Matt Simmons, EPIC Staff Attorney
Hey EcoNews readers. It feels like about the fifth time I’ve written an update on the campaign to conserve Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF), but that just goes to show how committed local activists, environmentalists, and tribal members are to ensuring that this special place is protected.
To recap, JDSF is a state-owned commercial timberland located in Mendocino County between the cities of Fort Bragg and Willits. The land is the ancestral homeland of the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki peoples and was stolen from them during the California genocide. The California Department of Forestry & Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) currently manages the forest by writing timber harvest plans (THPs), approving those plans, and then selling them to private logging companies. Logging operations were paused in 2021 due to safety concerns related to forest defenders and ongoing tribal consultation.
JDSF is special for a number of reasons. The forest houses incredibly sacred Native American sites and is a cultural landscape for local Indigenous People. Thanks in part to decades of citizen advocacy, the forest has been managed more lightly than the surrounding private timberlands. For instance, from 2001 to 2009 all logging in the forest was paused due to a lawsuit brought by Vince Taylor and other activists. Because of this, the forest is also one of the only places in California where second growth redwood trees are beginning to reach 150+ years of age, meaning that it has the potential to become a “new” old growth forest in the future. The forest also serves as a refuge for northern spotted owl, coho salmon, and other species that depend on healthy forests. JDSF also offers numerous outdoor recreation opportunities including popular mountain biking trails and mushroom foraging. All of these benefits are threatened by proposed logging operations in JDSF, and the Save Jackson Coalition has been actively lobbying for a change in management away from commercial logging and towards a more holistic approach.
CAL FIRE shocked everyone when it announced in August that logging would resume on four current THPs located in JDSF. CAL FIRE made this announcement without coming to a resolution with the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, one of the tribes with ancestral ties to JDSF. Logging has already resumed on the Red Tail and Chamberlain Confluence THPs. Forest defenders have reported seeing large redwood logs, the largest measuring over 55 inches at the cut end, being cut in the Red Tail THP. This comes at the beginning of the wet season when logging is even more harmful to forest and river ecosystems. Forest defenders recently sent us images of muddy, rutted logging roads that are the direct result of CAL FIRE’s decision to resume operations during the wet weather period. These roads will increase erosion and result in the delivery of heavy sediment into nearby waterways which threatens endangered coho salmon in the already polluted Noyo River. As of this writing, there are still plans where operations have not yet restarted. These plans included the Caspar 500 Plan, which contains mature second growth trees; and Soda Gulch, which houses a Native American sacred site.
In response to CAL FIRE’s announcement, the Save Jackson Coalition has held numerous protests, rallies, and demonstrations in both Mendocino and Sacramento. Perhaps most dramatically, the Coalition conducted a rally at the joint California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) and CAL FIRE headquarters located in Sacramento during CNRA’s 30×30 kick-off event. The purpose of the rally was to point out the hypocrisy of pledging to conserve 30 percent of the state while continuing to log mature redwoods on stolen public lands.