Sierra Club
Jump to
Ventana Chapter  
Explore, Enjoy and Protect the Planet  
Politics and Issues
Chapter Organization
Contact Us
National Sierra Club
California Sierra Club
Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
August 2008

1. Salvage Logging-RE Emergency Operations
2. Soil Hydrophobicity — post fire
3. No PHIs due to fire?
4. Coho Emergency Petition Fails
5. SJWC NTMP appeal moves forward
6. Dicus Report — Selection Logging and Fire
7. Gamecock NTMP 1-09NTMP-010 SCR Returned
8. Pajaronian on Grizzly Flat Logging
9. Sierra Pacific Industries trivia
10. Scorched Trees Aren't Necessarily Dead

1. Salvage Logging-Redwood Empire Emergency Operations

Redwood Empire is currently conducting salvage logging in Ramsey Gulch under a Notice of Emergency Operations. The Notice covers nearly 18 acres of redwood and hardwoods burned in the Summit Fire with harvest projected at more than 25 mbf. CCFW submitted a letter to CAL FIRE alerting them to the fact that the operations are not in conformance with the FPRs. The CAL FIRE Emergency Notice form filled out and signed by RPF Michael Duffy says that “timber operations conducted under this notice must meet minimum stocking standards at the completion of operations.” The RPF has said explicitly that he does not intend to meet stocking: “The damaged area is within and adjacent to an existing THP (1-08-016 SCR) that was scheduled to be logged in 2008 or 2009. The proposed removal of dead and dying timber will drop stocking levels below the standard requirements of the southern sub-district and the County of Santa Cruz. Hence, the existing THP would not adequately recover the dead and dying timber form the property.”

In addition, CCR 1052.2 requires the RPF to use a “risk-rating system recognized by the profession” to determine that the trees will be likely to die. This, also, was not done.

But has CAL FIRE stopped operations? Of course not. A brief email from CAL FIRE's Leslie Markham explained that after Bill Snyder spoke with me at the Board of Forestry last week he had more information and, “As such the thought is that it would be more productive to answer your letter in a more comprehensive fashion.”

2. Soil Hydrophobicity — post fire

What you may ask? Hydrophobia was supposed to be a symptom of rabies. Well, fires can cause the formation of soils that repel water, or hydrophobic soils. From the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service

“A thin layer of soil at or below the mineral soil surface can become hydrophobic after intense heating. The hydrophobic layer is the result of a waxy substance that is derived from plant material burned during a hot fire. The waxy substance penetrates into the soil as a gas and solidifies after it cools, forming a waxy coating around soil particles.”

The significance of such a layer is that it repels water, reducing the amount of water infiltration. This leads to increased surface runoff and the potential for increased erosion. Sometimes this layer can persist for years. However, while surface flows are increased, the reduced water infiltration lessens the likelihood of debris slides on denuded steep slopes. Disturbing this layer could actually increase sediment loads in streams. The NRCS has recommendations on their website (see link above) on how best to manage post-fire landscapes. In Santa Cruz County, USDA NRCS District Conservationist, Rich Casale can be contacted for free site evaluations: 831-475-1967 or .

3. No PHIs due to fire?

In July CAL FIRE instated a new, “interim' policy to limit PHIs “as much as feasible” due to “drawdown and post fire activities”. The original notice requested a response from each agency if they felt there was no need for a PHI. That was going to last a week, it seemed. Then that idea was changed to this: “At the next First Review I will start with a base assumption that a PHI is NOT needed for each plan. Then, if your agency requires a PHI, please contact me and include the specific reason.”

So much for adverse, unforeseen impacts from the local fires. Gee, now the agencies have to explain why they need a PHI. So far DFG asked for and got a PHI on a major amendment to add 25 acres to an NTMP near Hazell Dell.

4. Coho Emergency Petition Fails

Kevin Collins and I represented Santa Cruz County at the Board of Forestry in support of the petition to require additional mitigations since coho salmon are now on the verge of extinction. It was amazing and completely demoralizing to watch industry (including Piirto, Cal Poly, who represents the public) claim there was no proof that logging was a problem for the fish, while simultaneously claiming that the whole problem was in the oceans. Charlotte Ambrose, NOAA Fisheries was outstanding as she was grilled for 45 minutes by the timber barons. Shamefully, DFG and CAL FIRE refused to come out in support of the emergency petition. Rather they claimed that landowners 'voluntarily' applying the additional mitigations would save the day and the fish.

