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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
June 2008

1. TPZ Parcel Size: One more time, June 10 Public Hearing
2. Young THP 1-08-018 SCR Starr Creek
3. Summit Fire, NRCS public meeting, June 7
4. Summit Fire and logging
5. "Killer Trees" of the Summit Fire
6. Scott Creek: LDS THP 1-08- 079 SCR
7. Grizzly Flat NTMP
8. SPI Clearcuts Good for Global Warming
9. 3rd Annual Spring-run Chinook Symposium, July 10-12, Nevada City

1. TPZ Parcel Size: One more time - June 10 Public Hearing

Tuesday, June 10 at 1:30pm the Board of Supervisors will revisit raising the minimum parcel size for rezoning to Timber Production (TP) from 5 to 40 acres. Because a grace period was instituted for the last quarter of 2007 allowing timberland owners of parcels smaller than 40 acres to rezone to TPZ, the finalizing of this ordinance change was delayed until next week. The last of the TPZ rezone applications will also be before the Board of Supervisors for approval. Once done, no parcels smaller than 40 acres (except those adjacent to TP parcels in the same ownership) will have logging as an allowable use. Approximately 28 applications are still awaiting BoS approval.

I urge those of you who can to attend. Just to give the BoS a show of support and to counter any arguments that may crop up from disgruntled landowners and foresters who will be in attendance. See you there. For more info, contact Planner, Sarah Neuse, 454-3290. The BoS agenda will be posted on the County website June 5 in the afternoon.

2. Young THP 1-08-018 SCR Starr Creek

This THP proposes reconstructing more than 1100 feet of new temporary haul road up a steep canyon onto a ridge top and upgrading 1600 feet of existing access road. In addition, the 38 acre THP proposes constructing an additional 2,000 feet of temporary ridge top road. A 33 page geology report accompanies the THP to address the various construction problems, including relocating a segment of the existing road from within the stream channel. Let’s see, that’s nearly 1 mile of essentially temporary road, up to 16’ wide.

The RPF, Gary Paul, originally submitted the plan without the proper Domestic Water Inquiry notification. CAL FIRE returned the plan and required proper noticing. Now an adjacent landowner has submitted a comment letter indicating that he indeed has a domestic water intake adjacent to the property line just downstream from proposed cable yarding on extremely steep slopes. He also has a spring close to the property line and intends to sink a well in the same area below the steep slopes intended to be cable yarded. In addition, the neighbor has noted that several "historically unique" old wooden bridges built more than 100 years ago exist across the stream within the plan boundary. These were not disclosed in the plan, nor were they visited during the PHI. The neighboring landowner has also noted that trees have been marked for cut on his property along the 1100 foot shared property line. The neighbor indicates that he "met forester Gary Paul at the site and showed him the metal survey pipe (marked "LS3007") located at the southwest corner of my property." Hopefully a focused PHI will be held to address these new, previously undisclosed issues.

Central Coast Forest Watch submitted a letter asking that the plan be denied since it is not in compliance with the basic mapping requirements of the Forest Practice Rules. In particular, the extensive proposed road system, proposed skid trails and multiple proposed landings are mapped outside of the ‘harvest boundary’, while the rules require that all such features be mapped as part of the ‘logging area’. In addition, the plan proposes cable yarding in at least one area where setting up tailholds without entering onto neighboring property seems impossible. According to a map provided by the neighbor a house on his property and adjacent to the logging area was not properly mapped by the RPF.

3. Summit Fire (NRCS meeting June 7, 10:30am, Corralitos Church)

The recent Summit Fire devastated much of the more than 4000 acres of watershed lands which were in the burn perimeter, primarily in Santa Cruz County. Much of the area was vegetated with chaparral, knob cone pine and small diameter hardwoods. Slopes were exceptionally steep and the winds on the day the fire broke out were fierce.

Some mixed conifer and hardwood forested areas burned (redwood/Douglas fir/oaks and madrone), but much of the fire in those areas was concentrated along the ground. Even heavily forested areas where the fire burned hot leaving white ash, the canopy of the larger trees was left in tact. While many homes were destroyed, fortunately no lives were lost.

John Ricker, head of Santa Cruz County Environmental Health, anticipates that we will see increased sediment loads in our streams for the next couple of years as bare hillsides unravel. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) in conjunction with the Resource Conservation District (RCD) and the County are offering free services to area residents to assist in erosion control efforts. A meeting will be held Saturday June 7, 2008 10:30-12:00 at the Corralitos Community Church. I understand that additional meetings will be scheduled in the Summit area to educate landowners, answer questions, and set up site visits.

