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Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
October 2008

1. SJWC NTMP Denied!!
2. UC THP Approved
3. CHY THP 1-08-131 SCR resubmitted - Soquel Creek
4. Campbell illegally harvests snags
5. PG&E on Graham Hill tree felling
6. Marbled murrelet protections at risk
7. Paul Stametz on fungi and forests

1. SJWC NTMP Denied!!

On October 8, three years after submission of the first NTMP by San Jose Water Company (SJWC), the Board of Forestry voted unanimously to deny their appeal and kill the NTMP. SJWC's NTMP was denied last year by CAL FIRE which independently determined that SJWC owns more than 2500 acres of timberland. Big Creek Lumber, agent for SJWC, and SJWC's attorney Chris Carr (previously attorney for Pacific Lumber) unsuccessfully argued the definitions of 'timberland', of 'crop of trees', of 'commercially available for harvest' and anything else they thought would help their case. However, the definitions seemed to be clear to CAL FIRE, the Board of Forestry and to the citizens opposing this plan. To have limited the definition as SJWC requested would have meant that land once clear cut would no longer be considered timberland, land that had suffered catastrophic fire would no longer be timberland and land where conifers were regenerating but were not immediately harvestable as saw logs would not qualify as timberland either.

Here's a memo, from NAIL Steering Committee member Terry Clark to NAIL members:

"The result of the unanimous vote by the BoF is that this NTMP that we have all been fighting for three years is now off the table with no hope of resurrection. SJWC has indicated they will not appeal the decision in court. The door is still open down the road for shorter, 3-year logging plan applications on smaller parcels of land, but SJWC has not taken any action on this. IF that occurs, NAIL will be involved and vigilant in opposing any plan that affects fire safety, water quality, slope erosion, danger to wildlife and threats to our community.

Your NAIL Steering Committee members, some community residents, forestry consultant Jodi Frediani, members of the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, representation from Assembly Member Ira Ruskin's office and Attorney Tom Lippe, special counsel for Santa Clara County, all attended the hearing in Sacramento, opposing the permit.

SJWC and their timber contractor, Big Creek Lumber, were denied an application in September of last year based on the number of acres of timberland owned by SJWC. NAIL's challenge to the acreage report ed by SJWC forced CDF to conduct their own study to validate or refute NAIL's fi ndings and CDF's final results agreed with NAIL's assertion. The permit was denied and SJWC stated they would appeal.

After a 3-1/2 hour meeting before the 9-member, governor-appointed board, that included statements made by attendees, timber industry lobbyists and counsel representing San Jose Water's lumber contractor, Big Creek, the board voted unanimously to deny the appeal.

We would like to thank this entire community for the support it extended to fighting this wrong plan in the wrong place. Our redwoods and big trees will continue to grow and flourish. NAIL encourages SJWC to receive a fair market price for the forested acreage while retaining water rights to the land so it can be converted to open space public land and preserved for future generations.

NAIL has worked very hard on this and to achieve a unanimous vote by the board in the face of SJWC/Big Creek's pressure and high priced San Francisco attorney as well as logging industry lobbyists, was a coup for this community. You CAN make a difference as an individual, never forget this.

The story of the victory got excellent media coverage, appeared in the San Jose Mercury and was picked up by the Associated Press. The story appeared on the websites of the following outlets: CBS5, NBC11, KCOY (San Luis Obispo), KTVN Reno, San Bernardino Press-Enterprise, KESQ Palm Springs, Contra Costa Times, KMPH Fresno, BusinessWeek, Trading Markets, and The San Luis Obispo Tribune.

2. UC THP Approved

Now that the settlement agreement has been finalized between the City of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County and UC, CAL FIRE moved forward and approved the university's THP/Conversion to remove trees in the path of several small campus improvement projects plus remove trees from the site of the proposed Biomedical Science building. Of course, those trees are currently the location of a year long tree sit. We'll have to wait and see how UC will deal with the tree sitters.

I'm assuming that nothing will happen until the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board issues a waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for the UC THP.

