Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
by Jodi Frediani
This small but potentially damaging THP is only 38 acres in the Branciforte Creek watershed. However, the main haul route runs within the riparian corridor of a Class III and an existing landing has a Class III running through the landing! The plan proposes winter operations with dates pushed beyond the usual limits. Of course, there is no need to do winter ops on such a small plan, but I hear the property owner is desperate to get some funds asap, so if the plan does not get approved in a timely fashion, they will conduct operations during the winter period. Gee.
And now their hopes of timely approval may have been delayed, due to a non-concurrence filed by DFG. A bit of backstory first. DFG's PHI comments were posted on CAL FIRE's ftp on June 20. The County's PHI comments were posted on June 23. I have checked the site daily for posting of the RPF's response, but they have not been there. I, of course, silly me assumed the RPF was working on them and Second Review would be scheduled shortly. However, I just learned (July 5) that Second Review took place last Thursday, June 30, and the RPF's response had been submitted to CAL FIRE on June 28. Such a wonderfully open and CEQA compliant public process!! Due to 'human error' CAL FIRE neglected to post the RPF's response. And, for some unknown reason CAL FIRE does not post the dates of Review Team meetings, even though those are public meetings.
Well, the County picked up a series of 'mistakes', including differing dates for winter operations, rain gauges that only show monthly averages instead of hourly results, missing property boundaries, etc. Most of those have been fixed. But DFG recommended that the landing with a creek running through it be deleted from the Plan. I understand that the RPF said it is impossible to do the harvest without that key landing, or if using it, he will have to do more damage hauling logs to a different landing. And will have to do winter ops. I don't know when RPFs got the ability to lead the show, but here we are. Now, DFG has filed a non-concurrence. Quotes below:
"The State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) lists Branciforte Creek as a 303(d) watershed and approved a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for Branciforte Creek on February 19, 2004. The TMDL lists silviculture and road construction as potential sources for sediment and siltation impairment. This designation was reviewed in 2008 and no changes were warranted. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has prepared a Coho Salmon Recovery Plan (2010) that includes Branciforte Creek as a sub-watershed to the San Lorenzo River. Strategies specific to logging and wood harvesting and resultant sedimentation issues associated with problematic legacy roads within WLPZs such as the in-lieu practices associated with Mitigation Point M5."
"Sound Watershed Consulting reported that for small headwater streams, it is appropriate to limit disturbance and compaction adjacent to the channel and upslope along the valley axis (SWC 2008). They found that since surface erosion in near stream areas is accelerated by mechanical disturbance, equipment exclusion zones or other Best Management Practices can be effective at eliminating this form of management related erosion and sediment delivery to streams. They further reported that mechanical disturbance from management activities within about 30 feet of the channel often produces and delivers sediment to stream channels. Studies of unbuffered headwater streams have found that bank erosions following disturbance from yarding can be extensive (Rashin et al. 2006). In northwestern California, Lewis et al. (2001) concluded that sediment increases in North Fork Caspar Creek tributaries probably could have been reduced by avoiding activities that denuded or reshaped the banks of the small headwater channels."
Notice of Ops for 1-08NTMP-008 SCR, Podratz, Vaughn, C., RPF, 80 acres, Corralitos – were submitted June 29, 2011.
Logging is currently under way on the Holderman approved NTMP along Brown's Creek and the Redwood Empire Olivia Springs THP 1-10-002 SCR.
Currently logging is slow in the area as redwood prices are depressed at $600 per 1000 board foot. Redwood sold at $1000 per board foot at its high. Mill owners can afford to keep their workers employed and stockpile the logs or lumber until prices rise. Small, private landowners not-so-much.
I have heard that illegal conversions and exemptions are occurring at an alarming rate. I was told of one where old growth redwoods (marbled murrelet habitat) were cleared to make room for a pony. Sorry, a pony can do just fine with trees limbed from below. I wonder what the owners really had in mind. More sunlight? Some good income? A house site? Or?
I was also alerted to some continued tree felling in Bonny Doon. CAL FIRE was called in by the neighbor and began an investigation. Apparently the landowner thought his Exemption from some time back around 2004 was still good. Really? Exemptions expire after one year.
And apparently County Planning is granting permits to landowners for projects where trees clearly must be removed, but are simply failing to alert the owners to their obligation to contact CAL FIRE for necessary permits. I understand that CAL FIRE is also frustrated over this.
The "Coast Redwood Forests in a Changing California" Redwood Symposium was held at UCSC June 21-23. I attended all three days, including a field trip to the Big Creek sawmill and Cal Poly Swanton Pacific Ranch.