4. Summit Fire and logging

Once again, the issue of logging as a fix for fire susceptibility has come to the forefront. And even though the top fire experts in the state have come out repeatedly declaring that it is not the larger redwoods that burn (the very trees targeted by loggers), industry continues reciting their mantra. Logging is needed to protect us from fire. The war cry has gone through a few nuanced changes, but the end game is the same. My continued research is showing that logging in our rural residential areas can be a contributing factor to increasing, not decreasing, fire risk.

Yet even our local foresters have made our arguments for us, though they have then back-tracked to a position of safety:

"The timber up there, the redwoods, the forester tells me, can survive a fire like that." Mark Pimentel, administrative services director for the City of Watsonville (Register-Pajaronian)

Matt Dias, a registered professional forester for Big Creek Lumber, agreed that redwood trees possess thick bark that offer resistance to forest fires.

"We had a fair amount of land get burned," said David Van Lennep, a forester with Redwood Empire, a San Jose-based timber company.

About 500 acres of Redwood Empire timber land in Ramsey Gulch -- near the southern edge of the blaze -- caught fire. Van Lennep said company officials had yet to determine the severity of the damage.

"Of that acreage, some of it was chaparral and knob pine that burned almost completely -- moonscape," Van Lennep said, adding that fire-resistant redwoods grew in other areas of the burn. "I have high hopes that the large, mature trees we left in the harvests will be OK." (Santa Cruz Sentinel)

"They were going to take the revenue from the timber harvest and treat areas within the forested landscape to make it more resilient and also treat areas around the forest," (Dias) said." Re SJWC NTMP (Pajaronian)
"By harvesting redwood forests, you’re able to generate money, and you can take that money and make areas more fire resistant by doing brush treatment, increasing road access, etc.," he said. "I do believe that by conducting timber harvest operations and by opening up the forest, you can make a forest more fire resilient." Re Grizzly Flat NTMP (Pajaronian)

A response from Kevin Flynn, Los Gatos:
"Now we are hearing a slightly different story from timber and that is the necessity of logging to raise funds to manage chaparral and build roads."

But, in essence the timber industry is saying, 'We are logging the land (cutting the largest redwoods), thus reducing its resistance to fire, in order to raise money to conduct acts that make the land more resistant to fire.'

Sounds like a Catch-22 to me -- defined by Wikipedia as "a situation in which multiple probabilistic events exist, and the desirable outcome results from the confluence of these events, but there is zero probability of this happening, as they are mutually exclusive."

My two cents:

There is an implication in Dias’ remarks about SJWC that they would have managed brush and chaparral. In fact, in the SWJC NTMP they never promised to manage the chaparral. Rather the ‘fire element report’, which was added after vociferous complaints from NAIL and other Los Gatos residents, proposed more complete lopping of slash (created by the logging!) to reduce fire risk (increased by the logging activities themselves.)

Now Dias is claiming that brush management and road construction is good for fire. However, opening up the redwood forest through logging and road construction increases the ladder fuel loads by allowing in more sunlight, drying out the soils making them more conducive to plants such as broom, coyote bush (known as creasote bush because of its propensity to burn hot), ceanothus and pampas grass, which burn more readily than large diameter trees, and can send flames into the canopy. Roads can also act as wind tunnels, and provide a dryer climate than intact, roadless conifer forests. And, of course, the most fire resistant trees are removed.

5. "Killer Trees" of the Summit Fire

As part of their mop up operations, CAL FIRE is felling ‘hazard’ trees. According to Rich Sampson, CAL FIRE RPF heading the Felton Resource Management office and heavily involved in the Summit Fire response, burned trees that could fall on public roads and houses are being cut and left in place. Trees that were still on fire (several days ago) were also being cut down.

Most ‘hazard trees’ were knob cone pines with some madrone and oak thrown in for good measure. The majority of the severely burned and cut trees I saw alongside Eureka Canyon Road and Ormsby Trail were small diameter. However, one old growth (estimated to be 175 years) Douglas fir with a fire scar (new?) was felled and left as large downed wood along Eureka Canyon. What a shame. This live tree was sited on the upslope side of the public road, but if I had to put money on it, I would argue that it would have stood for a very long time to come. And helped stabilize the road bank as well by drinking a goodly amount of water.

