Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
by Jodi Frediani
1. SDSF: No Financial Statements
In May of this year, I sent a letter to CAL FIRE on behalf of Sierra Club (Santa Cruz Group) and Central Coast Forest Watch, asking for reports on a number of studies that were mandated by the 1998 Soquel Demonstration State Forest General Management Plan. Most of those studies were to have been completed by 1999 or earlier, and I had only seen one or two posted online.
In addition, I requested copies of the annual financial reports from the last five years.
Pg 18 of the SDSF GMP states, "...the Department will publish accurate annual reports which will compile revenues, expenses itemized by program, and cumulative balances. The Department will maintain a mailing list for requests of annual distributions of the report."
On May 18, 2010 I received a reply from Rich Sampson, Acting Forest Manager. A CD with the available reports was included and I plan to review them in detail. HOWEVER, I received NO financial statements. Apparently, SDSF and the state have not bothered to prepare annual financial reports "due to lack of local staff". I was advised that instead, "equivalent monthly reports have been produced for the Board of Forestry and Fire protection. These are available in the Board archives. Your request to be placed on a distribution list for future annual report releases has been noted."
For years, SDSF had a Forest Manager, an Assistant Forest Manager and an Administrative Assistant. The forest spent taxpayer money out of the state General Fund for those positions, as well as for maintenance of the forest. And they have not prepared Annual Financial Statements? I know, nothing should surprise me anymore, but I am shocked. Now they are complaining they have insufficient funds to properly repair a bank failure on the haul road for their proposed Fern Gulch THP and cannot afford to install a permanent bridge across Soquel Creek. SDSF personnel have continued to navigate a wet ford crossing through Soquel Creek to access the THP area.
If you are shocked, too, I urge you to contact your local state representatives and ask them for a complete financial accounting for our local State Forest.
The Soquel Demonstration State Forest Draft General Management Plan update is currently being reviewed in the Management Committee of the Board of Forestry. The Draft will continue to undergo revisions, then be brought to the full Board for approval later this year.
The Draft can be accessed here: http://www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_stateforests_soquel.php
A new section on coho is most remarkable in that it includes seriously misleading information, slanted information and relies on personal communication from Homer (Bud) McCrary for its intimation that coho aren’t native south of San Francisco. “Additionally, it is likely that the historic (20th century) coho runs may have been entirely populated by descendents of planted hatchery fish (B. McCrary, pers. comm.). Coho salmon were planted into the East Branch of Soquel Creek in the 1930’s originating from the Brookdale, Big Creek, Prairie Creek and Fort Seward hatcheries (Anderson, 1995).”
The Plan also suggests that these coho are not required to be protected because, “The federal listing is limited however to naturally spawning populations (e. g. not a product of hatchery operations)...”
Here are a few excerpts from a NMFS letter dated July 6, 2010 to the State Forests Program Manager regarding this new discussion of coho:
1. The Plan states the federal listing of CCC coho salmon “...is limited...to naturally spawning populations...” and that the coho populations in the Santa Cruz area may likely be the descendents of planted hatchery fish. “These statements may leave the reader with the impression CCC coho salmon in Santa Cruz County and the Soquel Creek watershed are not afforded legal protection under the federal ESA. This impression is incorrect. “Hatchery operations” as opposed to “naturally spawning populations” refer to hatchery fish produced with the goal of increasing recreational and commercial harvest or for mitigation purposes and, in some circumstances, such fish are not listed under the ESA whereas their wild counterparts are listed. No production/mitigation hatcheries currently exist for CCC coho salmon.”
2. Central California Coast coho salmon in Soquel Creek in particular, are of significant concern to NMFS due to their extremely low population in the Santa Cruz Mountains Diversity Stratum, and because Soquel Creek is the extreme southern extent of this species’ North American range.
3. NMFS has recently completed a public draft of a recovery plan for CCC coho salmon and designated the Soquel Creek watershed as one of the 28 watersheds in the CCC coho ESU necessary for recovery.
