EPIC Joins the Fight to Preserve Jackson Demonstration State Forest

Matt Simmons, EPIC

EPIC logoThe land that is now called the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (“JDSF”) has been the home of the Coast Yuki and Northern Pomo peoples since time immemorial. The Coast Yuki and Northern Pomo used this coastal redwood forest as a place to gather food, and as a source for basket weaving materials and medicinal plants. They lived in harmony with the forest, only using redwood trees that had naturally fallen. During the 1850s, the newly created State of California initiated a genocidal campaign to rid Northern California of native Californians. The result was an 80% reduction in the population of Native Californians in Mendocino County and the sale of their lands by California for private non-native ownership.

It was in this context that the Caspar Lumber Company purchased a large tract of forest land and proceeded to systematically clear cut the original old-growth redwood forest. By 1947, almost the entire forest had been harvested at least once. After that, the State of California decided to purchase the land. The idea was that the newly created JDSF (officially created in 1949) would be a place for the State of California to demonstrate for private industrial timber owners how to harvest timber in a more efficient and less environmentally harmful manner. While logging has continued under the state’s ownership, and 75% of the forest has seen one or more harvest incursions, some of the forest has remained untouched for the past 90 years.  In that time, something miraculous has begun to happen; stands of new, second-growth forest have emerged, which are beginning to take on some of the characteristics of an old-growth redwood forest. Now, CAL FIRE has proposed several timber harvest plans within these second growth stands, and EPIC is very concerned.  

Large second growth trees in JDSF marked to be cut in an upcoming timber harvest. Photo by Matt Simmons

Because most private timberlands in California are operated as timber plantations where the timber is harvested every 40 years, second-growth forest stands like those found within JDSF are exceedingly rare. These second-growth forest stands provide critical habitat for a wide variety of threatened species. For example, Northern spotted owls depend on older forests for their unique habitat and these stands within JDSF are just beginning to take on the characteristics necessary for northern spotted owls to thrive. Another reason CAL FIRE should refrain from logging JDSF is that it provides ample recreation opportunities for Californians. JDSF is located very near the cities of Mendocino and Fort Bragg.  Because of this, the forest has developed into a place cherished by thousands of recreational users as a place to exercise and connect with nature. Now, CAL FIRE has plans to log more than four and a half square miles of the oldest remaining redwood groves, all in the most popular and recreated Western segment of the forest. Some of the harvests will be located so close to Mendocino Woodlands State Park, a popular summer camp destination, that campers will be forced to endure the sounds of chainsaws felling nearby trees from their cabins. CAL FIRE’s timber harvest plans also call for the closure of a large number of trails within JDSF which will severely limit recreational opportunities in the coming years. 

The result of a recent timber harvest in JDSF. Photo by Matt Simmons

Perhaps most shocking of all, CAL FIRE has decided to participate in climate denial. Scientists have known for decades that climate change is manmade. However, with language one would expect from the Trump Administration, the greenhouse gas emissions section of the timber harvest plans begin with the following equivocation: “exactly how and to what extent human activity plays a role in global climate change appears to be unknown.” CAL FIRE needs to be held accountable for the climate disinformation contained within its timber harvest plans.  We believe that CAL FIRE should be demonstrating how a forest can sequester carbon most effectively. Research has shown that mature second growth redwood forests sequester carbon at an especially high rate, so properly managing JDSF is a crucial piece of California’s climate goals. But, do we really trust an agency that denies that humans cause climate change to do so?

EPIC has partnered with local environmental organizations as well as the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians to advocate against these Timber Harvest Plans. Along with submitting comments highlighting the environmental problems and legal inadequacy of these plans, EPIC has begun advocating for a change in how JDSF is managed. Our hope is that, by stopping these timber harvests, JDSF can become one of the first “new old-growth” redwood forests in California.