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   Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
Forestry Updates, December 2007

1. Cemex FSC re-certification
2. Blacktail THP - BoF appeal
3. New Roseburg Clearcut - BoF appeal
4. USFWS relinquishes responsibilities
5. Santa Cruz Sentinel continues its downward spiral

1. Cemex FSC re-certification

Earlier this year SmartWood conducted a re-certification assessment of Cemex’ forestry practices on their 8,320 acre Forest Management Unit along San Vicente Creek. Gary Paul is RPF for Cemex, which received Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in 1998. Cemex is the third largest cement company in the world, based in Monterey, Mexico.

SmartWood conducts a stakeholder process as part of their annual assessment for re-certification on behalf of FSC. In this case SmartWood received input from 4 Government stakeholders, 2 local residents, 1 local NGO, 1 ‘academia’ and 3 Cemex cement plan employees. I can think of a better balance myself, but was not consulted on that mix.

While SmartWood chose to recommend recertification, they did have a number of concerns with the Cemex operations. The full report can be viewed at here.

Here are some excerpts of interest:

CEMEX is seeking an FM certification without chain-of-custody for the 8,320 acre single FMU that is comprised of the San Vicente Creek Tract and the Laguna Creek Tract. CEMEX forest located in Santa Cruz Country, CA near the communities of Davenport and Bonny Doon. It has been privately owned and actively managed for timber products for over 100 years. The San Vicente Creek Tract also includes an old limestone quarry that is no longer in operation, a water intake that provides domestic water to the community of Davenport, and the water required to operate the CEMEX cement plant in Davenport. Both neighboring landowners (a small ranch and farm) and the local power company (PG&E) have easements across the property. There are no other historical customary or public uses of the private forest.

The ownership of the forest has changed over the years, but the forest has always been owned in conjunction with the cement plant in Davenport. The water source, provided by San Vicente Creek, continues to be essential to the operation of the cement plant as it is the sole water source for the cement plant. There are no other commercial uses of the forest besides timber production and the San Vicente water intake.

Conclusions made by SmartWood:

  • CEMEX does not have a written statement demonstrating commitment to the FSC Principles and Criteria.(See CAR 01/07)
  • CEMEX has disclosed all the forest land in the US under its ownership but has not disclosed information regarding holdings in other countries. (See CAR 02/07)
  • Landscape level planning is lacking. (See CAR 05/07)
    • Evaluations for identifying and protecting resources such as water, fish, wildlife, and high conservation value forests (HCVF) are conducted for each Timber Harvest Planning (THP) area. However, these resources are not evaluated or analyzed collectively across the landscape of the CEMEX forest and neighboring ownerships.
  • Comprehensive assessment and plan for the transportation system is lacking. (See CAR 07/07)
  • Skid trails are not minimized on units in which tractors are used to harvest commercial firewood. (See CAR 08/07)
  • The current riparian zones and management in the riparian zones do not meet all the FSC criteria. (See CAR 09/07)
    • Evidence of ground skidding within 30 feet of a category A stream was observed.
    • The current buffers around FSC category B streams do not meet the FSC minimums.
    • The current buffers around FSC category C streams do no meet the FSC minimum.
  • Each THP area is evaluated in isolation and cumulative effects are not specifically analyzed. (See CAR 06/07)
CARs are corrective action requests and must be completed in order to retain certification. All CARs were deemed minor rather than major and Cemex was given until their next annual audit to come into compliance.

Observations, which are considered more minor than the CARs include:
  • Older large trees are under-represented across the forest.
  • The 2006 inventory has not been fully analyzed, so the distribution of the old-growth and snags inventoried is not yet known, and thus there is no comprehensive landscape level management strategy with regard to recruiting old and large trees, snags, and large woody debris.
  • There are no records of post harvest or reforestation monitoring; since the monitoring is performed informally by the forest manager.
SmartWood says it is interested in stakeholder comment and participation, even though the current audit is complete. To submit comments contact Kara Wires at . Comments may be made anonymously.

2. Blacktail THP - BoF appeal THP 2-06-106 SHA(4)

Roseburg Timber owns some 334,000 acres of timberland in northern California. Their recent Blacktail THP was denied by CAL FIRE because 19 acres of clearcut (out of 560 total acres, 209 slated to be clearcut) would have been visible from Castle Crags State Park, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and I-5.

The plan was appealed by attorney Chris Carr on behalf of Roseburg and the appeal slated to be heard by the Board of Forestry on December 6. Well, the hearing was opened by Board Chair, Stan Dixon at 9:00am and about an hour and a half later closed to be continued without ever taking public testimony or hearing the merits of the case.

Carr had submitted a legal brief to the Board Executive Officer on October 23. The brief had never been forwarded to CAL FIRE and had only been delivered to the Board members the week before the December meeting. Neither was the brief or October 3 memo from Board Executive Officer, George Gentry in the agenda packet for the Board meeting. In fact, a member of the public, Board watchdog, Sierra Club’s Paul Mason, had asked for any relevant documents after Oct 23 and had been told that none existed.

CAL FIRE’s attorney, Giny Chandler who had received the legal brief five minutes earlier, was hopping mad and said the Department needed time to respond to the brief. In addition, Carr asked for time to respond to the reply brief of CAL FIRE.

Furthermore, Carr asked the Board if he could submit a video of the sightlines into the record. The video had been taken after the plan had been denied. A discussion ensued and Chandler said if it had not been prepared and viewed by CAL FIRE as part of the review of the plan, she would not allow it to be introduced into the Board’s record as it constituted new evidence.

