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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county

Forestry Updates

by Jodi Frediani
September 2008

1. SEAT Post-Fire study
2. Hammered Watersheds (Soquel/Corralitos/Pajaro)
3. Salvage Logging: Bad for the Environment
4. CHY THP 1-08-131 SCR, Soquel Creek
5. Trees get bad rap after wildfires
6. Mike Fay - 333 days on the Redwood Transect
7. Coho Confab, Smith River, September 26-28

1. SEAT Post-Fire study Summit and Martin Fires

The State Office of Emergency Services (OES) is currently conducting a field study of the Martin and Summit Fire burn areas under the State Emergency Assessment Team (SEAT). Depending on whom you talk to, the purpose is either to assess the areas to determine how to treat the landscape to protect life, property and environmental resources, or to ground-truth the Federal Burned Area Reflectance Classification (BARC) aerial mapping. The latter task, I’m told, has involved attempting to determine the level of fire damage to trees in the burn area, however, it is unclear whether any of the team members are qualified to do so.

Getting information on the SEAT project has been like pulling teeth. Everyone knows a little, but no one seems to know much. SEAT team members include Julia Dyer, Central Coast Regional Waterboard, Stacy Martinelli, Department of Fish and Game, John Schlosser, geologist with the California Geological Survey, John Schuslyer, OES, Wayne Abel, hydrologist with the Department of Water Resources, Jed Wilson, Fire Captain, CAL FIRE (providing team safety), Rob Rutland, CAL FIRE (GIS Support) and Anthony Lukacic, CAL FIRE.

I have heard that the team in Santa Cruz County, led by Lukacic, has been tromping through the burn areas without landowner permission or notification. They even entered onto an active logging site in Brown’s Valley without prior notification to the LTO or RPF. Wow, I thought only EarthFirsters! did that. You could get hurt wandering around unannounced on an active timber harvest plan. For that matter, you could get shot at wandering around on private property up in the hills.

But worse (assuming no one got hurt), Lukacic has not thought it important or necessary to engage the public. I recently learned that the SEAT team conducting a study of the burned areas in Monterey County has held a number of public meetings to inform the public of their activities, gain the support of the public up front, notify property owners of their intent to enter private property, and keep the public updated on the TEAM’s activities. What a concept! Engage the public in a governmental review and report process ostensibly designed to make recommendations for their property for protection of public health and safety and protection of environmental resources.

Why not the same courtesy here in Santa Cruz County? Feel free to ask this question of Team Leader, Anthony Lukacic of CAL FIRE. Contact him on his cell phone at 1-707-592-6236 for more information or: . SEAT members have been hard at work keeping 18 hour days seven days a week for the past week and a half and will carry on for a total of two weeks.

2. Hammered Watersheds (Soquel & Upper Corralitos Creek/Pajaro River)

Rich Casale, Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has been conducting a one-man effort to visit property owners in the burn areas to offer advice and technical assistance regarding post-fire management of their properties and valuable natural resources. Particularly what to plant, where to plant, what not to cut down, how to protect soils from erosion and, worse, debris slides in preparation for winter rains.

75 habitable structures were lost along with 40 horses consumed in the Trabing Fire. Total fire suppression costs were $35 million. The Summit Fire was 4250 acres, the second largest wildfire on record in Santa Cruz County (second to the 1948 fire that burned through the north coast/Bonny Doon area.) According to Casale, most of the Summit area had never burned in recorded history, except for portions of Ramsey and Brown’s Creek.

According to Casale, 25% of the Summit Fire burn area is within the Soquel Creek watershed (north of Ormsby Cutoff). The remaining 75% is in the Corralitos Creek/Pajaro River watershed. He anticipates that millions of cubic yards of sediment will mobilize once the winter rains commence. The Lexington Fire resulted in relatively little debris flow (5 million cubic yards) due to the hydrophobic nature of the post-fire soils. 36% of the Browns Creek watershed is in THPs that have been approved and/or cut since 1997. That doesn’t include THPs in the Corralitos Creek watershed downstream. Redwood Empire is currently operating a 398 acre plan in the Soquel Creek watershed and the Chy Company (Olive Springs Quarry-see below) has submitted a 235 acre THP along Soquel Creek. AND coho juveniles were just found in Soquel Creek this summer.

3. Salvage Logging: Bad for the Environment

The following excerpt is from a paper entitled, The Effects of Postfire Salvage Logging on Aquatic Ecosystems in the American West, published in BioScience (November 2004 / Vol. 54 No. 11 • BioScience)

Although often done in the name of postfire restoration, salvage logging typically delays or prevents natural recovery in several important ways (Beschta et al. 1995, 2004, Lindenmayer et al. 2004). These impacts tend to have a multiplier effect, because fire-affected ecosystems are sensitive to further disturbances.

