Forest and Fisheries Restoration Funding from Wood Product Sales
Forty isn’t old, some say, if you’re a tree. Forty years it’s been since I first set foot in Redwood Country, my adopted home. Forty years of seeing countless log trucks with forty-to-eighty-year-old trees on their way to industry and commerce. And forty years since our watershed restoration movement started to hit its stride with real accomplishments on the ground, overcoming logging excesses of the 1950s and 1960s and beyond, attracting strong and meaningful support from the community and from elected officials.
This summer, I hear voices in the woods—vireos, tanagers, scolding jays, groaning firs, and yarder whistles—in Forest Glen, Summit Valley, Lacks Creek with its forty-foot-tall second growth. From Sacramento, there are echoes from an evocative number: AB 1492.
This law, officially the “Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund Program,” made major revisions to the original Forest Practices Act of 1973, enacted during the first Jerry Brown administration. Funded by a new one-percent tax on retail sales of wood products, the revised program is administered jointly by the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and CalEPA, coordinated by a newly created CNRA Assistant Secretary for Forest Resources Management position. A total of $4 million in new grant funding over the next two years has been allocated for “forest restoration projects to benefit listed salmonids.” Annual staffing expenditures have risen to over $22 million. A series of budget reductions have left California Department of Fish and Wildlife at less than one-third of that amount for Timber Harvest Plan review—a level that is no longer a “functional equivalent” of judicial review, according to comments filed by CNPS, EPIC, Forests Forever, Center for Biological Diversity and many others.
Concerns linger among conservation advocates that watershed-scale cumulative impacts analysis, opinions from the public and from independent scientists should be considered independently from the “Effectiveness Monitoring Committee”—a holdover from the original structure within the existing Board of Forestry staff. AB 1492 calls for the creation of “Ecological Performance Measures,” which would in concept be more independent of economic or political concerns since the costs of regulation and restoration are borne by the lumber-buying public, not just the permittees or the General Fund. Policies are still being developed by and for various working groups this fiscal year and next, according to a Preliminary Executive Summary on CNRA’s website.
As I, a layman, look out over these (mostly) green landscapes today, in the latest year of our latest drought, I can see that an uninformed skeptic might inquire, “Why does the forest need restoration? It’s recovering by itself.” But forest restoration must include watershed-wide and species-inclusive restoration. Impacts on watercourses and fisheries are mostly unseen—the deranged hydrology, the debris and disturbance that present-day hands on the land are painstakingly remediating.
It’s a right livelihood, and a growing one. Over the past forty years fluvial geomorphologists have studied how our region’s magnificent rivers have changed as a result of industrial logging practices and restoration efforts. The result is that today workers are using big machines to enhance in-stream habitat, creating conditions that salmon need to thrive. Today’s successful in-stream restoration projects include placement of “large woody debris,” i.e. whole trees and logs, using helicopters and track-driven excavators, to create critical habitat for juvenile and mature salmonids.
The implementation of AB 1492 coincides with historic drought, with its recurring hazards of fish mortality and disease. It will take scientific research, documentation and just plain hard work in the watersheds to sustain our wild creatures, and, ultimately, to sustain ourselves. This is a good time to contribute to the current discussion, or to find out how to make a living in this exciting field of fisheries/forests restoration for our salmonids. They need us! Do add your voice, and get out in the woods.
And let’s wish the 1973 California Forest Practices Act, however imperfect, a belated Happy Fortieth.
The North Group offers the following hikes in September. All our hikes are open to the public. Contact hike leaders for more information:
Sunday, August 2—North Group Sierra Club Redwood National Park Skunk Cabbage Trail Hike. Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Moderate difficulty, 7.5 miles round trip, less than 1000 feet elevation change. Carpools: Meet 9 a.m. Ray’s (Valley West) Shopping Center, 10 a.m. trailhead, clearly marked left turn 1 mile north of Orick. Leader Ned, firstname.lastname@example.org, 707-825-3652 message phone.
Sunday, August 23—North Group Sierra Club Redwood National Park Emerald Ridge Loop Hike. A gentle descent through lush forest to Redwood Creek, then we head downstream to the Tall Trees area. Back on shady trail, we’ll hike Tall Trees Loop, and ascend back to our trailhead. Bring water, lunch, sunscreen, and footwear suited for trails, loose gravel, and water. No dogs. Moderate difficulty, 5 miles, less than 1000 ft. elevation. Carpools 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s) Parking Area. Meet 9:45 a.m. Kuchel Visitor Center (Hwy. 101, one mile south of Orick) leader Melinda 707-668-4275.
Saturday, September 12—North Group Sierra Club Mad River Buttes 6 Rivers National Forest Hike. Come explore this beautiful potential wilderness area. Sturdy boots a must. Bring lunch and plenty of water. No dogs. Moderate difficulty, 8 miles round trip, less than 1000 feet elevation change. Carpools: Meet 9 a.m. Ray’s (Valley West) Shopping Center. Leader Ned, email@example.com, 707-825-3652 message phone.