.
“It’s kicking the forest when it’s down,” said Chad Hanson of the John Muir Project, an environmental nonprofit that opposes salvage logging.
The Forest Service and timber companies say that the dead wood must be removed before the forest can grow and that shrubs have to be killed off with herbicides so the conifers have sun to grow again.
Though part of the Las Conchas fire site was salvage-logged, another section outside New Mexico’s remote Jemez Springs was not.
Four years after the blaze, the Jemez Springs area today is alive with Gambel oak and three-toed woodpeckers, along with occasional conifer saplings growing amid the brush.
“See this?” Hanson said, pulling back a strand of oak to reveal a rubbery green pine sapling just an inch tall. “They said this wouldn’t be here, but we found it. And there’s more.”
By contrast, in places like California’s Rim fire site, salvage crews immediately began felling burned pines and dying trees, spraying the area with herbicide and planting conifer saplings. The result is little ground vegetation but stands of artificially planted conifers returning apace.
Read more at: Nature replants its own burned forests, environmentalists say
Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The Kashia Band of Pomo Indians wants to expand its remote rancheria, and although Sonoma County officials are supportive, they want greater assurance to be able to weigh in on any timber harvest plans for the tribe’s newly acquired property.
The Kashia Pomos two years ago bought 480 forested acres next to their Stewarts Point Rancheria, about 30 miles north of Bodega Bay, with plans to preserve their cultural and spiritual sites and use the land for tribal gatherings.
“We don’t have a lot of really big, long-term plans for it,” Tribal Chairman Reno Franklin said Friday, adding that the tribe dismissed any possibility of a casino or commercial development due to the remote location.
Nor is the tribe’s intent to commercially harvest marijuana, as some tribes are pursuing.
“We take any drug use really seriously and don’t want to perpetuate it into the community,” he said. “We will not be entertaining, or considering in any way, marijuana cultivation on that land.”
The only intent, he said, is to “sustainably harvest timber.”
Because the 860-member tribe has applied to have its new property placed into federal trust — which would remove it from county jurisdiction and local land use and zoning guidelines — county officials want to see more analysis of foreseeable environmental impacts, in particular logging.
Read more via Sonoma County seeks assurances from Pomo regarding timber | The Press Democrat.
Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A swath of coveted timberland near the town of Gualala is being sold to a Northern California family whose existing forest product interests include the Redwood Empire sawmills in Philo and Cloverdale, where logs from the site have been processed for some 30 years.
The Roger Burch family, owner of Redwood Empire and its parent corporation, Pacific States Industries Inc. in San Jose, is expected to close escrow on the property in June, taking possession of nearly 30,000 acres of mixed redwood and Douglas fir at the mouth of the Gualala River currently owned by Gualala Redwoods Inc.
Burch, who has long had timber holdings in Sonoma and Mendocino counties as well as the Bay Area, said he intends to continue what he called GRI’s intelligent management of the site.
“We think that property has been managed as well as any property in California — better than any property that we’re aware of elsewhere — and it’s our intention to practice the same forestry that’s been practiced there,” he said.
Reaction to the sale has been mixed, however, with some expressing disappointment the land will remain in the hands of a commercial timber company rather than conservation interests that made an unsuccessful bid for the property.
Chris Poehlmann, president of Friends of the Gualala River, a local nonprofit, said the watershed’s recovery from decades of logging depends on what he called “a lighter hand of somebody who has those kinds of principles and methods and techniques and attitudes toward the forest versus a commercial timber company.”
But many in the environmental community said the fact the buyer is a family-owned company with a local presence is a good omen, especially given the recent rise of timber investment funds and the high-yield pressures that could come into play.
“If you log all your trees you have an empty mill,” said Chris Kelly, California program director for The Conservation Fund, which led a consortium of conservation agencies that also bid on the property. “If you have an empty mill, you can’t sell to the lumber yard of Orchard Supply. So I think there’s an argument to be made that this is a healthy sign of investment in sustainable timber management.
Read more via Timber family buys 30,000 acres of forest near | The Press Democrat.
In March 2011, the Sierra Club and the Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club (BRRC) won a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court, which required the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL-FIRE) to rescind a timber management plan that it had previously issued to the Bohemian Club to log its Bohemian Grove property outside Monte Rio on the Russian River. The Court’s ruling was based largely on the fact that the NTMP had not considered a range of feasible, less damaging alternatives, a central provision of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The Sierra Club and BRRC are pleased to announce that a mediated settlement has now been reached with the Bohemian Club over its long-range logging plans. A resubmitted Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP), revised to reflect the terms of the settlement agreement, has recently been released for public comment by CAL-FIRE.
The court decision in Sierra Club v CAL-FIRE has put the agency on notice that it can no longer approve logging plans until it has considered a range of feasible, less damaging alternatives. “A proper consideration of alternatives should improve environmental review and better protect our forests,” said Paul V. Carroll, the attorney who represented the Sierra Club and the BRRC through the legal proceedings and mediation.
For more information, see http://www.redwood.sierraclub.org/sonoma/Forest.html.