California officials reject emergency salmon protection petition

The petition before the state board of forestry comes as California salmon are at historic lows

McClatchy newspapers, Thursday August 07 2008 15:44 BST

Article history

California forestry officials yesterday rejected an emergency petition to protect coho salmon in coastal streams, even though federal fisheries regulators said it would help the imperilled fish.

The petition before the state board of forestry comes as California salmon are at historic lows, requiring regulators to suspend all salmon fishing on the coast this year - a first.

The request came from California Trout, the Sierra Club, and the Environmental Protection Information Centre. It targeted coho salmon in coastal streams between Santa Cruz and Humboldt counties. (continued)

5. SJWC NTMP appeal moves forward

In early July, George Gentry, Executive Officer of the Board of Forestry, sent an email to Assemblymember Ira Ruskin's office alerting him that San Jose Water Company now wants to activate their right to appeal the denial of their 1000 acre NTMP in the Los Gatos Creek watershed. The plan was denied by CAL FIRE last year because SJWC owns too many acres of timberland to qualify as a non-industrial timberland owner.

As of this writing, the CAL FIRE office in Felton, the County of Santa Clara and others have not been officially noticed of the pending hearing that is tentatively scheduled for the first week in October, to be held during the Board of Forestry monthly meeting.

Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL) did a phenomenal job of proving that SJWC owned more than 2500 acres of timberland (Big Creek originally stated that SJWC only owned 2001 acres), and roused more than 500 public members to attend a CAL FIRE hearing on the plan in Santa Clara. Now it is imperative that the public show up in Sacramento for the appeal hearing. Please pencil in the first Wednesday in October.

For more information and to get the latest updates on the Appeal Hearing go to:

6. Dicus Report — Selection Logging and Fire

The timber industry continues to publicly claim that selection logging reduces fire risk through reduction of crown fires, although their colleague, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Professor, Dr. Christopher Dicus, has conducted a study in the Santa Cruz Mountains showing that logging actually increases fuel loads and fire risk to the forest and adjacent homeowners. Dicus' study, “Fuel Loading and Potential Fire Behavior After Selective Harvest in Coast Redwood Stands” was conducted on Cal Poly's Valencia Creek timber holding. (

Because fuel depth and loading play a significant role in fire intensity and rate of spread in redwood forests (Nives 1989) (from the Cal Poly report), Dicus' study was designed to examine fuel loading and potential fire behavior immediately before and after a selective harvest to evaluate the potential fire hazard in the residual stand.

The report concludes: “..the increased fuel load from harvesting coupled with hot, dry foehn winds, which are not uncommon on the site, could quickly increase fire behavior and subsequent mortality of the residual high-value trees in these stands. Further, home sites adjacent to the study site are presently at an increased risk of wildfire.”

7. Gamecock NTMP 1-09NTMP-010 SCR Returned

While the Watsonville Public Works Director may have thought they would begin harvesting this summer on their Grizzly Flat watershed lands, CAL FIRE has other ideas. Gary Paul, RPF who prepared the plan, didn't do his homework. The plan was stamped “Returned' after First Review with about 40 questions needing to be answered. Paul forgot that Corralitos Creek is 303(d) listed as impaired for fecal coliform. He neglected to include information regarding inventory design, cruise methods, cruise intensity and additional essential inventory data. He asked for an exemption which was rejected by CAL FIRE from mapping locations of spawning and rearing habitat for anadromous salmonids (that would be state and federally listed steelhead). Nor did he give adequate information regarding California Red-legged frogs (federally listed as threatened) which have been found on the property.

The plan identifies growth and yield information as 'trade secret.' Apparently it is so secret it was not included in the NTMP. Paul even managed to get the slash treatment requirements wrong. You'd think the Summit Fire, which burned into Grizzly Flat, would have been a wake up call to ensure that the more restrictive slash treatments for the Southern Subdistrict would have been included. Data on snag presence, density and distribution of den and nest trees and snags was omitted. Then he neglected to label a number of watercourse crossings, and his legend did not identify which symbol is used for landings, seasonal, permanent or skid roads. Just to name a few of the more salient errors and omissions.

