Thursday, September 09, 2004 -

By PEIJEAN TSAI/Ukiah Daily Journal

Calling its final version a historic compromise, North Coast Senator Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata) said last week he is confident that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will approve his bill for a new direction of Mendocino County's Jackson Demonstration State Forest, the largest of California's eight state forests.

After long negotiations, Chesbro's controversial legislation, SB 1648, passed out of the state Legislature late Tuesday, Aug. 31, the last night of session. The governor has a Sept. 30 deadline to sign or veto it.

In an interview, Chesbro called the legislation a step forward for Mendocino County residents.

"I've created better protections for the environment, while breaking the gridlock over logging in the forest," Chesbro said last week.

SB 1648 calls for managing the 50,000-acre Jackson state forest in a manner that would 3provide sustainable timber production, while implementing conservation and restoration goals.

Working with the two largest lumber companies in Mendocino County Mendocino Forest Products and Harwood Forest Products SB 1648 has been amended to allow a harvest of up to 15 million board feet of timber per year for three years, while managers prepare a new environmental impact report as required by the courts. Two environmentalist groups had sued the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, which manages the forest, alleging shortfalls in its management plan. Amidst the legal battle, logging was halted at the forest.

The final bill is a compromise between both the timber industry and environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Chesbro said.

"Timber issues are always contentious and divisive on the North Coast, and bringing the sides together around the compromise is a significant achievement," Chesbro said.

The bill focuses on scientific research, timber harvest production, restoration of forest land resources, education and public enjoyment. SB 1648 would also prohibit clear cutting and the cutting of old growth timber.

On top of protecting the environment, the local community will benefit with jobs restored in the lumber industry, the senator said. The state will also benefit from $3 million to $5 million in revenues since logging was stopped, offering to help the state with its budget problem, Chesbro said.

If signed by the governor, the bill would take effect Jan. 1. Chesbro said he expects that logging would begin by next spring. He said he is hopeful that CDF, which has $2.3 million budgeted this fiscal year to manage the forest, will not delay processing the harvest plans.