Friends of Gualala River (FoGR), along with Forest Unlimited, is taking legal action against the resubmitted Timber Harvest Plan “Dogwood,” the THP that would log in the floodplain of the Gualala River.
CAL FIRE approved this THP on March 30, 2018. Dogwood contains the largest tracts of mature redwoods in floodplains, beginning at the boundary of Gualala Point Regional Park’s campground and extending up over 5 miles of the river.
These floodplains are wholly special riparian habitats: they are part of the river, which naturally occupies the floodplain when it flows over its banks. It’s a potent natural sediment trap, or “sink” for the silt and clay that runs off of the eroding slopes and landslides above it. When its vegetation is flattened, the floodplain loses its capacity to trap sediment. This THP in effect logs the river itself, as the river includes its floodplains.
The Gualala River’s floodplain supports extensive seasonal wetlands. Salmon and steelhead feed and fatten on the floodplain, including its wetlands, during those special flooding events such as we had in early April.
Among the environmental reasons and legal basis for the lawsuit to protect the Gualala River are:
- Gualala Redwoods Timber (GRT) essentially re-filed the same unacceptable GRI Dogwood THP, without substantively addressing either public or FoGR comments.
- GRT dismissed public concerns, and disregarded meaningful reduced project alternatives.
- GRT dismissed the existence of seasonal wetlands in the floodplains, which is not credible.
- GRT disregarded CAL FIRE’s own scientific guidance on how to assess riparian redwood logging plans. They didn’t even assess the effects of winter 2017 flooding of the floodplain on the part of Dogwood they did harvest (lower Buckeye Creek) or compare it with unharvested areas to validate their predictions of how benign their floodplain logging plan is. If they were serious about environmental protection, they would have at least monitored to verify their predictions and assurances. They didn’t.
- GRT didn’t assess the endangered red-legged frog adult impacts during the non-breeding season, when they move away from breeding ponds and into floodplains to feed at night and hide out under cover by day. They treated frogs impacts as though they were in a hot, arid inland climate (inactive or close to ponds in the dry season) rather than on the more humid coast (where they move overland in foggy, cool weather and at night). And the THP still says the nearest known occurrences of red-legged frogs are 21 miles away, contradicting added information that they are present in the THP area! Careless and confusing contradictions show how sloppy the registered professional forester (RPF) and CAL FIRE are in preparing a revised THP, even after losing last year’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit to FoGR and our allies.
- GRT didn’t even do a cumulative impact analysis of the floodplain logging. They just tallied up cumulative projects: total THP acreages of different silvicultural treatments in other THPs, and didn’t even distinguish acreages of floodplain from slopes, or wetlands from non-wetlands. So, there was no assessment of the cumulative environmental effects of those projects on fish, wildlife, floodplains, wetlands, plants, etc.
- The THP acknowledges that the river “regularly floods its banks,” but omits any reference to the special salmonid feeding habitat it provides when it does, or the impacts of disturbing the floodplain soils and habitat with skid road use, logging, and hauling. That’s why there are special scientific guidelines and rules for assessing THPs that venture into floodplains. GRT either disregards them or asks for “exceptions” to the rules. We refuse to allow this.
- GRT and CAL FIRE really didn’t fix anything in the old THP. They made minor technical amendments that still dismiss the public’s legitimate concerns.
FoGR and our allies will continue our fight against this egregious logging plan, which would harm the river, its floodplain, and the wildlife that live in or beside it. Logging in the floodplain is a terrible idea that needs to be stopped before it inflicts damage on the Gualala River.
The importance of this area is demonstrated by Sonoma County plans to make it the centerpiece of a larger River Park as far back as 1950s, when timber and salmon fishing were still booming.
Logging of Dogwood is set to start on May 15, 2018. FoGR and our allies will be in court before that date. Please help us in our fight by donating to Friends of Gualala River. And look for updates on this website in the weeks and months to come.