• Postfire salvage logging generally damages soils by compacting them, by removing vital organic material, and by increasing the amount and duration of topsoil erosion and runoff (Kattleman 1996), which in turn harms aquatic ecosystems. The potential for damage to soil and water resources is especially severe when ground-based machinery is used.

• Postfire salvage logging has numerous ecological ramifications. The removal of burned trees that provide shade may hamper tree regeneration, especially on high-elevation or dry sites (Perry et al. 1989). The loss of future soil organic matter is likely to translate into soils that are less able to hold moisture (Jenny 1980), with implications for soil biota, plant growth (Rose et al. 2001, Brown et al. 2003), and stream flow (Waring and Schlesinger 1985). Logging and associated roads carry a high risk of spreading nonindigenous, weedy species (CWWR 1996, Beschta et al. 2004).

• Increased runoff and erosion alter river hydrology by increasing the frequency and magnitude of erosive high flows and raising sediment loads. These changes alter the character of river channels and harm aquatic species ranging from invertebrates to fishes (Waters 1995).

• Construction and reconstruction of roads and landings (sites to which trees are brought, stacked, and loaded onto trucks) often accompany postfire salvage logging. These activities damage soils, destroy or alter vegetation, and accelerate the runoff and erosion harmful to aquatic systems (figure 1).

• By altering the character and condition of forest vegetation, salvage logging after a fire changes forest fuels and can increase the severity of subsequent fires (CWWR 1996, Odion et al. 2004).

4. CHY THP 1-08-131 SCR

The CHY Company/Olive Springs Quarry has submitted a new 235 acre THP to CAL FIRE. It comes up for first review on September 11. The plan is in the Soquel Creek watershed and includes two temporary Fords of Soquel Creek. Both have two options. Option #1 would include “a 48” half round corrugated metal pipe (CMP) with native stream bed materials (for fish passage) along with two 24” CMPs to accommodate flow. All three CMPs would be 20’ in length and placed parallel to each other. The approach to the north will be excavated and graded in a fashion best suited to accommodate logging traffic. The pipes will be placed in the channel and set to grade or as close as possible to the natural flow and direction of the channel. The pipes will then be covered with washed drain rock measuring 1.5” in size, and will cover the pipes to a minimum depth of 12”. The base rock, mentioned above, will fill the cross-section of the channel to the surface approaches. On top of the base rock a layer of straw will be installed to prevent the deposition of fines in to the stream channel…Atop the straw layer, a ¾” base rock will be applied to a minimum depth of 4” and used as the running surface for traffic. This layer of base rock will encompass both approaches and the crossing in their entirety.

This crossing is to be removed prior to October 15 or used for allowable winter operations.

The RPF is new to this area and lives in Grass Valley. Neighbors have already been complaining to CAL FIRE after having suffered the logging aggravation from Redwood Empire’s 398 acre THP currently being operated on in the watershed. Wonder if the steelhead and yellow-legged frogs would complain if they could.

The plan was found deficient by CAL FIRE First Review on 9-11-08 and returned.
BREAKING NEWS: Coho juveniles have recently been found in Soquel Creek!

5. Trees get bad rap after wildfires

Formerly revered trees get bad rap after wildfires
“Many houses that burned in 2003 and last year ignited when wind-driven embers from a mile or more away landed on a flammable part of a home. Shade trees lining a property will catch flying embers before they can hit a home, Potocki said. “The trees could be doing you more good than harm.”

By Robert Krier, staff writer

September 6, 2008

Eucalyptuses are nothing more than multistory matchsticks ready to burst into flames when Santa Ana winds strike. The neighbor's pine? Pretty. Pretty dangerous, that is. And that sycamore sucks up a zillion gallons of costly water.

In fire-and drought-ravaged San Diego County, such half-truths and myths have put formerly revered trees in a new light. Yanking out any healthy tree, once seen as almost sinful, now is being viewed by some as prudent.

Chuck Eckels cut down six Australia-native Brisbane box trees on his half-acre Escondido lot about a month after the Witch Creek fire roared past. “I look at trees as detrimental to the property as opposed to beneficial,” Eckels said.

His attitude is not an aberration. A “less vegetation, the better” approach, Cal Fire20 urban forester Lynnette Short said, has led many people to needlessly chop down healthy trees. “People are taking drastic measures,” Short said. “There are a lot of misconceptions out there.”

