California Forestry Reform Moves Forward
Implementation of California’s new Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration (TRFR) Program continues, following the enactment of AB 1492 in 2012. State officials and other stakeholders met in Ukiah in December for the latest in a series of public hearings to collaborate on “Planning Watershed Pilot Projects” and other aspects of the program.
Now in the early stages of the Program, there is a real opportunity for citizen environmentalists, scientists, restoration practitioners, and other stakeholders, including large and small landowners and the timber industry, to take advantage of this new publicly-funded, science-based approach to conserving the public’s shared natural heritage of our magnificent productive forests.
The watershed pilot projects will assess cumulative effects of past and present logging practices to identify specific restoration needs. The projects will serve as a “laboratory” for increasing efficiency and effectiveness in gathering actionable data and developing a set of best practices to serve all stakeholders.
The December meeting was attended by over 50 people, and early comments emphasized their vision that the working group be active participants, not just advisors. Other remarks pointed to the key importance of describing watershed conditions at the outset, to include original conditions as well as subsequent forest damage. In order to chart a realistic pathway to an optimally functioning ecosystem, all participants should have a common understanding of the starting point.
Timber Harvest Plans (THPs), while a potential source of historical watershed health data, may be subject to bias—the reported data may arise from a narrow set of legal permit requirements, rather than from true scientific inquiry.
Early skeptics decried AB 1492 a “backroom deal” and a “taxpayer subsidy” of some of California’s largest landowners and timber operators. In addition to the one percent tax on retail lumber products, the bill also provides an extension of time limits for individual THP’s and sets some liability limits for parties responsible for wildland fire damage to public resources. Under the TRFR program, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection’s administrative responsibility for logging regulation on private lands is now formally shared with the departments of Environmental Protection and Conservation and the State and Regional Water Quality Boards. An annual report to the Legislature is mandated.
Funding from the TRFR Program also goes to the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program. Urgency for these reforms was created by the budget problems of 2009-2010 that led to appalling staff shortages and inability to carry out THP reviews as intended by the original Forest Practice Act of 1973.
Judging from the form and content of these initial public meetings for the pilot projects, there is hope for some improvement in outcomes for our imperiled wildlife. With the State’s increased commitment to gathering scientific data, increased funding to restore damaged watersheds, and more opportunities for input from the public, we should expect to make some headway against the serious losses our forests and rivers have suffered from industrialized forestry, road-building and other impacts over the years. I have some faith in our ability to mitigate some of these problems with more people involved armed with more knowledge of what we need to do.
One need not be a Sierra Club member to participate in these outings. Please join us!
Saturday, February 20. North Group Sierra Club Del Norte Redwoods State Park Last Chance Coastal Trail Hike. Join us for this eight-mile ramble through lush old-growth on a stretch of Redwood Highway replaced in the 1930s. We may glimpse waters below coastal bluffs, while we pause before returning as we came. Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Carpools at 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s) Shopping Center, 10:30 a.m. Damnation Creek trailhead (3.3 mi. north of Wilson Creek bridge, west side Hwy. 101). Leader Ned, 707-825-3652.
Heavy rain cancels.
Saturday, March 12. North Group Sierra Club Prairie Creek State Park Ossagon Trail Hike. We will hike on an old overgrown road from Newton B. Drury Parkway through majestic redwoods, spruce and alder to Ossagon Rocks on a remote part of Gold Beach. We will explore the beach, tides permitting, before returning, for about a five-mile round trip. Bring water and lunch. No dogs. Carpools 9 a.m. Valley West (Ray’s) Shopping Center, 10:30 a.m. Ossagon trailhead, or by prior arrangement. Leader Ned, 707-825-3652. Heavy rain cancels.