Will the logger pay for the fires he is creating 1/2 mile from downtown Gureneville? “Taking out the fire-resistant Redwoods will remove their protective canopy leading to understory vegetation drying and increased wildfire spreading rates.”
Silver Estates logging update
Guerneville Forest Coalition: An update to our supporters
It’s been a while since our last update and there’s been a lot going on with the 224-acre Silver Estates logging plan in Guerneville.
First, we want to shout out a BIG thank you to everyone who has been supporting our efforts.
Since July, more than 200 letters of concern have been sent to CalFire with many heartfelt requests to halt the proposed logging. Some of you have also donated money, which we are using to get legal support. While we have found a first rate environmental lawyer, we urgently need more funds to submit a legal response before the end of public comment. Please donate if you can.
We have also continued to talk to our local Supervisor, Lynda Hopkins, who has taken the time to raise our concerns with County agencies.
So what’s the latest? CalFire
On November 3, 2020, CalFire (California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Prevention) received responses from the Silver Estates forester to various State and Local agency requests and concerns.
While there is some good news in these responses, the logging plan is still on track for approval.
A second review of the plan will be scheduled shortly by CalFire, possibly within the next three weeks, after which the public comment period will close. CalFire will then make its decision. Only after the decision is made will CalFire respond to public comments.
Here are our main take-aways from the Forester’s responses and his revisions to the timber harvest plan (THP):
Neeley Road culvert to be replaced but landslide risk still unacceptably high
It looks like our conversations with Supervisor Lynda Hopkins have helped to convince the landowner and the County of Sonoma that a major culvert on Neeley Road must be replaced. An agreement between the two is now in place. This is a win but the landowner still plans to log on landslide zones putting infrastructure and residents at risk.
Based on the opinion of an independent professional geologist, we have asked that the Neeley Road landslide complex be excluded from logging. In our view, if the County is going to the effort and expense to upgrade Neeley Road to enable the landowner’s timber harvest, the landowner could limit logging in these unstable areas to protect this investment.
We have also reviewed the Soil Erosion Hazard Rating in the logging plan and found that the forester underestimated winter rainfall intensity in the Guerneville area. Based on our analysis, the Erosion Hazard Rating would be increased from Moderate to High in unstable, landslide prone areas along Neeley Road.
Northern Spotted Owl (NSO) spotted!
After failing to conduct sufficient NSO surveys, the forester was required by the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to do a proper investigation. Guess what? They found a pair of nesting owls right on the edge of the plan area. These very rare owls are a threatened species and must be protected. The forester now has to put in place a series of measures to ensure the owls are not impacted by the logging. Unfortunately, it looks like the forester has proposed doing the absolute minimum required by law.
Other Wildlife Ignored
Despite several requests from the GFC, no other wildlife surveys have been released. This leads us to conclude that, despite claims to the contrary, the forester has failed to conduct surveys of other sensitive species. This is very disappointing not least because we have photographic evidence of at least one species (the Bald Eagle) in the vicinity of the plan area.
We have raised this issue with Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and CalFire but, short of a law suit, it is doubtful anything will happen. That said, if anyone has evidence of a sensitive species near the area to be logged, please let us know. Species include the Great Blue Heron, the Bald Eagle, the Townsend Big Eared bat, and the Pallid bat (to name just a few).
Risks to Water Quality
After we raised concerns with the Regional Water Quality Control Board, the forester has been required to develop a Pollution Prevention and Removal Plan. This details how he plans to remove debris and toxic material. Also, our concerns about the threat of potential damage to the irrigation lines and sprayers managed by the Russian River County Sanitation District (RRCSD) have also been addressed. A plan is in place to cease logging operations and inform the RRCSD in the event of any accidental breakage. We’ll be talking to the Russian River Watershed Protection Committee to see if, in their view, this is sufficient.
Long Term Fire Risk
We are still very concerned about the long term, post-harvest wildfire risk posed by the logging plan. In our opinion, the plan assesses wildfire hazard and risk as if the logging was conducted in a remote rural area. The reality, of course, is that the logging is located adjacent to hundreds of homes and less than half a mile from downtown Guerneville. Why is this important? Because the timber harvest plan has no comprehensive ground and ladder fuel reduction plan. Taking out the fire-resistant Redwoods will remove their protective canopy leading to understory vegetation drying and increased wildfire spreading rates. So, in addition to exposing unstable soil to gully erosion, tree canopy removal will increase forest litter drying during summer months, especially under continued drought and global warming conditions, leading to increased landslide potential and wildﬁre risk. We will be talking again to Supervisor Hopkins about this issue, although, to date, the County has deferred to CalFire.