However, there is a big issue about storm water runoff that wasn't addressed during the THP review. Here are excerpts of some concerns expressed by CLUE (Coalition to Limit University Expansion) to Regional Water Board staff. CLUE has been involved in the law suit/settlement agreement, the THP review and many other aspects of the proposed UC expansion:

"I just received notice from Cal Fire that they have approved a UCSC Timber Harvest Plan that includes logging for the construction of the Biomedical Sciences Facility. I believe this is an approximately 80,000 sq. ft. facility. My understanding is that there will be a significant increase in post-development stormwater runoff volume from this project.

RWQCB previously offered extensive comments about the stormwater management for this project on Science Hi ll. This is the area of the campus which the Kennedy-Jenks study recommended no more development, but that if there were to be additional development, there should be no new net increase of volume of stormwater runoff because of the precarious state of the watersheds in that area.

As you can see, the water board expressed serious concern about post-development runoff volume. UCSC's reply (SA-2-4) essentially says that because of the many site constraints, they have done everything they can butthere will still be an increase in stormwater water volume in severely impacted watersheds. In other words, they are not accomplishing what you requested.

I don't believe Cal Fire was aware of this level of detail in their review of the process and subsequent approval of the THP and may not have read your agency's comments to the CEQA Initial Study. I believe that if they had, they may have made the THP approval contingent on adequate post-development stormwater management.

This is the first major project of up to 4 million sq. ft. of development over the next 15 years in steep, forested terrain with severely degraded watersheds. The water board previously commented that further erosion and degradation of the watersheds is unacceptable and, yet, UCSC has said that there will be significant erosion and degradation of all the major watersheds.

I am frustrated and hope that your agency can find a way to compel UCSC to submit an adequate stormwater management design before the timber harvest and building is begun. From Cal Fire's standpoint, I believe the timber harvest is considered to be the first step in the overall development project. If you were to keep an approach consistent with Cal Fire, your agency should not confine its consideration only to the harvest of trees when considering granting a waiver to UCSC, but should consider the whole project.

>From this perspective in this highly unusual situation, I hope that your agency will not grant a waiver to UCSC for the THP until this issue is resolved and that you will communicate your concerns to Cal Fire.

3. CHY THP 1-08-131SCR resubmitted-Soquel Creek

The CHY company which owns the Olive Springs Quarry in Soquel has resubmitted THP 1-08-131 SCR which was initially returned for incompleteness. Now, it appears the 235 acre plan may be returned again.* A memo from Jonathan Ambrose, NOAA Fisheries states that a significant inaccuracy exists in the plan: "the proposed THP indicate(s) federally endangered Central California Coast (CCC) Evolutionarily Significant Unit (ESU) coho salmon were detected in Soquel Creek by NOAA Fisheries' Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SFWSC) staff this summer. These fish were all detected within, or immediately downstream of the proposed THP area." The memo goes on to "encourage CAL FIRE to carefully assess and evaluate all potential adverse impacts that may result from the proposed THP to CCC coho salmon." Of course, before they can do that, the plan must state that coho exist in Soquel Creek, which it currently does not.

The plan proposes two Class I stream crossings (temporary culvert installation) of Soquel Creek that could result in a take of coho salmon. NOAA Fisheries is concerned that the proposed culvert installation "may result in violation of the federal ESA."

The plan and agency and RPF review documents can be found at:

*Curiously, the plan was accepted for filing 10-10-08. This means that a host of 'change pages' will have to be submitted to correct the 'no coho' claim, update the cumulative impacts assessment, etc. Of course, having a bunch of change pages makes it exceedingly difficult to keep track of the most updated version of the plan. However, if the plan had been returned, the submitter would have had to notice it in the newspaper again. I'm told this costs aro und $600, and of course, we wouldn't want to burden them with such excessive costs. On the other hand, if the industry knew they would have to re-notice when such significant info is incorrect, they might do their homework in advance. Sierra Club and CCFW will continue to monitor this plan carefully.

