Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
by Jodi Frediani
1. SDSF Logging Update
In the past year, two timber harvest plans have been approved for the Soquel Demonstration State Forest, the Rim THP 1-09-107SCR and the Fern Gulch THP 1-09-096SCR. Logging began earlier this summer on the Rim THP and was scheduled to begin in Fern Gulch.
However, the Fern Gulch timber harvest will not take place in 2011 as no bids were received. The state is required to put each 'timber sale' out to bid, however, no one was interested in submitting a bid for this THP. Is it the low price of redwood? Difficulty in procuring a temporary bridge or?
Of course, this also means that the road repair of Hihn's Mill Road will not occur before next winter. The road repair is to include installation of large logs as part of bank stabilization and a restoration project in Soquel Creek. However, the logs are slated to come from the Fern Gulch THP. The knee bone is connected to the thigh bone...... Let's hope the crumbling embankment does not completely fail into the creek next winter.
From the Board of Forestry website: "The VTAC is a technical advisory committee formed for the development of: (1) multiple pilot projects that use site-specific information and measures to protect and restore the beneficial functions of the riparian zone in watersheds with listed anadromous salmonids, (2) recommendations to the CAL FIRE Director regarding implementation guidelines for spatially explicit riparian projects, and (3) final recommendations to the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection (BOF) regarding guidance document development for spatially explicit riparian management.  The VTAC will also track implementation through CAL FIRE progress reports."
On June 21st, the VTAC Committee held a site visit on the Soquel Demonstration State Forest to preview and discuss field sites and how to apply site-specific measures. A variety of ideas were discussed such as incentives for forestland owners including, among others: allowance of additional harvest of riparian trees, and reduced monitoring requirements for landowners.
Default acceptable actions discussed under-planting to promote desired species included direct felling of wood into streams and large wood placement limits by geomorphic type (e.g., pool-riffle, forced pool-riffle regimes).
At the Hihn Mill Road Repair Site attendees learned about the upcoming project which will utilize a complex of large logs with rootwads augmented with large rock or other ballast to stabilize an active streambank erosion site threatening the road. Pete Cafferata gave the presentation and estimates that 10 2-log revetment units will be required. Trees will be excavated with a 25 foot bole and rootwad from the road right-of-way associated with the Fern Gulch THP proposed haul road on the other side of Soquel Creek.
The group crossed the East Branch of Soquel Creek where a temporary bridge is to be installed. Ideas were solicited on how to deal with the wide flood plane site including conifer enhancement at the far end of the flood prone area, thinning of existing redwood clumps, retention of hardwoods, and placement of large wood in the channel without complex engineered structures. A suggestion was made re incentives that 'if there is suitable upslope timber volume, it may be possible to relax ASP rule standards to allow some harvest in exchange for placement of simple wood structures in the channel.'
I must say that from reviewing several of the ideas bandied about, some foresters still do not seem to get that coho are on the verge of blinking out permanently (that is forever), and making tradeoffs won't cut it for these fish. The ASP rules were already weakened for the southern sub-district (that's us), and now there is continuing talk of further degradation of needed habitat protections for endangered fish. Shame!
I did not attend the VTAC meeting as it conflicted with the Redwood Symposium field trips held the same day.
To read more, including the discussion of placement of unanchored large wood along the East Branch of Soquel Creek and for the full minutes of the June 21 meeting: http://www.bof.fire.ca.gov/board_committees/vtac/meeting_minutes/2011_vtac_meeting_minutes/vtac_meeting_minutes_june_21_2011_sdsf__3_.pdf
This small but potentially damaging THP of only 38 acres in the Branciforte Creek watershed has been re-circulated. Close of Comment is now August 26, 2011. DFG has filed a Non-concurrence, which is being over-ridden by CalFire. Cal Fire has sided with the RPF that using an existing landing with a Class III running through the middle of it is no big deal, even though both Branciforte Creek and the San Lorenzo River into which it runs are listed as impaired for sediment. Even though the River is considered a key coho recovery waterbody by NMFS.
Fascinating that the re-circulation Letter from Cal Fire, while noting changes made to the plan, neglects to mention that there is an outstanding Non-concurrence Letter from the Department of Fish and Game.
DFG recommended that the landing with a creek running through it be deleted from the Plan. The RPF has said it is impossible to do the harvest without that key landing, or if not using it, he will have to do more damage hauling logs to a different landing.
EPIC has submitted an extensive comment letter siding with DFG. The letter is an excellent summary of coho rules, and relevant regulation, reports, etc.
From EPIC's letter: "The "Victoria" THP proposes logging operations on steep and unstable slopes, on highly erosive soils, and will result in shade canopy reduction in riparian zones on non fish-bearing streams. Such activities threaten to directly harm Coho and Steelhead. Such activities also threaten to add to existing significant, adverse, and cumulative effects on habitat for Coho and Steelhead. Please provide substantial evidence demonstrating how the "Victoria" THP will avoid resulting in direct harm to Coho and Steelhead as herein described."
