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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | chapter wide

Legislative Victory for Santa Cruz Mountains Forests

October 2013
Forest Our redwood forests get a reprieve in AB 904. (Ventana Chapter file photo).

In a hard fought legislative victory for conservation activists in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, Assembly Bill AB 904 will not apply to these counties or to Marin County. Activists with the Ventana and Loma Prieta Chapters of Sierra Club, the Committee for Green Foothills, a member of the Sempervirens Fund Board and several mountain neighborhood groups and agencies worked very hard and were finally successful in excluding this law from applying to the coast ranges from Marin south to Watsonville. There is little commercial timber logging in the coast-ranges south of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The Santa Cruz Mountains have the most intense intermix of logging zoned land and residential home properties in the entire State of California. This was the issue that helped the activists fighting this bill to finally convince enough legislators to agree to exclude this area. Sadly this law could not be stopped for the sake of the rest of California's forests, despite strong efforts by Sierra Club CA and several Northern CA environmental groups. A representative of the Ventana Chapter, Kevin Collins, traveled to Sacramento twice to lobby in the State Capitol against this bill, as did several other local activists.

AB 904 creates a new and immense logging permit of up to 23.4 square miles. It is a form of deregulation of logging for the owners of large landholdings. This permit follows the deed to the land and it is everlasting. It will allow for public input only once when the permit is first reviewed and never again. This bill is bad public policy for all of California. Even its apparent exclusion of clear-cut logging is uncertain. The Board of Forestry will write the administrative code to implement this new permit, and the language in this bad law is so vague, that clear-cut and burn may be an allowed practice under this law, despite the fact that the exclusion of clear-cutting was the original justification when this deregulation law was first proposed. Many people do not realize that clear-cutting remains intense and common on private land in the Sierra Nevada, the Cascades and other Northern California forest lands.

Assembly member Wesley Chesbro of Humboldt County carried this bill AB 904. Fortunately because of the vigorous efforts of Senators Jim Beall and Jerry Hill and help from Senator Bill Monning, Assembly member Mark Stone and other legislative allies, at the last moment, the bill was amended before being passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Santa Cruz Mountains were excluded from the provision of this bad law.

Throughout the process of the writing of this law, which included numerous "stakeholder meetings" organized by Chesbro's office, the concerns of environmentalists were repeatedly dismissed and the final version of the law contains major holes that will continue to allow the felling of old growth trees and also block other protections for wildlife and water resources in these logged landscapes.

Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold tried very hard to get the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors to ask that this County be excluded. But he received not one vote from any other member of the Board of Supervisors in favor of his resolution to request that the State Legislature remove the Santa Cruz Mountains from the law. This represents a major political change in Santa Cruz County in regard to its Board of Supervisors.

Fortunately because of intense work by conservation activists and their legislative allies, this bad law will not endanger the Santa Cruz Mountains.


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