Wag the Dog
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Will the Tail Wag the Dog?

By Vince Taylor

Published in the Fort Bragg Advocate News and Mendocino Beacon, March 7, 2002
 

On March 12, the Board of Supervisors will vote on a resolution that endorses continued large-scale commercial logging of Jackson State Forest, a 50,000-acre redwood forest owned by the people of California. Passage of this resolution will show that the timber industry still dominates politics in Mendocino County. Not content with the 95 percent of forestland privately owned and available for logging, the timber industry wants the 5 percent owned by the public, too. Will the Supervisors give it to them?

The pending resolution originated in the Mendocino Forest Council. It was introduced by Council member Duane Wells at the request of the local timber industry. In spite of a short warning, supporters of restoration sent over 100 messages to the Council via fax, phone, and e-mail. The Council ignored all public input, not even taking the time to read the letters received before it passed the resolution unanimously.

The resolution is heavily favored for approval by the Board of Supervisors, because Supervisors Patti Campbell and Tom Lucier were part of the Forest Council vote, and Michael Delbar is a strong supporter of the timber industry. If the Supervisors do approve the resolution, it will show how far behind the times are our elected county leaders.

The timber industry now provides only *five percent* of the employment of Mendocino County, and the percentage is declining steadily. Services (broadly defined to include transportation, trade, finance, government and tourist and health services) now provide sixty percent of county employment and are steadily growing. Major contributors to growth in our service economy are visitors and new residents attracted by the beauty and quality of life in Mendocino County. A restored Jackson State Forest would bring major ecological and recreational benefits to Mendocino. Economic benefits would be only a small part of the total, but even these would far outweigh the timber-industry benefits from logging Jackson State.

In the last ten years, the former timber town of Fort Bragg has become an increasingly attractive visitor destination. As a result, it has prospered and developed a vibrant retail district while employment in the Georgia Pacific timber mill has declined precipitously. In just the last two years, bed taxes in Fort Bragg increased by $343,000 dollars, leading a turnaround in city finances from deficit to surplus. These taxes benefit all residents of Fort Bragg, and tourist spending spreads throughout the economy, benefiting all kinds of businesses, from retail to professional.

A restored Jackson State Forest would greatly benefit the vast majority of Mendocino County residents, as well as the rest of Californians who own the forest. But, because political perceptions are so slow to catch up with reality, the timber tail is still wagging the political dog in Mendocino County. If you want to see this change, attend the Board of Supervisors meeting at the County Administration Center in Ukiah at 3:00 PM, March 12. Contact the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest at 964-5800. Find out more and write your Supervisors easily at www.jacksonforest.com.