Local foresters and arborists want trees to stand tall again. They met last week to begin crafting policies that communities can use to save trees while protecting property. They say most well-tended trees pose little fire risk and can even prevent houses from igniting in some instances.

Pete Scully, a division chief for Cal Fire, said healthy trees have gotten a bad rap. “Live trees, properly maintained and spaced adequately, are fine,” he said.
Arborists say the threat from pines and eucalyptuses in particular has been exaggerated. They say healthy trees aren't the guzzlers people think they are, so tearing them out to conserve water is often unwarranted.

“We want the public to realize that trees are not the problem but part of the solution,” said Mike Palat, an arborist and chairman of the San Diego Urban Forest Council, which includes arborists, government agencies, landscapers and nonprofit organizations.

For the rest of the article:

6. Mike Fay-333 days on the Redwood Transect

Hello All,

On July 30 2008, after 333 days and over 1000 miles on the Redwood Transect, Lindsey and I reached the northernmost redwood tree on the Chetco River in Oregon. We would have written to you all earlier but we were following events in Scotia. When we walked through on the transect it was Palco, now its Humboldt Redwood Company.

Thanks to all of you, who welcomed us on your land, answered relentless questioning, and gave us food when we were hungry, we accomplished the first part of our mission: to assess the state of the redwood forest, not by road or books, but with out own eyes and on foot. Every step we made observations and picked the brains of everyone we had the pleasure to meet along the way. We learned a lot about silviculture, roads, watersheds and wildlife management, economics, regulation and the practices of the past that have led to the forests of today. We were able to observe the human footprint, and the growing network of protected areas.
People asked us what our biggest surprise was. I would say for me they were three. This first was the vast and beautiful network of riparian old growth redwood forests in Big Sur. The second was what amounts to the beginnings of a Marshall Plan of road and creek restoration that his happening on the ground. The third was the young age of the majority of redwood forest in the range.

People also asked us what people agree on. There was one thing we found that everyone agreed on: The redwood is a wonder tree.

So--now what? We have tons of notes and photos to integrate into our geoblog at in preparation for what should be a big spread in National Geographic next year. Importantly we would like to follow up with many of you in the coming months to visit, recap our discussions and explore more conclusively the over-riding question that we hope you aren't too sick of hearing from us by now: how best do we maximize productivity in the redwoods while preserving the values we all enjoy?

California has long been a place of innovation and we are witnessing a transformation here in the management of the redwood forest on many levels. To complete our mission we hope to make a tangible contribution to that transformation.

Most of all we would like to thank all of you once again for helping us complete our walk. We look forward to following up in the coming months.


Mike and Lindsey

J. Michael Fay
4th Floor, 16th St. Bldg.
1145 17 th St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Cell 1-707-499-6995

See below Steve Singer’s response to Mike’s “over-riding question”: how best do we maximize productivity in the redwoods while preserving the values we all enjoy?

Hi Mike-

You asked, what would be my plan for the heavily logged redwood lands. My answer is that I would evaluate each stand for its highest and best use. Which raises the question, what is that highest use? Is it timber production? My answer is no, although sustainable forestry is appropriate for some redwood lands. The highest and best use has to be to protect old-growth redwood stands and enhance redwood biodiversity, especially for rare or endangered species and species that depend on conditions or resources provided by healthy redwood forests, such as steelhead and salmon. Although it would take too long to grow old-growth conditions back on the youngest stands, some of those stands, depending on their location, could help protect the few remaining old-growth stands and their biota by providing buffer zones and connecting corridors. If young growth stands have streams or rivers, those streamside stands should be managed to enhance fisheries, the aquatic ecosystem, and water quality. So any young-growth stands t hat could serve any of these purposes should not be used for logging. I would also remove from timber production the best and most suitable of the older second-growth stands containing residual trees or other old-growth elements so that, over time, they can be allowed to grow into new stands of old-growth.

Old-growth redwood stands are the only real examples of the redwood forest community that remain, and currently, they are too small, too few, and too far apart to be sustainable in the long-term. From a scientific point of view, the even-aged stands of young redwoods are not a natural plant community, but solely an artificial one created by man, ie., they are tree farms. They are comprised solely of adolescent trees that lack the age and size-related structures (large branches, tree hollows, deep bark fissures, etc.) that support entire canopy communities (lichens, ferns, salamanders, spiders, etc.) as well as nest, den, and roost sites for the marbled murrelet, bats, mammals, and many other birds. Since it takes hundreds of years for redwoods to mature, and for these attributes to form, young stands have little in common with true redwood forest. As an ecologist would say, the composition, structure, function, and processes associated with an undisturbed redwood forest biotic community are lacking in even-aged young stands. This is an important distinction because the ecosystem services provided by redwoods (clean water, healthy soils, biodiversity, carbon sequestration, etc.) are best provided by fully developed redwood forest, i.e., old-growth redwood forest.

