Davis administration logging plan gets mixed reaction
SACRAMENTO – California’s most comprehensive logging rules in a decade went before the Board of Forestry on Tuesday, where they were attacked by environmentalists as too little, too late and by timber interests as too much, too soon.
The board, missing its original deadline, delayed action on the proposed regulations after a day of testimony. A bill signed days ago by Gov. Gray Davis gives the board several more months to act, delaying implementation of any rules until after Jan. 1.
The rules would govern how much timber can be cut on private land near streams and rivers, and require loggers to avoid clogging waterways with silt and sediment. The rules would strengthen environmental protections, including those for salmon and other fish and wildlife, while still allowing commercial logging.
The regulations would apply to loggers who operate on California’s 8 million acres of private property. Their greatest impact would be in the Northern California coastal hills and parts of the Sierra Nevada.
The board, which sets the state’s logging policies, was caught squarely in the crossfire of state and federal officials, environmentalists and fishing interests – who alternately urged the panel to take action quickly, decide only some of the rules, or not act at all.
A representative of the National Marine Fisheries Service urged the board to speedily approve the rules.
”If you don’t take action, there will be a serious consequence. That consequence will not go away,” said Joe Blum. ”We’ll go through another spawning season, another migration period and nothing will be done.”
But Jim Ostrowski of the California Licensed Foresters Association told the board not to move forward with the set of rules.
”It is seriously flawed and the process needs to be started over,” he said. ”To think that we can have a very simple, one-size-fits-all approach does not sit right with the professional foresters.”
Ostrowski asked the board to start a new round of hearings, and appoint an independent task force to study the issue.
Loggers say the rules are overly restrictive and unfairly limit the commercial viability of their holdings.
The Sierra Club and other environmental groups said the proposal does not go far enough to protect endangered and threatened species.
The plan would require loggers to leave at least 85 percent of the forest canopy up to 75 feet from the edge of any stream that has fish in it, as opposed to the 50 percent that is required to be left now. From 75 feet to 150 feet from the edge of the stream, about two-thirds of the canopy would have to be retained.
In addition, loggers would have to leave at least five large trees every 350 feet on either side of the stream. Currently, they are required to leave two large trees per acre.
There are no zero-cut zones near the streams, as urged by environmentalists and which are part of the recent Headwaters Forest agreement.
”There should be a 200- to 300-foot no-cut zone,” said Susan Stephenson of the Oakland-based Living Forest Project.