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Update on litigation concerning the Magical Forest, aka the timber harvest plan “Dogwood”

by Jeanne Jackson

The Return to Writ on the Dogwood timber harvest plan (THP) was heard Friday Jan. 24, 2020, in Superior Court by Judge Wick. The two matters being considered were “alternatives” and “cumulative impacts.” In a tentative ruling, Judge Wick ruled against FoGR and sided with Cal-Fire. The final ruling from the hearing is due shortly.

The one matter on which Judge Wick was silent in his tentative ruling was whether the THP needs to be recirculated for additional public comment. FoGR contends that recirculation is necessary to abide by California Environmental Quality Act. Our hope is that Judge Wick will require this, giving us more time and a reprieve from logging, which could start April 15. Our options for further legal maneuvers are slim.

FoGR prefers not to be involved with litigation. However, we are very concerned about the damage to the Gualala River from logging in the floodplain. Because of this concern, we have been in litigation on “Dogwood” for nearly five years, with tremendous support from the greater community and beyond, including fishing groups concerned about the degradation of the river.

There are two new THPs we are concerned about, “Little” and “Elk,” both in the North Fork of the river, in Mendocino County. In these cases, though, the north coast division of California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is also expressing significant concerns regarding the potential for significant, adverse environmental impacts. CDFW is doing what agencies enforcing regulations to avoid environmental harm should be doing, and we thank them for their strong stance. Unfortunately, “Dogwood” is in Sonoma County, and did not receive the same level of scrutiny.

FoGR members have been making a concerted effort to meet with the various agencies who oversee timber harvest plans, to offer our help and support when needed. We feel that might have made a difference with “Little” and “Elk,” but time will tell.

We are united in our love for the Gualala River and all the species that call it home. We urge the Burch family, owners of Gualala Redwood Timber, to sell the Magical Forest to Sonoma County Regional Parks. To log it would be a desecration.

90-100 year old redwood tree marked for cutting in Gualala River floodplain; photo credit: copyright © 2016 Mike Shoys, used with permission
90-100 year old redwood tree marked for cutting in Gualala River floodplain; photo credit: copyright © 2016 Mike Shoys, used with permission