4. Campbell illegally harvests snags

In 2001-2002, CRFM filed suit against CAL FIRE and Don Campbell, landowner, for what CRFM believed was an illegal minor-amendment to allow harvesting of snags on the Campbell property along Baldwin Creek adjacent to Wilder Ranch State Park. In 1992, Campbell got the first NTMP to be issued in Santa Cruz County. It covers his 600 acre property in the Baldwin Creek watershed and specifically prohibits snag harvest. Prior to the lawsuit, Campbell had illegally cut multiple snags, including old growth redwood, in the stream channel of Baldwin Creek. The minor-amendment was CAL FIRE's (Nancy Drinkard's) way of 'correcting' the violation. The amendment claimed that since there would be a lot of snags on the adjacent parklands, then Campbell no longer needed to retain snags on his.

Ultimately, under pressure of further legal action, Campbell withdrew the amendment. However, since then, he has continued to harvest on his property under multiple Dead, Dying and Diseased (DDD) Exemptions. The majority of trees proposed for harvest under those exemptions have been Douglas fir and redwoods. Sounds a lot li ke snags to me. His September 2007 Exemption for 40 acres specifically mapped a 4' diameter downed Douglas fir in the riparian corridor. At Sierra Club's request, CAL FIRE did an inspection and told Campbell he could not commercialize the downed wood and snags adjacent to Baldwin Creek.

However, that Exemption was 'amended' in December of 2007 to harvest during the winter period and increased the area to be harvested to include 200 acres of hardwood. Wow, not only were winter ops allowed, but the DDD Exemption magically morphed into a Fuelwood Exemption.

To continue the free-form 'harvest permit vehicle,' Campbell submitted a new DDD Exemption September 2008, this time without a required map. CAL FIRE asked for a map to be submitted (after the map absence was brought to their attention) and apparently Campbell emailed the original map from Sept 2007, with no changes noted, even though he admitted he had completed part of that harvest. Hmm. The 200 acres have now magically disappeared, and the 4' diameter old growth Douglas fir snag in the WLPZ is still mapped for harvest.

After speaking with DFG about this problem, they followed up with CAL FIRE. It now appears that CAL FIRE will tell Campbell he cannot harvest snags on his property. Not under his NTMP, nor under an Exemption. However, I was told that he will still be allowed to continue harvesting under Exemptions, rather than utilizing his NTMP. If you are as confuse d as I am, raise your hand. Clearly this is a way for Campbell to avoid having an RPF oversee his logging activities, avoid having CAL FIRE conduct regular inspections, avoid having to post Log Truck signs along his haul route, etc. And it is not clear if his activities are in conformance with the objectives of his non-industrial timber management plan.

5. PG&E on Graham Hill Tree Felling

On October 4, the Environmental Committee of the San Lorenzo Valley Women's Club hosted a meeting with PG&E representatives to get answers to questions about recent tree trimming and felling along Graham Hill Road and Mt. Herman Road.

They learned that the major tree cutting program in effect this year in areas of Santa Cruz and Santa Clara County are part of an effort to improve reliability systemwide. PG&E conducted a study of power outages over the last five years to identify the cause of outages where high numbers of people have been affected. PG&E looked at which tree species were causing the most problems, which line reaches were most affected, which individual limbs were most likely to fall, etc. Then they targeted the problem areas this past March. In areas with repeated failures, it appears that PG&E took a tougher approach, with more felling than trimming.

Of course, many of the results observed by Santa Cruz and Los Gatos residents don't appear to have been as thoughtfully worked out as PG&E would like to hav e us believe. Certainly the old growth legacy wildlife granary snag cut down to protect a single water pump on my property did not seem to be necessary using PG&E's standards. Maybe the tree trimmers got a little slap-happy, who knows. In some places trees along Graham Hill were felled across the road from power lines. Others were trimmed a hundred feet above the line, with much of it seeming excessive.

PG&E said they had chopped and spread the slash to prevent erosion and had left the trees on the banks to disturb the slope as little as possible in order to protect against erosion. Some residents were concerned that logs along Mt. Herman could mobilize like torpedoes onto the roadway once rains commence. PG&E agreed to move those trees off of the slopes, if they could get the approval to do so from the property owner, Mt. Hermon Christian Center. Downed logs belong to the property owners who are now responsible for them.

The PG&E team also offered to hold a yearly meeting with the community with a presentation on planned projects to get input from the public in order to avoid problems in the future. Thanks to the Valley Women's Club for taking the initiative to let PG&E know the community's concerns.