The Board’s attorney suggested that the Board needed to figure out what their future policy would be regarding legal briefs. No legal briefs had ever been submitted before for any appeal. The Board could choose not to accept them, but once one had been accepted, then CAL FIRE had a right to respond.

Pam Giacomini, Range member of the Board, made a motion to allow members of the public present to testify. Carr objected. More discussion ensued and the motion was going to be amended to allow only those who could not attend the as-yet-undecided future hearing date. With a show of just a few hands, Giacomini decided to withdraw her motion and that the hearing should just be shut. No public testimony was allowed.

Carr and Chandler were directed to formalize a briefing schedule and review the video for possible inclusion. No date was set for the continuation of the hearing, but January and February Board meetings as well as the possibility of a special meeting date were tossed out. Carr’s body language was revealing, as at one juncture he refused to relinquish the podium to Chandler. When he finally stepped aside to allow her to speak, he kept his hand firmly planted on the stand.

The only thing clear as mud was that the Board of Forestry has rules which don’t illuminate the process and handled this whole debacle in a very unprofessional manner.

The Castle Crags State Parks ecologist was the one to ask that clearcutting be prohibited on the offending site. Members of the public from Shasta, Arnold, Santa Cruz and Humboldt were in attendance at the Board hearing. During the Public Forum period later in the day, I suggested that all documents be posted on the Board’s website for access by the public. At a minimum, a statement on how to obtain such documents should be posted. The Board had discussed dissemination of materials to CAL FIRE and Board members, but had neglected to include the public in their feeble attempt at transparency.

One member of the public who submitted comments into the plan felt the clearcut should be allowed to create “much needed diversity to an otherwise stagnant and sterile landscape.” Another wrote that a clearcut would allow him to “glass these areas in hopes of spotting a nice buck or kill.”

3. New Roseburg Clearcut - BoF appeal

Now one can assume that Roseburg wants to appeal a 19 acre clearcut as this most likely won’t be the only logging site of their expansive holdings visible from the park, Pacific Crest Trial or I-5. However, it runs deeper than that. Roseburg had a second THP denied by CAL FIRE this year. The Whitlow plan proposes an oversize, 40 acre clearcut. Why Roseburg is suddenly in the business of expanded clearcuts is uncertain. In fact, this appeal only came to my attention in a conversation with the CAL Fire Deputy Director today on another matter. No mention was made during the Blacktail hearing. This makes at least three plan denials by CAL FIRE this year. Who would’ve thought??

A date has not yet been set for the Whitlow appeal hearing, nor has a date been set for the San Jose Water Company NTMP appeal, also being prepared by Chris Carr, who alternately represents Pacific Lumber.

I almost forgot. Roseburg is FSC Certified.

4. USFWS relinquishes responsibilities

A special meeting was held in Sacramento at the Resource Building by CAL FIRE on December 6, conflicting with the Board of Forestry proceedings held downstairs in the auditorium, to discuss changes being made with regards to implementation of regulation for federally listed species such as the Northern Spotted Owl (NSO). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will no longer be providing consultations for NSOs on private forestland. It appears that this will also be true of consultations regarding federally ‘threatened’ California red-legged frogs.

USFWS expects CAL FIRE to take over responsibility for adequate protection of these species and CAL FIRE seems to expect the Department of Fish and Game to do their share, though no representative of DFG was able to be present at this important meeting.

Excerpts from a new CAL FIRE memorandum on the Northern Spotted Owl:

  • Q: When will the new process go into effect?

    A: The new process will go into effect on 2/1/08.

  • Q: What will the new process entail?

    A: The new process will differ from the current one in that:
    • U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will have a much diminished role in determining take avoidance.

    • The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) may have an increased role.

    • The plan submitter will provide the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) with all of the information needed to determine take avoidance of the northern spotted owl (NSO) in the plan.
Frequently Asked Questions About The Change To The Northern Spotted Owl Technical Assistance Process

AND, I understand that the State is looking at a $10 billion shortfall in the next budget session. Will be interesting to see how state agencies take over federal responsibilities.

5. Santa Cruz Sentinel continues its downward spiral

Those of us in Santa Cruz are painfully aware of the recent downsizing of the local daily, the Sentinel, sometimes affectionately referred to as the Senile. Bought out earlier this year by MediaNews, the presses were dismantled and hauled away, literally falling off the truck on Hwy 17, causing a huge traffic snafu and denting the roadway as a parting farewell. Employees were laid off including the best environmental reporter in the paper’s recent history, Roger Sideman. Then the downtown offices were closed moving the remaining employees to some obscure office location in Scotts Valley. The downtown edifice, home to the Sentinel since 1856, now sports an “Available” notice.

Tom Honig, the Sentinel’s editor-in-chief, has taken a new job at Armanasco Public Relations in Monterey. Honig was a huge friend of local timber, particularly Bud McCrary of Big Creek Lumber. Managing editor, Don Miller has taken over Honig’s post as top editor as the paper downsizes one more step. While we have had no personal experience with Mr. Miller, the Good Times Weekly reminds us that Miller had a personal column in the paper entitled “In the Spirit”, leading some to identify him as a “Christian fanatic”. However, Miller assures us that his personal opinions “are not going to become the opinions of the editorial page. Not even close.”

In another smooth move, reporter Kurtis Alexander, who consistently got the facts of the Big Creek Supreme Court challenge of County zoning ordinances wrong, has been promoted to city editor. Some things may be changing, but accurate coverage of local forestry issues probably isn’t among them.

Jodi Frediani
Chair, Forestry Task Force
Ventana Chapter, Sierra Club
1015 Smith Grade
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
ph/fax 831-426-1697

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