"Killer" Douglas fir is now dead

6. Scott Creek: LDS THP 1-08- 079 SCR

The Latter-day Saints have resubmitted their THP, Land Bountiful, under the guidance of RPF, James Hildreth. The plan previously submitted by Roy Webster was returned. The 222 acre THP is adjacent to Big Basin State Park and situated in the headwaters of Scott Creek. It can be found at:

The plan has two age classes of trees: 100 years old and 16 years old. The plan will be tractor and cable yarded with ground based equipment operations on unstable soils or slide areas, slopes over 65% and slopes over 50% with high or extreme Erosion Hazard Rating. The plan proposes winter operations, including timber falling within WLPZs and ELZs of Class II and III watercourses. The plan proposes 18 watercourse crossings. Did I mention that Scott Creek is a coho stream?

The plan proposes hauling 6-8 loads of logs per day for 6-8 weeks, using Empire Grade to Hwy 1 and Highway 236 to Mt. Herman to Hwy 17. That is a maximum of about 320 loaded log trucks with over 600 log truck trips total.

7. Grizzly Flat NTMP

The City of Watsonville is once again planning on logging their own watershed lands up on Grizzly Flat. Gary Paul, RPF, with help from Chris Hipkin, RPF, has been preparing an NTMP for Grizzly Flat for the past two years. However, the plan has not yet seen the light of day. It was recently noticed in the newspaper, indicating that submission to CAL FIRE is imminent. According to news reports the City is considering whether to do salvage logging on portions of the property that burned. Given that two of our ‘top’ private foresters (Dave Van Lennep and Matt Dias) have come out with comments in the press that redwoods are fire resistant and have fire resistant bark seems to belie the need to do salvage logging of redwoods. However, the salvage logging rules allow for logging which does not adhere to CCR 918.3(a) which requires leaving a well-distributed stand of at least 40% of the conifers over 18" dbh. Instead, the area must simply meet stocking standards.

8. SPI Clearcuts - Good for Global Warming

The following is from Earth Tree News and boggles the mind:

5) "By following intensive management practices to harvest and replant most of our lands over the course of 80 to 100 years, we found we can actually increase the ability of our forests to store carbon by about 150 percent," said Cajun James, the company’s research and monitoring managers. That’s the gist of a four-year study produced on behalf of Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns 1.6 million acres of forests in California. The study examined four scenarios, and found that the intensive model of harvesting and replanting about 1.25 percent of forest lands each year most successfully sequestered carbon. Environmental
groups think the science justifying these conclusions is, at best, sloppy. Chris Wright, executive director of the Foothills Conservancy, said the study only concentrates on carbon in trees, and overlooks how much carbon is emitted into the atmosphere while transporting workers, harvesting the wood, and hauling the felled trees. A group called ForestWatch, which produced its own study, asks builders to steer clear of Sierra Pacific Industry products until the company reforms its forest management polices. The company last year paid a fine of $13 million for falsifying emission reports and tempering with monitoring equipment.

Sierra Pacific Industries plans to clearcut 1 million acres in the Sierra Nevada over the next 100 years. According to their own ‘researcher’, it should be great for Global Warming. The lead sentence for this story that appeared in an Amador County journal said, "Logging companies see a silver lining in global warming." They have truly blinded themselves, once again, to the bigger picture. Cajun James, researcher for SPI, has also produced studies that show clearcutting the Sierra Nevada is good for water quality (or at least not bad). Of course her studies claimed that any sediment problems were a result of Girl Scouts riding their horses across the stream.

9. 3rd Annual Spring-run Chinook Symposium, July 10-12, Nevada City

The Salmonid Restoration Federation's 3rd Annual Spring-run Chinook Symposium will be held in Nevada City on July 10 followed by field tours on the Yuba River and Butte Creek on July 11 & 12. Symposium presentations include Ecological Perspectives on Spring-run Chinook salmon. Session topics will highlight status of populations and specific recovery opportunities for Central Valley Rivers, and recovery challenges including FERC relicensing, climate change, and resurrecting the Klamath run. Afternoon panels will representatives from DFG, NOAA Fisheries, SYRCL, State Water Board and Conservation Groups will discuss recovery through habitat expansion, water supply, and water quality improvements. Field tours will include a Yuba River float, site visits to the Bear-River Feather Set-back Project by way of the Lower Yuba, a Restoration thru Relicensing Driving Tour, Snorkeling Investigations of the South Yuba River, and a Butte Creek tour of Spring-run Fish Populations. Symposium and field tour costs are $105-135 depending on advanced registration which closes on June 15.

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

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

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