4.The discovery of these juvenile fish heightens the importance of forest management and instream restoration practices on SDSF as discussed in our previous letter to you dated April 6, 2010.
5. The Plan correctly states the federal listed southern extent of CCC coho salmon extends down to the San Lorenzo River in Santa Cruz County, California, and does not extend down to Soquel Creek. However, with the recent reappearance of coho in Soquel Creek, it is important to remove any doubt that these fish, and subsequent generations of these fish, are afforded all the protections of the ESA. In other words, the listing follows the fish, even when outside their designated listed range.
NMFS also notes that the agency will be reviewing a petition from McCrary to essentially delist the CCC coho south of San Francisco and will issue a determination no later than February 11, 2011. NMFS suggests in the interim, that SDSF “remain silent on the subject” or present both points of view”.
On August 7, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) met in Sonoma County. One item on their agenda was to allow a change in the Local Coastal Plan for Santa Cruz County. This change would have allowed logging in the Commercial Agricultural (CA) Zone District in the Coastal Zone (CZ). Currently logging is allowed on CA outside the Coastal Zone, as part of the Santa Cruz County’s change in the late 1990’s that limited logging to Timber Production Zone, the CA zone, parks and mining.
The Committee for Green Foothills testified at the CCC Public Hearing with concerns that such a change in allowed use in the CZ would lead to similar changes in other coastal counties. The CCC staff had no maps showing how many parcels would be affected, where they were located, how many might have endangered species habitat, and what size the affected parcels might be.
The following is from Lennie Roberts, CGF: " When I read the Staff Report,,,,I became concerned about the implications of this Amendment for other counties with forest resources, and the potential for similar requests to be made of Monterey, San Mateo, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt counties. Timber Harvesting is NOT an Agricultural use, and blurring the lines between the two is not good policy, and a strong argument can be made that it's not consistent with the Coastal Act either."
"No one from the timber industry or from Santa Cruz County was present to argue in favor of the amendment. Commissioner and Santa Cruz County Supervisor Mark Stone made the motion for Denial. Ross Mirkarimi seconded and the vote was unanimous."
15. LOCAL COASTAL PROGRAMS (LCPs).
c. Santa Cruz County LCP Amendment No. SCO-1-09 Part 2 (Timber Harvesting in Commercial Agriculture). Public hearing and action on request by Santa Cruz County to amend the LCP to add timber harvesting as a principally permitted use on land zoned as Commercial Agriculture. (SC-SC) [DENIED]
This is one of those most frustrating issues. 10 days prior to the July 10, 2009 Regional Waterboard hearing on the 2008 (renamed 2010) Integrated Report and 303(d) List, members of our local timber industry submitted a request to delist San Vicente Creek as impaired for Sedimentation/Siltation.
They submitted turbidity data taken by the Davenport Sanitation District during the past several drought years, including summer months with no rainfall. The data was reviewed by Waterboard Staff, even though the window for submission of new requests had closed months prior and the public comment period on those proposals had closed end of May. Regardless, the data was averaged by Waterboard Staff and found to support delisting. We only learned of the proposal to delist the morning of the hearing on the Integrated Report, and none of the data was even available for review.
At the urging of Board Member Shallcross, after public testimony, the Board voted not to include San Vicente Creek delisting in its final report, BECAUSE the public process for review had been violated. From the July 10, 2010 Meeting Minutes, "The Board then voted to approve Resolution No. R3-2009-0053 with two modifications. The first was, "do not de-list San Vicente Creek because this decision was not made prior to the 45-day public comment period." The Board never reviewed the merits of the 11th hour delisting request, because due process had not been followed. However, this was not reflected in the 2008 Integrated Report submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board, who finalizes the approval prior to forwarding to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Unfortunately, the listing info was still included in the report to the State Board, with a recommendation not to delist, even though the data set supported delisting. There apparently was no explanation as to why the 'delisting' recommendation had been made, and no mention of the process violation. Of course, there was also no mention, that turbidity will be low when rainfall is low, or absent and when saturated soil conditions do not exist.