6. Marbled Murrelet Protections at Risk

The timber industry is at it again. They have challenged the Endangered Species Act protection of the last of the murrelets, wonderful little seabirds which nest high up on large, old growth tree limbs, and produce a single chick fed with fish caught out at sea by the parent:

News of the Week
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT: Pacific Northwest Sea Bird May Lose 'Threatened' Status
Rachel Zelkowitz

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed last week to review the protected status of the marbled murrelet, a sea bird that nests in the coastal forests of the Pacific Northwest. The move comes in response to a timber industry-led petition claiming that the bird does not meet key provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). But opponents cry foul, arguing that the industry petition hinges on a flawed analysis. What's more, other, more recent studies show that the population is in rapid decline, some scientists say, and any change to its status could be disastrous.

The fate of the small sea bird could have big implications for old-growth forests. To protect the marbled murrelet and also the spotted owl, whose habitat overlaps, up to 89,000 hectares of old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest are off-limits to logging. Delisting the marbled murrelet could remove that barrier.

The controversy hinges on whether the birds on the U.S. side of the border are a "distinct" segment of the broader population of marbled murrelets that stretches across the northwestern part of the continental United States and into British Columbia. Yes, said FWS when it first listed the populat ions in California, Oregon, and Washington as threatened on 1 October 1992. The ESA mandates t hat FWS conduct updates on listed species every 5 years. The final version of a 2004 FWS update came to the opposite conclusion about the murrelets' distinctness, saying that the populations are not genetically distinct, and that all were protected by regulations on both sides of the border. Under ESA, several criteria can be used to judge distinctness: genetics, ecological role, or protected status.

Noah Greenwald, science director of the Center for Biological Diversity in Portland, Oregon, alleges political interference, citing a 28 February 2007 memo between FWS's Portland and Washington, D.C., offices acknowledging that Julie MacDonald, former deputy assistant secretary of the interior, had intervened in the 2004 report. "The Service recommended that the listing status remain the same, and supported listing as a distinct population segment," the memo reads. MacDonald and her office later over ruled that recommendation. MacDonald has since resigned.

To Ann Forest Burns, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council (AFRC) office in Portland, the 2004 study means murrelets in California, Oregon, and Washington should be delisted. In its petition, AFRC is now calling on the service to act20on its previous findings. "We're trying to get some logic and transparency involved here," Burns says.

Not so fast, says Steven Beissinger, a conservation biologist at the University of California, Berkel ey, who surveyed the marbled murrelet from 1995 to 2005. He says that even with the existing protections, the birds are suffering from "a bit of a triple whammy": lost habitat from logging, lost food resources, and failed nests due to predation. Central California populations have declined by as much as 70% in the past 2 years.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Geological Survey report released in 2007 concluded that certain segments of the murrelet populations in central California and Alaska are genetically distinct from the larger group, and populations across the range are plummeting.

FWS has 1 year to reach its much-anticipated decision.

7. Paul Stametz on Fungi and Forests

Here is an excerpt from Stametz' excellent book, Mycelium Running:

"Forests are Not America's Renewable Resource": "Faced with the corporate logging propaganda promoting the idea that 'trees are America's renewable resource,' I wondered: with hundreds of tons of trees harvested per acre in one week from soils that have been built in the last 10,000 years, how could this loss of biomass be called renewable in our lifetime? This philosophy defies common sense. Carbon cycles that fuel the food chain and build the forest soils move at a much slower pace than logging companies. With each generation of trees we cut, soils increasingly shallow and we further jeopardize the health of the forests. The richness and depth of soil is one legacy from centuries of mycelial activity. And with each harvesting and replanting, the soil loses nutrients and gradually becomes overtaxed, no longer able to support the growth of healthy trees. Trees prematurely climax, falling over as the root wads can't hold the trees upright. Current 'sustainable' logging practices strive to balance the impact of overharvesting with ecological restoration, potentially irreconcilable objectives. The bottom line is that we need to focus on carbon cycles and raise the nutritional plateau in timberlands by accelerating decomposition of wood debris and restarting plant cycles."

Stametz recommends reseeding with native species of fungi.

More next month. You can catch Stametz at the Bioneers' Conference in Marin, Friday, October 17.

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

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