So the question is, how much land we, as a society, can afford to put into tree farms if we want to preserve the redwood forest community and that rich biodiversity and other values associated with it for future generations of people to enjoy and to sustain the overall health of the planet that we live on?

On those young-growth redwood stands suitable for timber production, we need to grow and harvest trees in a manner which doesn't damage the environment. We are not doing that now, although we are doing a better job of it than when those lands were clearcut. We should never forget that past logging operations created the devastated landscapes left for us to deal with today and today's logging still has the potential to create new problems for future generations.

The THP review and approval process in California is a system that routinely approves non-sustainable and environmentally damaging timber harvest operations. Over 90% of the plans submitted are approved, including many bad ones. This is because the Department of Forestry (including the State Board of Forestry) systematically minimizes or ignores input from citizens, scientists, and others who oppose aspects of the plan or would like to see more environmental protection measures included.

To wrap up, let me posit that there are three important questions to be asked about redwood lands. The first is, "What do they look like now?" You've done a good job of answering that by your successful trek from Big Sur to Oregon, and I value and appreciate your effort. The second question is "What do we want our redwood lands to look like in the future?" and we are in the midst of a discussion about that. The final question, and the one that I don't think you are yet prepared to answer is, "How did our redwood lands come to look like they do today?" The answer to this question requires knowledge of the long history of efforts to either conserve or exploit our redwood forests up to the present time, a history that involves state oversight (or lack of same) and the role of the timber industry (which has usually lacked any kind of land use ethic) . The answer to this question is not easy for someone who comes from outside the redwood region to grasp, yet the answer to this question is crucial, since it will determine whether or not our efforts to improve redwood lands in the future will have any chance of success.

I would like to discuss these and other redwood issues with you when you come to Santa Cruz. Can you tell me when that would be? There are several of us in the environmental community that would like to meet with you. Could we plan a date far enough in advance that would allow us all to get together?

Look forward to hearing back from you.

- Steve

Steven Singer Environmental & Ecological Services
218 Nevada Street, Santa Cruz, CA. 95060
Phone/fax: 831-427-3297

If you would like to share your views with Mike, you can contact him at:

7. 11th Annual Coho Confab
September 26-28, 2008 on the Smith River

The 11th Annual Coho Confab will be held on the South Fork of the Smith River in the far northwestern corner of California. This dynamic event is sponsored by Salmonid Restoration Federation, Trees Foundation, Smith River Alliance, Smith River Advisory Council, and Cal Trout. Orientation presentations will focus on fire ecology and fisheries, coho salmon recovery, and the significance of the Mill Creek watershed acquisition in protecting and restoring a salmon stronghold.

This year’s Confab will feature restoration tours in the Mill Creek watershed, tributaries of the South Fork, Yontucket Slough and the Smith River estuary. Randy Lew of Pacific Watershed Associates will lead a tour of road decommissioning and erosion control projects in Dominie and Rowdy Creeks. State Park geologist Rocco Fiori will discuss experimental wood loading designs to enhance stream function and salmonid habitats. A full-day tour of Mill Creek restoration projects will include presentations by Dan Burgess of Rural Human Services who will lead a tour of the native plant nursery for Mill Creek restoration, Lathrope Leonard of Redwood National and State Parks will lead a forestry tour focused on restoring late seral forests and Brian Merrill of California State Parks will discuss backcountry road management in North Coast Redwoods State Parks and rehabilitating watershed function.

Rod McLeod of the Mill Creek Monitoring Program will lead a hands-on workshop assessing juvenile coho summer abundance estimation in Mill Creek. Zack Larson, watershed coordinator of the Smith River Advisory Council, will facilitate a Smith River fish identification workshop.
Antonio Llanos of Mike Love & Associates will lead a tour of fish passage projects and will co-lead a tour of Yontocket Slough and the Smith River estuary with Zack Larson, Watershed Coordinator for the Smith River Advisory Council. Other workshops include instream fish identification, and macro-invertebrate sampling and stream health assessment. There will be an open forum entitled “Stories and Songs of Salmon” with native stories from Frank Lake and river troubadour Alice di Micele, and there will be an open forum and resource=20 workshops. Saturday night will culminate with a wild salmon feast and a cabaret.

Advanced registration fees are $100 that includes all camping, food and lodging. After September 5, registration is $125. For more information about the Confab, please visit or The online registration form is here. To see the agenda or download a registration form to fax or mail, please click here.

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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