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Dorothy King Young Chapter – P.O. Box 985 – Point Arena, CA 9548

July 17, 2002

Christopher P. Rowney, Director
California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection
P O Box 944246
Sacramento Ca 94244-2460

Re: Draft Environmental Impact Report

Jackson State Forest Management Plan

Dear Mr. Rowney:

The following comments are submitted on behalf of the Dorothy King Young (DKY) Chapter of the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) and Draft Management Plan (DFMP) for the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF).

Previous Comment Letter: Although I submitted a letter, dated May 30, 2001, commenting on the JDSF Draft Management Plan, and received a written reply from you, and a phone call from JDSF Manager, Mark Jamison, in response, that letter was not included with the other comments in the DEIR. Please make all my comments part of the administrative record.

General Observation: The public pressure to restore some or all of the ecosystems within JDSF is partly due to the fact that there is so little forested parkland on the Mendocino Coast. Since JDSF comprises nearly 50,000 acres of public land, it is to be expected that the public would want some say in how that land is utilized.

Objectives of Management Plan: The DFMP, on P. 24, states that "The primary objectives of the Plan are to maintain healthy forested landscapes, healthy streams and a financially viable timber management program, in a manner applicable to small and large landowners in the redwood region."

CNPS maintains that a "healthy forested landscape" is one with a high level of biological diversity for each particular vegetation type and functioning, intact, ecosystems. This implies preservation of understory plants and other life forms that contribute to the health of the ecosystem. The DFMP should explain how biodiversity will be achieved and sustained while viable timber operations take place.

The DFMP goes on to claim that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) "maintains a vigorous research and demonstration program …" designed to "address public trust resource issues at a comprehensive landscape level." CNPS must dispute this claim, since 1) JDSF has no permanent biological science staff; 2) Neither the DFMP or the DEIR provide any plan for ongoing, peer-reviewed research; and 3) JDSF’s research and demonstration programs thus far have done little to address "public trust resource issues" to the satisfaction of the large public sector that regards plants, fungi and invertebrates as public trust resources.

Page 140 of the DEIR invokes the Native Plant Protection Act (NPPA) of 1977. CNPS has obtained legal opinion that provisions of the NPPA do not take effect until requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been met. CNPS’s position is supported by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection and the California Attorney General’s Office defense of the lawsuit filed by Donald Weburg on this topic earlier this year. Therefore, references to NPPA should be deleted from the DEIR.

Silvicultural Goals: The DEIR (P 172) states the goal of managing to preserve and/or recruit old growth groves and late seral stands. The area of mature tree habitat to be so managed is stated to be 11,649 acres, or less than 24% of JDSF’s total acreage. (It is not clear from the DEIR how much habitat would be preserved as "old growth aggregations".) While this is laudable, the DFMP and DEIR do not demonstrate that it is sufficient to achieve the DEIR’s Goal #3 to "promote and maintain the health, sustainability, ecological processes and biological diversity of the Forest and watersheds …".

As an example, an informal plant survey by CNPS members came up with over 80 native plant species along the riparian corridor in Brandon Gulch, indicating a high level of biodiversity. Given that this area is currently proposed for logging under an approved THP, it is not clear from the DFMP or the DEIR the extent to which Brandon Gulch would be managed to promote late seral characteristics.

Nor is it clear that the plan to restrict conifer species diversity outlined on P 176 of the DEIR is compatible with preservation of biological diversity. Many life forms are supported by conifers other than redwood or Douglas-fir, and by native hardwoods.

Research and Demonstration: The section on PP 26 and 27 of the DFMP should specify that JDSF’s the research and demonstration programs are aimed at timber management, rather than forest management. A forest is a complex ecosystem dominated by large trees, but made up of many other organisms from microbes on up the food chain.

Since the effects of even-age timber management, and many other logging prescriptions, were sufficiently demonstrated long ago, CNPS would like to see research aimed at actual forest health – a scope that goes beyond trees to include the many life forms and factors that make up a forest. Research should focus on compatibility of logging and preservation of biodiversity.

A meaningful research program would require on-site biological science staff, written, long-term research goals, a plan for scientific peer review, and publication of research results in appropriate journals. There are many opportunities for collaboration with the academic community. Research is not conducted in isolation, and JDSF’s programs would benefit from association with the rest of the scientific community, and peer review.

It is therefore logical that funding for a relevant, viable research and demonstration program should come from the revenue produced by JDSF. CNPS objects to the use of that revenue for out-of-area programs like the so-called "urban forestry" programs, and requests that a considerable portion of the JDSF revenue be used to fund research programs in JDSF.

For a very large public forest with a mandate for research and demonstration, it seems odd that less than 10 percent of JDSF’s total acreage is earmarked for research/demonstration projects. CNPS would like to know how this can achieve the R & D mandate of JDSF.

