“North Coast Timber Wars Flare Up”. by Will Parrish

California Gov. Jerry Brown is the only speaker at either the Democratic and Republican national conventions who has made climate change a focus of his remarks.  He touted that California has “a price on carbon.” Last week, I reported on the crisis facing the program to which Brown is referring, cap-and-trade, in a story for the East Bay Express called “Beyond Cap and-Trade.”
This story is being republished in next week’s edition of the Sacramento News and Review.

Also, I have a new story in this week’s North Bay Bohemian called “North Coast Timber Wars Flare Up. It also appears in the AVA. It’s a pretty long story. I’ll paste an excerpt below and also encourage you to read the full piece at this URL – http://www.bohemian.com/northbay/last-stands/Content?oid=2978137&showFullText=true. Feel free to weigh in by commenting on the Boehmian’s message board.
What else is going on with me? I am close to finishing a personal web site, have kicked off a book project, and have just completed a couple of other stories that I will send out a message about next week. More soon…
Thanks for reading,
[Excerpt from North Bay Bohemian Story – Last Stands]
The Marble Mountains are among the ecological jewels of Northern California’s national forest system and home to numerous old-growth conifer stands. In the 1990s, the U.S. Forest Service set aside many mature forest habitats as reserves for the benefit of old-growth-dependent species, such as the northern spotted owl, which is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2014, a series of wildfires known as the Westside Fire Complex burned across 183,000 acres of the broader region, most of it in the Klamath National Forest. In response, the Forest Service has designed timber sales that include more than 5,700 acres of clear-cuts, including fire-killed and living trees, many of them occurring in the mature forest reserves or on steep slopes above streams federally designated to promote the long-term survival of coho salmon.
redwoodsThe Forest Service often auctions off fire-impacted lands to timber companies for “salvage logging.” The Westside Plan is the largest post-fire timber sale in the recent history of northwestern California.
Klamath National Forest supervisor Patricia Grantham says the standing dead trees in the forest pose a major long-term fire hazard. By aggressively logging these areas of the forest, her agency is supplying logs to local mills and biomass power plants, contributing to the long-term health of the forest and protecting local residents’ safety.
“When fire returns to the area in the future, it will be smaller and less severe because of the actions we’re taking on the landscape today,” Grantham says.
But environmentalists and tribal members regard the Westside Plan as a giveaway to the timber industry of historic proportions.
“The Westside [Plan] is absolutely the worst project I’ve ever seen in Pacific Northwest national forests,” says Kimberly Baker of the Arcata-based Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC). She has been monitoring timber sales on national forests for the past 18 years.
The Karuk tribe, EPIC and three other environmental groups have filed suit in federal court to challenge the project. Logging began in April, and it is unclear how much of the land will remain intact when the judge reaches a verdict.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also expressed skepticism regarding the Forest Service’s proposal, noting that dead trees “greatly improve” the quality of habitat for spotted owls and other creatures as the forest naturally recovers over time.
According to Fish and Wildlife’s estimate, the Westside Plan could lead to the deaths of 103 northern spotted owls—at least 1 percent of the species’ entire population.
Many of the slopes where the logging is occurring are among the most unstable in the Klamath National Forest. They also happen to be right above several of the Klamath’s most important salmon-bearing streams. By removing anchoring vegetation and carving a spider-web pattern of roads and log landings, the logging threatens to bury the streams with silt.
The Karuk tribe worked with environmental groups to develop an alternative plan that would rely on prescribed fires to regenerate the land over the long run. Logging would be confined to ridgelines, for the purpose of developing fuel breaks, such that some logs would still feed local mills. Much of the Klamath Forest is the Karuk’s aboriginal territory.
The Forest Service’s Grantham says she incorporated most of the Karuk’s input. “The plan I ultimately decided on for the project and the Karuk Plan are about 75 percent similar,” Grantham says, “and in some ways we came all the way over to their way of thinking.”
Karuk tribe natural resources adviser Craig Tucker says that simply isn’t true. “In reality, the Forest Service basically told us we can go pound sand,” he says regarding the agency’s response to the Karuk management plan.
According to public records, the Forest Service has spent approximately $24 million developing the Westside logging plan and is auctioning most of the logs for a paltry $2.50 per truckload, thus generating only about $450,000 in revenue for the agency.
In May, tribal members and environmental activists blocked the road leading to the salvage logging project while holding up a banner that read “Karuk Land, Karuk Plan.” They are considering further civil disobedience as the logging proceeds.
“The Karuk tribe’s been here for at least 10,000 years,” Tucker says. “The Forest Service has been here for about a hundred. Yet they don’t listen.”