Albion tree-sit ends

The Mendocino Beacon
Thursday, July 15, 1999
Albion tree-sit ends
Lawsuit stops Clearbrook plan

Albion tree sit supporters gather to promote forest preservation. From left, Sandy "Argentina" Berrigan, Russell "Bamboo" Fieber, Mary Bull, Chris "Hawk" Skyhawk, Mary "Steelhead" Pjerrou, Shelaara Violet, and Manzanita.
Of the Beacon

It was not a comedy of errors for the Albion Nation and friends last week when newly recruited tree sitters were away from their post too long. Trees had been cut when the watch duty for the sit lapsed a few days.

The sit, lasting just shy of two months, was intended to prevent logging in one area of a 233-acre selection harvest plan of Mendocino Redwood Co., THP 1-98-199 MEN.

Concern over what has been defined by a resident geologist favored by the Albion Nation as a deep-seated landslide with potential risk of damage by nearby logging, rebuked by Redwood Company geologists, in addition to concern over spotted owl presence in the area, have been at issue for the company and protesters over the past several months.

No resolution was reached between the two disagreeing parties. Trees on the approved harvest plan were felled beginning May 10. A protest at the gate was launched May I I with six people were arrested. Over 100 people attended another protest on May 19.

Harvesting had continued through that time, with the exception of the area near the tree sit for safety reasons. The area was deemed by the Albion Nation to be harvested when fallers checking on the site realized the sit had. been left unmanned.

In a phone conversation Tuesday, Mendocino Redwood Co. President Sandy Dean said that the tree sitters, tied to a few trees, were guarding an area with a lot of trees that were not marked for cut. Logging in accordance with the approved plan was going on in the area around the sit and loggers continued the harvesting in the abandoned area, said Dean. There are still a lot of trees there, as the plan intended, he added.

Soon after the discovery of the - downed trees, a grief march was undertaken by a handful of concerned residents with ages that spanned three generations. At least three second growth trees were found scattered in the area along the trail to the sit. One other tree, thought to be a possible old growth candidate measuring 54 inches at the base of the cut, was resigned as a loss for the Albion Nation when the case-by-case evaluation clause of the Redwood Company's old growth policy was remembered.

Triumph, however, was said to be made with respect to another perceived old growth tree that had previously been marked for cutting. That tree now had the symbol for "not-to-be-cut" drawn on it.

Dean said that before he could comment specifically on an individual tree he would have to go out and look at it with the questioning party.

Clearbrook plan

Early this month, Superior Court Judge Conrad Cox issued a temporary restraining order halting timber operations on THP 1-98-350 in the Kaisen Gulch/Clearbrook area of the Albion River, reports Linda 'Perkins of the Albion River Watershed Protection Association in a press release issued Tuesday.

The California Department of Forestry and the- Mendocino Redwood Co. were sued jointly by the national Sierra Club and Albion Watershed Association in February based on claims that the regulatory agency had improperly approved harvesting before assessing the potential cumulative harm the plan could inflict on the federally-listed sediment impaired river, said Perkins.

The plaintiffs also registered concerns over what they said were defective northern Spotted Owl surveys that did not follow protocol designed to protect endangered species, she added. "In his written order, the superior court judge noted that expert opinion provided by plaintiffs had concluded that the plan lacked 'a scientifically-reliable assessment of cumulative watershed effects.

The court order allows Mendocino Redwood to remove downed timber that had been cut in February. The cut was made just before a March I deadline that halted harvesting in order to allow surveying, said Perkins.

Dean said that the plan was approved in February by CDF. With the subsequent lawsuit,, the company felt it raised important questions that would be better worked out in the plan before continuing work on the ground in accordance with the approved plan, he said.

The company asked CDF to rescind its approval so that the company would then be allowed to better explain what was being done, said Dean. The plan was reviewed by state and federal agencies, the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and both felt the work was appropriate, said Dean.

CDF had reapproved the plan the morning of the afternoon court date, scheduled in anticipation by the plaintiffs, said Dean. The judge's decision, however, was made without the benefit of seeing the Fish and Wildlife survey and the subsequent official response to the plan made by CDF, he added.

A letter, signed by Project Leader Bruce Halstead of the U.S. Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service to Deputy Chief Rodger Thompson of CDF, states that the service reviewed all of the information provided by Fish and Game regarding the Northern Spotted Owl consultation on the harvest plan and concurs that the harvest operations described are not likely to result in "a take" of the species.

CDF's official response, justifying reasons for reapproving the plan, also cites reviewed information provided by Fish and Game, technical assistance from the Wildlife Service, and the accordance with Forest Practice Rules. Dean said that the temporary restraining order issued by the judge simply means that he recognized substantial disagreement, and that there ought to be a hearing on the facts. The judge would be given copies of the wildlife surveys and CDF's official response in time for the subsequent hearing Aug. 20. The plaintiffs must post a $1,000 bond by July 16 to preserve the order until that hearing on their request that the harvest plan be invalidated and returned to CDF.

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