March 15, 2000, San Francisco: Gray Davis in bed with big timber, 9 arrested at Board of Forestry hearing.
Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Logging rules please no one
9 arrested in raucous protests
March 15, 2000
by John Howard
SACRAMENTO - Facing raucous protests in which nine environmentalists were arrested, California's firestry officials considered new rules Tuesday governing tree-cutting near streams on private land from Santa Cruz County to the Oregon line.
Loggers and environmentalists opposed the proposed regulations before the Board of Forestry. A parade of logging trucks with horns blaring rumbled around Capitol Mall. In the environmentalists' protests, a man with a picture of Gov. Gray Davis stuck to his face rolled in bed with bills meant to represent timber-interest money.
The rules, in effect, would establish low-cut zones near streams, require loggers to leave untouched almost oall of the forest "canopy" near the water's edge and limit logging on steep hillsides near streams to prevent sediment from choking the waterways.
Nine protesters, members of the Earth First! environmental group, were arrested when they shouted and disrupted the board's metting inside the hearing chamber. The protesters, who linked themselves together, were led away in handcuffs by Highway Patrol officers.
Among those supporting the new rules were commercial and recreational fishing interests, who said the regulations would help assure the survival of salmon.
The new rules were developed by the Davis administration after a scientific advisory panel said the state's current rules were inadequate to protect salmon habitats throughout Northern California. The rules would change California's Forest Practices Act, the 27-year-old law that governs timer harvesting on privately owned lands.
The board heard hours of testimony Tuesday in a jammed hearing room under heavy security. A decision was not expected until today.
Timber companies said the rules would prevent them from logging as much as 30 percent of their trees, and would cost them millions of dollars in lost harvesting.
William McKillop, a forest economics professor at the University of California, said the regulations would have "severe and adverse effects" on a timber industry that already has seen major declines during the past decade.
Sacramento Bee - Metro
Protesters duel over logging plan
By Nancy Vogel
Bee Staff Writer
In a classic California clash over forests, logging trucks convoyed in downtown Sacramento and nine environmentalists locked fingers and waited to be arrested at a state Board of Forestry metting Tuesday.
The sawmill workers and Earth First! members all protested, for different reasons, Gov. Gray Davis' proposed changes in the rules governing how trees are cut on private land in California.
Slowed by environmentalists who interrupted the hearing and declared it a "farce", the board put off until today a vote on whether to accept all, part or none of the governor's proposal. The package is designed to make logging less hazardous to salmon and steelhead that spawn in California's forests.
By restricting logging along streams, industry foresters say, the proposed rules could put 30 percent of private timberlands off-limits to harvest.
A University of California, Berkeley, timber economist estimated that the rules could cost 2,000 ro 4,000 logging and sawmill jobs, cut timber harvest levels in the state by 24 percent in the long-term and carry an overall economic impact of up to $430 million.
At stake, environmentalists say, is the survival of coho salmon - all California runs of the silvery fish were listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1997 - and steelhead, which are proposed for listing on the North Coast.
The National Marine Fisheries Service, charged with protecting those fish, has called California's existing logging rules too weak. By destroying shade, generating erosion and blocking streams with road crossings, logging can make streams too warm, too silty or inaccessible to salmon.
Davis' proposed changes to California's 27-year-old Forest Practice Act would restrict how many trees could be cut along major streams and steep slopes, and force landowners to install bigger culverts. State foresters drafted the rules based on a June 1999 report by a panel of independent scientists.
But timber industry workers attacked the proposed changes Tuesday as unnecessary, too burdensome and lacking scientific justification.
The rules allow logging along salmon streams so long as 85 percent of the canopy remains, but foresters said that, in effect, means no harvest at all because many streams don't naturally offer that much shade or removing even a few trees would violate the rule.
The effect of the rules on California's biggest private landowner, Sierra Pacific Industries, would be to eliminate harvest of about 125 million board feet of timber a year, said SPI forester and former Board of Forestry member Tom Nelson.
"That's a couple of sawmills," he told the board. 'That means we buy the land, we pay the taxes, we take the risks and you control the productivity."
At noon, roughly 300 timber industry supporters kicked off a rally downtown with blasts from two dozen logging trucks, some loaded with redwood logs and hung with signs saying, "From the most protected forests in the world."
"If there's no logging, I don't have any business," said Carl Hass, who employs 25 people in a Rocklin business that buys sawdust and bark from mills and sells it to landscapers, poultry farms and others.
He said the proposed rules make no sense to him.
"It's almost like we're all interlopers on the Earth," Hass said.
Environmentalists have dominated past Board of Forestry hearings on the Davis administration's proposal. But those who earn their living from the forest outnumbered environmentalists Tuesday. Some arrived from the farthest reaches of Northern California.
More than 150 people signed up to address the board, but they were delayed for at least an hour when nine members of Earth First! suddenly moved to the front of the hearing room and joined hands with finger locks of woven straw.
They stood in a line in front of board members, refused to move and were arrested.
"We want to make a statement that this meeting and these rules are a joke on the people of California who are losing their forests and their salmon," said Naomi Wagner of Humboldt County, a spokeswoman for the group.
Joe Blum of the National Marine Fisheries Service called the proposed amendments "a good first step" that lacks scope because it doesn't require watershed assessment - a methodical, stream-by-stream documentation of salmon runs and the logging, urbanization, water diversions and other forces that could harm the fish.
Davis has proposed including $7 million in the state's next budget to launch such studies.
The Board of Forestry is composed of four Davis appointees and three others who were appointed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.
There are two vacancies.
NMFS biologists, who hold the authority to stop logging on land where listed salmon spawn, have become increasingly frustrated with the board's failure to overhaul timber harvest rules. In 1998, based on promises of quick -fish protections from California, NMFS had agreed not to list steelhead on the North Coast. But last month, the agency reversed itself and proposed listing those steelhead.
Environmentalists, too, are frustrated. On March 1 they sued the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, arguing that the agency's rules are so weak that when the state approves a landowner's timber harvest plan, it tacitly allows the killing of endangered fish.