Over-The-Horizon Logging

by Christina Aanestad, June 2, 2010

G-P's coastal ghost town.

Mendocino Redwood Company is changing the way company personnel draft Timber Harvest Plans. Company officials, President Jim Holmes and sister company President Mike Jani spoke at two public pres­entations in Ukiah and Fort Bragg last week.

Last year the timber company laid off an estimated two-thirds of its workforce. But, despite the poor econ­omy MRC is now in an upward swing, according to Holmes.

“Almost all of our loggers are back to work,” he told the sparsely attended meeting in Ukiah.

Mostly MRC employees attended the public meeting in Ukiah. Former Second District supervisor Mike Del­bar who was voted out in the 2008 election, First District Supervisor John McCowen, and aide to Congressmem­ber Representative Mike Thompson, Heidi Dickerson, were among the few people to attend.

Holmes pointed to the company’s largest customer, Home Depot, for propping up their logging business. According to Holmes’ Powerpoint presentation, industry estimates are that new housing construction has declined some 75% over the past five years.

“People are now repairing existing homes, building their own decks, and they go to Home Depot for that,” he said.

More work means more logging in Mendocino County, and MRC has a new vision for timber harvesting as the company moves forward. The plan is to streamline the process for developing new logging plans, ot Timber Harvest Plans, as they are known, with a property-wide forest management plan. Then, MRC personnel will draft an 80-year harvesting plan.

“Instead of doing the THP-by-THP approach, we’ll be turning in basically an 80-year plan to show how our operations will move around the property,” said Jani, former President of MRC who now oversees their newly acquired sister company, Humboldt Redwood Company, formerly Pacific Lumber.

According to Jani, the 80-year plan will be incorpo­rated into a Programmatic Timber Environmental Impact Report (PTEIR). Company officials say the process will be time- and cost-effective.

“Every harvest plan has a lot of redundancy in it and if we can address that redundancy on a landscape basis and have our harvest plans keyed or tied to those bigger plans we’ll have a better result,” said Holmes.

Environmental activists say a cookie cutter approach to some 230,000 acres of forest land is not the best approach for sustainable logging.

“The cumulative impacts assessment won’t be ade­quate; nothing can be predicted more than 40-years at the most… With climate change, its impossible to make 80-year predictions,” said Linda Perkins, with the Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance. She attended the MRC’s presentation in Fort Bragg.

According to Jani, MRC’s new 80-year property wide plan will include mitigations and protective meas­ures for wildlife.

“[The plan] will come up with property wide meas­ures that will ensure we will be protecting water, fish and the species that are present on the property,” he said.

Jani estimates land will be reassessed for wildlife and other impacts, every 20 years. According to Holmes the 80-year, property-wide plan will spell out best manage­ment practices to protect endangered species.

“For example with spotted owls,” explained Holmes, “the plan will spell out very carefully how we will man­age spotted owls or coho salmon. It gives us a template for managing across the property.”

But to environmentalists the 80-year approach is a streamlined cop-out. “It will be limited because they can say we’ve covered that in our over-arching plan and so we don’t have to cover that here,” speculated Perkins.

According to Perkins, MRC did not advertise the com­pany meeting in either coastal paper and only a few environmentalists attended MRC’s meeting in Fort Bragg. “I’m disappointed there weren’t many environ­mentalists at the Fort Bragg meeting and I know there were a number who were not notified,” she said.

According to the company presentation, MRC no longer engages in clearcutting which strips the land of trees in an area as wide as 30 acres at a time in Califor­nia. But, MRC and HRC do what’s now called variable retention, logging acres of trees and saving islands of forest nearby. It’s like the step sister to clearcutting.

“The openings aren’t very big. Of the ones I’ve seen recently I’d guess five acres would be the biggest open­ing,” said Jani.

Perkins said MRC’s plan to increase timber harvest­ing will do little to create a fully healthy forest. They say they will double inventory in 50 years. That’s not a ter­rific forest in terms of having a forest and meeting wild­life needs,” she said.

MRC’s operations still garner sustainable timber har­vesting certification from the Forest Stewardship Coun­cil. The company is up for re-certification and Perkins speculates that is the basis for MRC’s public hearing.

“They have to show they engage with the public,” she said.

Even under FSC certification, MRC still uses herbi­cides like Monsanto’s Round-Up. At MRC’s meeting in Ukiah, local attorney Barry Vogel requested the types of the herbicides used on MRC land. The company also uses herbicides in a process called “hack and squirt” — a crude process that goes back to the 90s — where herbi­cide is injected into tan oaks, killing those trees and clearing the way to plant redwood and firs instead.

“We’d prefer that they not use any [herbicides],” said Perkins.

But according to Jani, MRC tried alternatives to herbi­cides, including chainsaws and black plastic tarps to cover and suffocate out new tan oak regrowth. “It was more costly in terms of CO2 emissions,” said Jani. According to Jani, the FSC agreed.

To ease any local concerns and engage the public in MRC’s next round of logging plans, the company is seeking stakeholders to give input on it’s new THP master plan. Holmes estimates the 80-year PTEIR will be ready for public input by 2011.

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