June 7, 2018
Sonoma County Superior Court has once again granted a preliminary injunction to put the start of logging on hold in the 100-year-old redwood forest of the Gualala River floodplain, located in northwest Sonoma County and southwest Mendocino County.
On June 5, 2018, Judge René Chouteau issued a tentative order granting a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent the start of logging of mature redwood forest on the river’s floodplain while a second lawsuit (CV-262241, Friends of the Gualala River v. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection) proceeds. The tentative order was finalized on June 6.
Friends of Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and California Native Plant Society prevailed in a lawsuit against CAL FIRE’s approval of the first Dogwood logging plan. The first permit CAL FIRE issued to log the riparian redwoods was vacated in April 2017, after the court ruled that CAL FIRE had violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in approving the timber harvest plan. After Judge Chouteau gave CAL FIRE the opportunity to fix and resubmit the logging plan to comply with CEQA, CAL FIRE and the applicant, Gualala Redwood Timber, re-filed an amended version of the same controversial plan in November 2017. Friends of Gualala River sued CAL FIRE again over this second “Dogwood” logging plan, alleging essentially the same CEQA and Forest Practices Act violations that it found in the first version of the plan.
FoGR’s attorney, Edward Yates, filed the motion for a preliminary injunction in May 2018 so that the status quo would be preserved, and logging would not proceed during the lawsuit. The court agreed that logging would cause an imminent threat of irreparable injury, and found that FoGR demonstrated sufficient likelihood of success with evidence showing possible defects in the environmental analysis of the logging plan. The court set a limited bond of $500.
Real Party Gualala Redwood Timber’s law firm, Baker Botts LLC, argued strenuously but unsuccessfully against the preliminary injunction. GRT and CALFIRE argued that the logging plan sufficiently analyzes the environmental impacts, and claimed that FoGR failed to show irreparable harm if logging proceeds. The Court disagreed, and overruled GRT’s objections.
The “Dogwood” logging plan is distinguished by the unprecedented extent of logging over hundreds of acres along miles of floodplains that include special habitats for steelhead, salmon, and protected rare plants, wetlands, and wildlife. It also contains some of the largest, oldest and most mature redwood stands left in the Gualala River flats. FoGR argues that GRT and CAL FIRE did not properly analyze impacts, mitigation, and alternatives in the logging plan, as required by CEQA, the Forest Practices Act, and CAL FIRE’s own scientific guidelines for assessing impacts to riparian redwoods.
Edward Yates, attorney, 415.990.4805