The letter goes into excruciating and well-documented detail on how the ASP rules have failed. One example:
"Given that the ASP rules are not no-take rules, Cal Fire and the plan submitter must not approve or carry out any operations that would result in take of federally listed salmonids and steelhead without risking violations of the federal as well as the state ESA.
Failure to address rate and intensity of harvest in a given watershed is another fundamental flaw of the ASP rules. Both the NOAA Fisheries and the Scientific Review Panel have recommended to the Board of Forestry that they include rate of harvest provisions in the ASP rules. The SRP recommended:
"Pending completion of watershed analysis, the SRP recommends the Board of Forestry consider whether a harvest limitation based on percentage of watershed area is warranted.
This percentage would function as a red flag rather than a moratorium..the [sic] SRP believes a more likely value [for rate of harvest] would range from 30% to 50% per decade, but will depend on numerous factors including geology, harvest prescriptions, past disturbance, etc."(Scientific Review Panel Ligon et al 1999)
Similarly, in its June 22, 2009 letter to the Board of Forestry the NOAA Fisheries Service identified failure to address rate of timber harvest as one of the inadequacies of the proposed rules. Rate of and intensity of harvest has long been a stated concern of the NOAA Fisheries Service."
Quotes from DFG's Non-concurrence letter:
Thousands of young pines and cedars will be cut down this fall to restore scenic views in Yosemite Park. According to a Los Angeles Times article, pines and cedars are clogging the park's meadows and valleys, due to years of fire suppression. Felling thousands of trees in our national park will begin this fall as part of the recently approved Yosemite Scenic Vista Management Plan.
In 2009 the Park analyzed 181 scenic views around Yosemite and determined "that encroaching vegetation obscured the view at 28% of the sites and partially blocked it at 54% of them."
"We are managing the park for people," said Kevin McCardle, a park service historical architect who headed up the scenic vista team. "We have to create roads, we have to create parking lots, we have to create space for people. We are creating space for visitors to see the park."
But as one visitor said, "If you can't see that mountain…you need to have your glasses checked."
Wonder when we begin thinning the people. I'm sure there are far more of them than when the park opened, and they must be having an impact as well......
Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the impacts of logging on streams, on wildlife, and on the forest, knows that clearcutting is an archaic way to 'manage' timber. In fact, it is a get rich quick scheme that leaves the forest in tatters, reduced to piles of rubble, a scraggle of trees left here and there as required by law, and with the use of plentiful herbicides transforms healthy forested ecosystems and watersheds into mono-culture tree farms. These exacerbate climate change, increase fire hazard and release sediment and herbicide into fish-bearing and drinking water supply streams.
That we should think removing all vegetation from 20-acre plots in a checkerboard pattern across tens of thousands of acres in the Sierra Nevada is an acceptable way to produce wood is unthinkable. Yet it is legal and currently sanctioned by Cal Fire. If you want to help stop this practice, check out the following links:
You can send comments to the Governor and Secretary of Natural Resources here:
You can join thousands of people who have already signed onto the petition from Sierra Club here:
For those on Facebook, you can 'like' the Sierra Club's FB page here and help spread the word. Now is the time!
Back in March-April of this year, PGE decided to increase the 'reliability ' of service to residents in Felton by felling a number of very large California Bay Laurel trees alongside Highway 9 on Pogonip and Sycamore Grove property. A California Live Oak and two Douglas fir trees were also felled, though, I understand those were on the same side of the highway as the power lines. The very large and old bay trees were across the road from the power lines.
According to the City's arborist, Leslie Keedy, who granted the permit to PGE to cut trees on city property, the bay trees had heart rot and were in danger of falling, and could have fallen across the road and onto the powerlines.
I believe if PGE had their way, they'd cut all trees anywhere within sight of their powerlines. In the past they have taken down large old growth redwood trees a significant distance from their hi-voltage lines, felled large, old trees on the opposite side of Graham Hill Road from their lines and cut all branches off one side of trees near powerlines, all in the name of 'reliability'. Of course, I can't get them to connect my neighborhood to a different circuit which would do away with a long, hard to reach and repair span across Majors Canyon. Now that would increase reliability! And save PGE lots of money in lost revenue and repair crew field time. And save trees as well.
You can read more about the Highway 9 massacre in the upcoming edition of the Ventana. If you are not a Club member (you ought to join!), you will be able to access the article on Chapter's website at: http://ventana.sierraclub.org/current/index.shtml
The 341-acre Redwood Empire THP on Gazos Creek was accepted for filing on July 28, 2011, after being returned and resubmitted. DFG did a marbled murrelet pre-consultation for the plan involving multiple site visits and proposed 10 recommendations to reduce impacts to murrelets in stands on adjacent State Park property. Marbled murrelets are known to occupy sites within the Gazos Creek watershed.
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.
< back to all issues