If the management at JDSF insists on retaining its acreage of non-loggable pygmy forest, then research projects on restoration, recovery and fire regimes in the pygmy forest would be very useful. The current, damaged state of JDSF’s pygmy forest would provide ideal conditions for such research.

Pygmy Forest: Mendocino Pygmy Forest is a unique ecological system recognized by the California Natural Diversity Database as a sensitive plant community type. Therefore, every effort should be made to preserve what is left of this habitat. Since pygmy forest has no logging potential, and since no research projects on pygmy forest are being conducted at JDSF, CNPS would like to be told why pygmy forest is included within JDSF at all. Why doesn’t JDSF convey its 600+ acres of pygmy forest to State Parks, a local land trust, or other agency, to be managed as a preserve?

Pygmy forest is classified as wetland habitat by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and is also very sensitive to mechanical disturbance. The pygmy forest within JDSF has not been well managed, but has been subjected to off-road vehicles (ORVs) and dirt bikes, road building, poor road maintenance, invasion by exotic weeds, and trash dumping. While the DFMP acknowledges that ORV use is illegal in JDSF, there has been little or no enforcement. The DFMP and DEIR do not provide any detailed management plan to protect the pygmy forest from high-impact vehicle activity. CNPS would like JDSF to either generate a good plan to manage its pygmy forest, or a plan to turn those lands over to another organization.

Given the concentration of illegal activities in the pygmy forest portion of JDSF, the plan on P 107 of the DFMP for annual review of reported nuisances is laughable. It states that, "Additional restrictions will be implemented as needed." Those restrictions have not been implemented yet, and they are needed now. Citations for illegal vehicle use, dumping, shooting, etc. represent an excellent potential source of revenue. Have neither JDSF, State Parks, or the local law enforcement agencies considered this?

Recreational user surveys are not an accurate means of gathering information about illegal or high-impact recreation in the pygmy forest. It is well known that guidebooks for users of ORVs and trail bikes recommend the pygmy forest at JDSF and provide maps and directions to the local, backroad entries into the forest. This refutes the claim that recreational use is mainly by local residents.

The discussion of "Pygmy Cypress Series" on P 132 of the DEIR seems to include some misrepresentations. For example, it states that pygmy cypress is the dominant or important tree in the canopy for pygmy cypress series. It also states that Bolander pine and pygmy cypress are found within stands of bishop pine. Actually, when Bolander pine and pygmy cypress occur together, they constitute pygmy forest, which may occur in small areas surrounded by bishop pine forest.

The plan stated on P 144 of the DEIR to remove some pygmy forest plants in order to develop habitat for the lotis blue butterfly is alarming. This butterfly has not been seen for many years and is possibly extinct. The DFMP and the DEIR fail to present any scientific evidence to justify the taking of plant species of concern and the destruction of a sensitive plant community type for such a speculative project. CNPS would like to see this proposal deleted.

Plant Species of Concern: The DFMP and the DEIR contain contradictory information about sensitive plant species on JDSF. A complete floristic inventory of JDSF is needed to resolve the apparent confusion about plant species of concern, and to plan for their management. This inventory would not be merely "beneficial" as stated on P. 17 of the DFMP – it is absolutely necessary. The misinformation about plant species is detailed in letters submitted by Teresa Sholars of College of the Redwoods, and by Greg Jirak of the CNPS State Forestry Program.

CNPS believes that a complete floristic survey of JDSF is absolutely essential for protection of species of concern and their habitats. Surveys on a project-by-project basis, as outlined on PP 146 and 147 of the DEIR will not be sufficient to protect special plant species or habitat types. Strangely, even Alternative E, the environmentally preferable alternative, specifies this project-by-project approach.

Conclusion: The management of JDSF is a very difficult issue, given that it is a very large area of public land that is visible to and accessible by the public. CNPS would like to see JDSF, as public land, managed in a way that directly benefits the public, i.e., the people of California. The DEIR And DFMP propose to manage JDSF in a way that benefits only a small sector of the public – namely large timber operators (while the plan pays lip service to small timber operators, the size of the proposed logging operations effectively eliminate benefit to small operators) and programs like "urban forestry" that do not benefit actual forests.

In opting for a "business as usual" approach, CDF and the management of JDSF are skating on thin ice. There has already been a successful lawsuit over management practices on JDSF, and the Sierra Club brought a successful lawsuit against the County of Mendocino over its treatment of pygmy forest. CNPS would like to see JDSF managed in a progressive, forward-thinking way that would avoid major conflicts and legal actions.

The Dorothy King Young Chapter of CNPS recommends that CDF revise the DEIR and DFMP to remedy these problems, then resubmit both for public review and comment prior to preparation and certification of a final EIR.


Lori Hubbart, Chapter President
Dorothy King Young Chapter, CNPS