Central Coast Forest Watch and Sierra Club submitted a letter to the State Waterboard objecting to the process. The Lompico Watershed Conservancy also submitted a letter of objection. Monterey Coastkeeper attended the hearing and testified against delisting San Vicente Creek. The State Waterboard Board Members seemed to agree that the process violation was problematic and voted at their June 15, 2010 meeting to continue the item until their August 4 meeting.
In the meantime, Regional Waterboard Staff are looking further into available data to see whether delisting is truly justified.
California budget woes have led to cancellation of the August meeting of the Board of Forestry. Committee meetings as well as day-long meeting of the full board have been cancelled due to “spending restrictions imposed as a result of the current budget impasse."
The following memo from Eric Huff, RPF and Executive Officer, Foresters Licensing, gives a taste of the mood in Sacramento, where state employees had been ordered to work for minimum wage by the Governor, until the courts deemed that order illegal:
“In an effort to raise funds for the Board, YG and I will be auctioning off autographed copies of some of our more memorable harvesting plans. Collectors of antique instruments of diplomacy and wit won’t want to miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to indulge a passion while helping a cash-starved policy body continue its good work on behalf of the citizens of California.”
From the Calaveras County “Record”:
The Calaveras County Board of Supervisors gave its unanimous support Tuesday to a Sierra Nevada Conservancy plan designed to revive the timber industry and control the threat of wildfires by thinning overgrown forests.
The unanimous vote came despite lingering doubts expressed by several supervisors over whether the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative can really engineer a lasting peace between environmentalists and logging companies. That’s something all sides say is needed to break a legal deadlock that has left public forests largely neglected.
“It’s easy to say this and then it all gets hijacked,” Supervisor Tom Tryon said of the resolution calling for local government, state authorities, federal officials, environmentalists and private industry to work together to make forests healthier and safer while boosting the economy.
Leading the way
Calaveras County on Tuesday became the first local government in the Sierra Nevada to give its blessing to a state plan to revive the timber industry in the region and improve forest health by developing ways businesses can use small-diameter forest materials.
For more on the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Plan, go to www.sierranevadaconservancy.ca.gov/snfci_home.html.
Tryon and Supervisor Gary Tofanelli also objected to making carbon sequestration a goal of the initiative and to the fact that, at least initially, tax dollars are being used to pay for a lot of the thinning done to prevent massive forest fires.
“It can’t be sustainable if you continue to give federal funds or state funds to it,” Tofanelli said.
And Tryon said that even though the resolution is largely symbolic, he feared it could set a precedent for onerous legislation, because it calls for forests to help sequester carbon and thus reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global climate change.
“Once you get into the carbon thing, you basically have the government in control of every aspect of our personal life and economy,” Tryon said.
Supervisor Steve Wilensky is the board’s major advocate in favor of forestry industry revival.
He made a successful motion to remove references to carbon sequestration to win Tryon’s vote.
Wilensky’s district includes the economically depressed former logging towns of West Point and Wilseyville. He has organized and led several initiatives to retrain former loggers and help residents win forest-thinning contracts. The Amador-Calaveras Consensus Group, which he helped facilitate, has engineered an agreement among environmentalists, loggers, local government and federal officials on projects that are already putting people to work.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is a state agency charged with improving the health of the region’s people and forests.
Much of the conservancy’s latest initiative is modeled after the work Wilensky and others have done locally.
That’s why the conservancy’s proposed Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative came up for approval from Calaveras County government before going to other county and municipal agencies in the Sierra.
“We’ve had the honor of being the first up,” Wilensky said.
Contact reporter Dana M. Nichols at (209) 607-1361 or . Visit his blog at recordnet.com/calaverasblog.
The Conservancy was established through a bill introduced into the state legislature by our very own Assemblymember, at the time, John Laird.
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