The Final Chapter

In 2000, the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest filed suit to halt logging in Jackson State Forest. Over the next eight years, legal actions or the threat of legal actions compelled the Department of Forestry (formerly abbreviated as CDF, now Cal Fire) to refrain from any logging and to develop a new management plan and accompanying environmental documents. Finally, in January of 2008, a new management plan for Jackson State Forest was approved, with the support of the Campaign.

One issue remained unresolved – what was to happen with the two timber harvest plans (THPs) filed in 2000, for Brandon Gulch and Camp 3. These plans were subsequently halted by the legal actions of the Campaign. The state contended that the THPs were still valid, although they were long past the 5-year expiration limit in the statutes. With the approval of the management plan, these plans could go forward.

The Campaign was unalterably opposed to allowing the plans to go forward. The THPs were located within the central recreation area of the forest, where numerous campgrounds and recreation trails are located. The stands of forest are exceptional. They were last logged one-hundred years ago, and in the century since, the redwoods and firs have completely restored a high canopy, shading out the brush and creating the play of light and shadow that make redwood forests seem like ancient cathedrals. Such stands on public land are rare to the vanishing point.

Although agreeing with the new management plan, the Campaign pressed the Board of Forestry and Cal Fire to renegotiate or terminate the contracts. The Board and the Campaign agreed to extend the time for filing a legal challenge to the management plan and environmental report while the parties to the THP contracts attempted to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The threat of legal action, which all parties wanted to avoid, created strong pressure for reaching agreement.

Finally, after numerous meetings among the parties (Cal Fire, the Campaign, and the THP contract holders), the general outlines of a settlement emerged. A key point for the Campaign was to shift the purpose of the harvests from revenue generation to restoration toward old-growth conditions (technically called “late-seral” conditions). Restoration of the forest has been a key element in the platform of the Campaign. A key element for the contractors was an agreement by Cal Fire to provide substitute timber from other harvest plans to make up for the reduction in harvests in Brandon Gulch and Camp 3 that would occur because of the shift toward restoration.

For me personally, one of the most wonderful parts of the agreement was the removal of about 150 acres within Camp 3 from the harvest plan, to be set aside as a “control” (Cal Fire’s view) or, in my view, as a preserve. This preserve is right next to the central gathering point for campers and recreationists. A recreation trail – yet to be built – will allow hikers to explore through this beautiful forest stand, knowing it will be allowed to continue to heal and grow, undisturbed by logging.

In early June, the last of the necessary signatures was affixed to the settlement agreement. In addition to agreeing to the changes in the timber harvest contracts, the parties agreed to forgo any rights to file legal challenges to the management plan or the timber harvest plans. The settlement agreement, thus, wrote the final chapter of the legal saga that began in 2000.

Still to come, though, are the chapters of the new volume being written by the independent Jackson Advisory Group. This group has until 2011 to design a long-term landscape and management plan for the forest that will provide an appropriate balance among the needs for wildlife habitat, ecological health, recreation, research and education, and revenue to support operations of Jackson Forest. It will be an interesting story. Stay tuned.

Vince Taylor
August, 2008

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