Billed as a Symposium for Scientists and Managers, it could/should have more aptly been dubbed the Redwood Logging Symposium. "This symposium is part of a continuing effort to promote the development and communication of scientific findings to inform management and policy decisions." Management in this context is logging.
Coordinators included UC Berkeley, UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Humboldt State University. Sponsors included Big Creek Lumber, the CA Board of Forestry, California Forestry Association, CA State Parks, Green Diamond Resource Company, Humboldt Redwood Company, Mendocino Redwood Company, Save the Redwoods League and a few others.
Proceedings from the Symposium will be available.
While the majority of presentations were related to 'management', Steve Sillett's keynote, "Redwood Forest Canopies: Insights from 15 Years of Tree Climbing", was particularly interesting. Magnificent ecosystems exist only in the canopies of old growth redwoods. Ferns, lungless salamanders, aquatic crustaceans known as harpacticoid copepods, 265 species of epiphyte including a species new to science have all been found in the upper reaches of the trees Sillett and his colleagues have climbed and studied with great rigor. According to Sillett's calculations old growth redwoods produce far more wood and sequester far more carbon than second growth trees. The amount and quality of wood increases over time. "Redwoods over 1500 years of age now produce on average, more wood annually than at any previous time during their lives." Sillett is also finding that wood production of old growth redwood forests increased significantly during the 20th century. Causes and consequences are now under investigation by scientists at Humboldt State and UC Berkeley. It also turns out that there are lots of missing rings lower down on the trunk of these trees, indicating that some trees may be deemed younger than they actually are.
Another keynote was delivered by Ron Jarvis, Home Depot on "Redwood Products – An Economic Perspective on Sustainable Management". I wondered what Home Depot's definition of sustainable was. During the Q & A Mr. Jarvis essentially said, if it's grown in California, whether it's certified or not, it's good enough for Home Depot. I guess their definition of 'sustainable' means California grown.
The budget for California was remarkably approved on time with major cuts for a variety of programs, but voted on and approved, none-the-less. One provision approved by the legislature would have allocated $1.5 million for DFG review of timber harvest permits. Currently THP review is conducted by DFG here in the Southern Subdistrict and maybe in Sonoma. But no such review, or a bare minimum, occurs in the Sierra region or up in Mendocino/Humboldt due to budget cuts. Unfortunately, the allocated funds were ripped from the approved budget in a veto move by Governor Brown:
"I am also deleting Provisions 1 through 3, which directs funding from the Hatchery and Inland Fisheries Fund for timber harvest plan review, state forestry nurseries, and the Heritage and Wild Trout Program. Federal law prohibits hunting and fishing license revenue from being diverted for other purposes. Consequently, these provisions could put federal funds at risk, potentially resulting in a loss of approximately $30 million."
14th Annual Coho Confab
SRF, the Trees Foundation, and the Smith River Alliance, with support from the CA Department of Fish and Game, are pleased to host the 14th Annual Coho Confab, being held August 19-21 on the South Fork of the Smith River at beautiful Rock Creek Ranch.
This year's Confab will feature several exciting tours and workshops, plus opportunities to network with regional restorationists. The Confab will open Friday evening with dinner and then a Smith River watershed overview presented by Mike McCain of the Smith River National Restoration Area and Grant Werschkull of the Smith River Alliance. Troy Fletcher will then offer the Yurok Tribe perspective on the large-scale restoration efforts to restore coho habitat in the Klamath Region.
Saturday includes a full day of concurrent workshops and tours. There will be an all-day tour of several restoration projects in the Mill Creek watershed, including a native plant nursery, late seral forest restoration and back-country road management. Other workshops and tours include: a Fish Passage Toolbox Workshop with a tour of fish passage projects on Peacock and Cedar Creeks; a macroninvertebrate sampling workshop that will look at how insects can help restoration projects; underwater fish identification; a geomorphic approach and response to wood loading in East Fork Mill Creek; and a presentation on the impact of pesticides on salmonids. We are pleased to once again offer Stories and Songs of Salmon, providing a cultural perspective of our relationship with salmon. The traditional Saturday evening dinner and campfire social will include musical guest, the wonderful and talented Joanne Rand.
Sunday concludes with a half-day of concurrent tours and workshops including: a tour of an estuary restoration project in the Yontucket Slough; another offering of the ever-popular macroninvertebrate sampling workshop; and a review of constructed off-channel habitat and wood jams in Terwer Creek.
The Confab Agenda and Registration form is available on SRF's website. Online registration will be available soon at Trees Foundation's website.
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