8. Pajaronian on Grizzly Flat logging

12) Opponents, who unsuccessfully challenged the 1997 sale at Grizzly Flat in court, said logging endangers the city's water supply and removes large trees that provide a canopy, effectively eliminating the cover that shelters the forest floor from fuel build-up. “I don't really see how you can possibly go in every 12 years ... it just doesn't make sense. There aren't that many trees in there now,” said Betsy Herbert, a consultant from Bonny Doon who fought the 1997 Grizzly Flat sale. They took quite a bit of timber out of there the first time. Now, 12 years later, there aren't going to be that many great big trees that have grown back in 12 years,” Herbert said in an interview Friday. “The trees are just going to get smaller and smaller and smaller. Every time they go back in, the trees are going to get smaller.” In a letter about Grizzly Flat, Herbert added, “I think that the City of Watsonville is ill-advised to proceed with yet another logging plan in the same manner as before, without including the public in a discussion of how to best manage this property. This public discussion should include a post-mortem fire report for the Summit Fire, which partially burned the Grizzly Flat property.” Koch said the logging plan is designed to maintain a steady rate of tree regrowth, meaning that the city should be able to repeat similar harvests over time without reducing the net amount of timber.

9. Sierra Pacific Industries trivia

While SPI's last minute attempt to purchase Pacific Lumber holdings (purchased instead by Mendocino Redwood Company and held under the new Humboldt Redwood Company), the following article shines a light on some of SPI's less than stellar activities.

13) ...SPI has earned a reputation for sharp elbows. In the Sierra counties where SPI appears to be systematically converting thousands of acres of timberlands to massive housing developments, citizens are organizing to resist the harm rural sprawl does to their communities. According to Cal Fire officials, after the 2002 Sour Grass fire in Calaveras County caused by an out-of-control SPI burn pile, the state of California had to take SPI to court to recover only $500,000 of the more than $940,000 taxpayers spent fighting the fire. In April 2007, SPI settled a class-action suit filed on behalf of hundreds of SPI truck drivers for $2.4 million; drivers alleged they had been forced to work 15-hour shifts without the breaks the law requires. SPI seems to have a hard time taking pollution control laws seriously. Just last year, SPI was assessed a $13 million fine for air quality violations, one of the largest penalties ever levied by the California Air Resources Board. The charges included “falsification of emission reports as a result of operator tampering with monitoring equipment,” as well as repeated violations of emissions limits and other serious violations. SPI even has the gall to package old-growth liquidation and clearcut forestry as a panacea for global climate change.

(from Earth's Tree News)

10. Scorched Trees Aren't Necessarily Dead

14) Just because a tree is scorched and leafless, doesn't necessarily mean it's dead. Given time, a good number of the trees burned in the recent wildfires will recover. Many of our native trees have developed adaptations to withstand California's periodic wildfires. Today's leafless skeleton may eventually be able to recover much of its former glory. Tree survival depends on the nature of the fire that swept through an area. A fast, low-intensity fire might just cause a tree to lose the current crop of leaves, and the tree could be green and full of leaves by next summer. On the other extreme, a hot fire can turn a stand of trees into an eerie forest of charcoal. Bark insulates a tree against fire. The first step in evaluating a tree for recovery is to see if the bark was able to protect delicate tissues underneath. Scrape off a very small section of the charred bark and see if there is a pale, moist layer preserved below. If it's whitish, pink or pale green that's a good sign; if it's yellow, orange or brown, it's probably damaged. Check a few more locations around the trunk. If 60 percent or more circumference of the trunk is uninjured, the tree is a good candidate for preservation. Trees damaged more seriously than this may recover, but they are more likely to be unstable and subject to attack by insects and diseases. Smaller trees are more sensitive than larger trees. Once trees for preservation are identified, there are a few things that can be done to help them recover. Replace the mulch that has burned off. This will protect the roots and help to re-establish beneficial fungi in the soil. If there are arborists working in the area, many will deliver chips for free or a nominal charge. Delay all pruning except safety pruning. It can take a long time for some trees to resprout. In a year, it will be much easier to evaluate which parts are dead and which are alive. If the trees were in a landscape, continue to water them. After the soil is rewetted, they won't need as much water as they previously did. Native oaks shouldn't be watered this summer, though if the rains start late this year, a deep watering in mid- to late-October would be beneficial. If we have another dry winter, give oaks another deep watering in April or early May. The most important thing is patience. Trees react slowly, but they are tough. Don't cut down trees just because they 'look dead.'

Jodi Frediani
Central Coast Forest Watch
ph/fax 831-426-1697

Jodi Frediani
Chair, Forestry Task Force
Ventana Chapter, Sierra Club
ph/fax 831-426-1697

< back to all issues

In This Section