| A version of this article was published in the
Independent Coast Observer
on August 8, 2003.
Anthony Lukacic, an official of the California Department of Forestry, recommended denial of Timber Harvest Plan 1-00-484 SON which would take half the trees on about 44 acres of a 55-acre total, the balance being in a buffer zone along the stream.
The THP would be about the size of a strip 500 feet wide along Highway 1 in Gualala from Old State Highway (the road to the Art Center) to Pacific Woods Road. The THP is much steeper, with inner gorge slopes approaching vertical, and scarred with old landslides.
After meeting last Thursday with a review team including staff of the Regional Water Board and the state Department of Fish and Game, Lukacic found that there was still not enough information to determine the environmental effects of the proposed cut, as required by law.
Timberland owner Harold Richardson attended the meeting. So did about 20 other people including representatives of Assembly Members Patty Berg ( D-Eureka) and Pat Wiggins (D-Santa Rosa), and of Senator Wes Chesbro (D-Arcata). Helen Libeu, a member of the Foresters Licensing Board, also attended.
Forester Charles Richardson, a younger cousin of Harold, said he has provided enough information and could understand a need for more if the stand of trees were already in trouble, but it is in prime condition, many agree.
Agency staff emphasized that the federal Clean Water Act, the California Environmental Quality Act and the Forest Practice Act have strict requirements which the logging operation must meet. The Gualala River is listed under the Clean Water Act as being too warm and sediment-filled to provide good habitat for salmon and steelhead.
“If you see a drunk in an alley that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for his long-term survival,” said Dave Hope of the Water Board. “That’s what I see as the situation of fish in this watershed.”
An endangered seabird that rears its young high in old growth trees, the marbled murrelet, is another species of concern. Ravens, crows and jays, known as corvids, are a threat to the young of marbled murrelets and use logged openings in the forest to get at the birds.
Near the start of the meeting, Lukacic sought points of agreement. He said the Richardsons agreed to a 75-foot stream buffer instead of the original 50-foot buffer. The agencies proposed stream buffers of up to 300 feet.
Lukacic asked if not cutting again in the same place for 80 to 100 years would win the other agencies’ approval. Stacy Martinelli of DFG said there is a real possibility, if the land is cut once, it will be cut again using a progression of logging methods that amount in the end to a clearcut. Then she proposed habitat reserve areas, possibly off site.
“It’s something to think about, anyway,” she said.
The Haupt Creek land is a separate piece northeast of Harold Richardson’s main ranch, so an off-site reserve might be quite far off.
Forester Richardson said there is a social issue associated with old growth that was not appropriate for the review team to discuss. He said Sonoma County owns forested land at the mouth of Haupt Creek that provides a habitat reserve. Hope said a road runs through it; Martinelli said there is no commitment for the county to retain it. The county land includes the Haupt Creek bridge near Clarks Crossing on the Wheatfield Fork.
On April 24, the review team meeting ended with an agreement that there would be a second inspection of the plan on the ground as requested by DFG and Water Board staff. The inspection took place, but only Pete Cafferata of CDF went out. Lukacic said he decided not to invite the other agencies, and didn’t even ask the landowner’s permission to invite them.
Hope said he’s done about 25 appeals of THPs before the Board of Forestry, which frowns on agencies not being allowed on an inspection. Rick Macedo of DFG, Martinelli’s supervisor, said he has never been on the THP site. He said the information provided by the RFP was not enough for him to decide what the stand is like without seeing it.
A major issue is maintaining the old growth characteristics of the forest, and the agencies asked Richardson to submit a better analysis of how he proposes to log and still keep old growth forest characteristics. Water Quality and DFG want him to leave tall trees that can fall or slide into the stream in future years to provide “large woody debris” that will shelter young fish.
Forester Richardson said he would leave the upper parts of cut trees for that purpose. Martinelli said that there is enough wood in the stream now to impede it from clearing the debris of existing landslides; she wants trees left standing to add wood to the stream in future years.
At one point forester Richardson got into a “did so / did not” volley with Martinelli over DFG’s position on the THP. Macedo backed her up throughout the meeting. He said that if CDF asked his department to propose mitigations to the plan, they would have to be very conservative.
Lukacic recommended denial.
|For more information, see:
Haupt Creek summary page