Now we come to the most exciting news. We have been working with the Open Space District and Sonoma Land Trust to see if they would consider working with the landowner to conserve the land. Both organizations have expressed interest and will be meeting with the landowner to gauge his interest in a conservation outcome. While we can’t get our hopes up too high, we are dreaming of a day when you can hike and bike through the Redwoods from Guerneville to Monte Rio and beyond!
As you can see, the GFC working group has been very busy and we’re buoyed by your continuing interest and support.
This next phase of our work will be critical and expensive!
If you’d like to accrue some tax savings as we approach the end of the fiscal year, please consider donating to our cause. All donations are tax deductible and virtually every dollar will go towards protecting the Redwood forest and our community (our admin costs are negligible as we are all volunteers).
Thank you, and Happy Holidays!
Guerneville Forest Coalition Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit us at: www.guernevilleforestcoalition.org
Friends of Felta Creek,
We are writing to provide a brief update on the status of our efforts to protect Felta Creek.
We’re sure you’ll agree: 2020 has been a year we’ll never forget. As if a pandemic, a prolonged drought, and rising temperatures weren’t enough, our watershed sustained real damage from the Walbridge fire.
The many letters and reports submitted by Friends of Felta Creek supporters no doubt contributed to the denial of the Fox Meadow’s Timber Harvest Plan in late August. Very few THPs are actually denied, so we took this as another victory in guarding against a very aggressive industrial logging plan. However, the real reason for the denial, as we understand it, was the need for CalFire to respond to so many valid questions surrounding the soundness of the plan. After three months the task remained incomplete and the landowner refused an extension.
Then came the 2020 fire season. The subject property has since been granted an Emergency Exemption to harvest timber under the rules of salvage harvesting post fire. The Mill Creek watershed was hardest hit by the Walbridge fire and many neighbors have received salvage permits to harvest trees with minimal application hurtles. We appreciate the need to clear dead and dying trees and make the best of those that may die as a result of the fire damage. However, we remain concerned that limited CalFire inspection personnel, combined with a record number of landowners seeking the highest possible yields, will result in over-cutting.
Our understanding is that much of the fire on the Fox Meadows property was a slow burning ground fire. While most trees were not significantly damaged, CalFire is allowing harvesting to any tree “touched” by fire. The good news is that Felta Creek Road will not be used as a haul route. A new exit to the North via the Kreck property has been discovered as a viable option.
We cannot overstate our relief that hundreds of logging trucks and other vehicles will be diverted from Felta Creek Road. The road, the fish and the neighbors will be spared a nightmare.
Our understanding is that logging operations will not commence until the spring. Although all Forest Practice Rules are to be followed under Emergency Exemptions, we fear that with literally millions of acres burned in California, the proper oversight of operations will be impossible and create opportunities for less than thoughtful harvests. We are especially aware of the impacts that any excessive timber activity could pose to the Felta Creek watershed and endangered salmonids.
Various environmental agency staff and local advocacy groups have been alerted to our concerns. NOAA has been especially responsive and other agencies such as Fish and Wildlife and the Regional Water Quality Control Board have expressed that their oversight will continue when the harvest commences.
In the meantime, we continue conversations with a number of interested organizations and individuals to keep the pressure on both oversight agencies and the landowner. Long-term conservation of the property though the purchase of an easement or the land remains the highest priority. There are numerous stakeholders including land trust organizations and neighbors who stand behind such a plan.
Thank you for your interest and your past support. We will endeavor to make brief updates available on our website ( friendsoffeltacreek.org/news) as news unfolds. Most likely, we hope it will be a quiet winter.
Stay safe and healthy, come walk the beautiful Felta Creek canyon road and take good care of one another,
Quincey and Dan Imhoff
Gualala River Logging Plans
There are no new developments for the appeal on the Dogwood logging plan that has been a focus of legal challenges in the past few years as well as the Endangered Species Act case brought by the Center of Biological Diversity along with Friends of the Gualala River (FOGR). We will let you know as soon as we are on these developments.
In the meantime, logging continues. Besides the many issues created by logging, the plan proposed along the Annapolis Road will impact the viewshed of that area. If you have visited this area in the past, you might want to comment to the record how it will affect you to see a sparse forest……