First came the “Dogwood” plan: a 320-acre timber harvest plan (THP) filed by Gualala Redwoods Timber (GRT) in 2015. It involves tractor-logging hundreds of stately second-growth redwoods that line the lower Gualala River, which straddles the Sonoma-Mendocino county line on the coast, in areas spared from axes and chainsaws for a century or more.
Next was the “German South” plan, which GRT filed last September, which involves harvesting an additional 96 acres of floodplain redwoods, in an area immediately adjacent to “Dogwood,” and clear-cutting 85 acres directly upslope. In September came GRT's “Plum” THP, which involves felling floodplain redwoods along the Gualala's north fork in Mendocino County.
The towering second-growth redwoods GRT intends to cut down include many of the largest trees remaining in a watershed that has been particularly hard-hit by clear-cutting since World War II. Scouring winter floods have periodically rushed through the river canyons in the past century, naturally thinning the lush forests and giving the groves an expansive, cathedral-like appearance reminiscent of other redwood parks such as Prairie Creek Redwoods.
GRT argues that they are only cutting these forests selectively and leaving riparian buffers, in compliance with state regulations designed to protect streams. According to environmentalists, these unique groves serves as a thin green line against the extinction of endangered and threatened species of salmon and trout, which feed, rear, shelter and migrate in them, particularly during big storms such as the downpours roiling California's northern coastal waters as this issue of the AVA goes to press.
Therefore, environmentalists say, they should remain untouched – particularly given the already badly impaired state of the Gualala River.
“GRT is trying to clean the last meat off the bones of this watershed,” says Chris Poehlmann, an organizer with Friends of the Gualala River, which is part of a coalition of groups opposing the plans.
Friends of the Gualala River, Forest Unlimited, and a chapter of the California Native Plant Society filed a lawsuit to halt the “Dogwood” plan, which went to court for a preliminary hearing in September. They notched a temporary victory when Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau issued a preliminary injunction that halts the logging project for now. Chouteau cited the possible threat the plan poses to endangered species in making his ruling and is scheduled to make a final decision in February.
The attorneys representing Gualala Redwoods Timber was almost as big of a story as Judge Chouteau's ruling: Ginevra Chandler, who is the former chief legal counsel of Cal Fire, and none other than Doug Bosco, one of the biggest influence peddlers in the North Bay and North Coast – a region he represented in Congress from 1982-1990.
Chandler is the former chief legal counsel of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). She now works at the Law Office of Duncan M. James, a well-known law firm on North State St. in Ukiah where Mendocino County District Attorney David Eyster worked prior to his election in 2010.
During his time in Congress, Bosco formed a habit of kiting checks throughout Washington, D.C. and leaving the public to pay the bill — the so-called “House Banking Scandal” that rocketed Newt Gingrich to fame and fortune. He is now the co-owner of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and Northwestern Pacific Railroad Authority, among many other business ventures.
In addition to their mutual employment by Gualala Redwoods Timber currently, Bosco and Chandler share something else in common: They each formerly worked for Pacific Lumber, a logging entity the owned by Houston, TX-based Maxxam. At the time, Maxxam-Palco owned over 200,000 acres of prime Humboldt County forestland, including most of the last unprotected old-growth redwood groves then remaining on private lands, most of which it clear-cut before cashing out of the county, making it perhaps the most infamous logging operation ever in the North Coast.
Chandler reached the pinnacle of her profession in 2005 when she was appointed as Cal Fire's chief legal counsel. From the outset, her previous employment for Maxxam raised an ethical flag. It was a case of the fox guarding the henhouse, environmentalists noted at the time, since Maxxam was one of Califoria's biggest logging companies, and Cal Fire regulates logging on private land.
In February 2005, PALCO CEO Robert Manne sent a letter to Cal Fire Director Dale Geldert. “PALCO acknowldges that prior to her employment by the state, Ms. Chandler was employed by Carter, Behnke, Oglesby, and Bacik, a law firm which has done and continues to do work for the Company,” it stated. He went on to write, however, that “PALCO hereby waives any conflict of interest in the matter.”
In an interview with me, Chandler confirmed that she was “one of two attorneys at Carter, Behnke, Oglesby, and Bacik that worked on timber harvest plan cases.”
In 2008, former Cal Fire Director Richard Wilson and a Cal Fire forester named Chris Maranto brought a whistleblower suit against Maxxam owner Charles Hurwitz and his company, which would help push the sordid timber firm into bankruptcy, alleging that Hurwitz had falsified information in state regulatory filings so as to enable the liquidation logging of its once-proud redwoods and Doug firs.
Attorneys for Wilson and Maranto became livid when, according to them, Chandler attempted to suppress Maranto's involvement in the case involving her former employer. Chandler had threatened disciplinary action against Maranto if he discussed the case with his attorneys, it noted.
“Mrs. Chandler has ordered Maranto not to discuss the Debtor Defendants and their actions with his attorneys,” reads an 2009 ethical complaint filed by attorney Phil Gregory.
Gregory's complaint went on to accuse Cal Fire of failing to cooperate with the lawsuit because Chandler was attempting to protect Maxxam. “Frankly, we are surprised at the lack of cooperation from CDF, especially considering that it was CDF that was the direct victim of the Defendants' fraud,” Gregory wrote. “We can only assume that CDF's lack of cooperation is based on Ms. Chandler's involvement in these cases.”
According to Chandler, she was following Cal Fire policy by attempting to prevent Maranto from supplying evidence housed at the agency's office that could have been useful in the case. “It would have been inappropriate for him to supply documents from Cal Fire's files to his attorneys in a case like that,” she said. She declined to elaborate on what would have made such an activity inappropriate.
Wilson and Maranto ended up settling for $4 million from Maxxam-Palco, which was distributed among the plaintiffs' law firm and the state and federal government.
Chandler's Cal Fire tenure did not end well. In 2013, she was removed her from her position following a disastrous federal court case involving an investigation into the “Moonlight Fire” in Lassen County, which revealed that Chandler had been involved in setting up an illegal $3.66 million off-the-books account that was established by Cal Fire, called the The Wildlife Fire Investigation Training and Equipment Fund.
The private, nonprofit account was filled through lawsuit settlement proceeds. The fund helped paid for such items as $22,000 in metal detectors, $30,000 in GPS units, and $33,000 for a conference at a Pismo Beach resort.
Chandler declined to discuss her involvement in setting up the slush fund.
Bosco was the North Coast's Congressman when Maxxam conducted a hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber in 1985, immediately tripling the company's rate of logging. It was among the biggest issues in Bosco's district during his tenure in public office. Soon after being voted out of office, he became a Maxxam lobbyist. He earned a reported $15,000 a month and played an especially effective of role as an advocate for Maxxam's clear-cutting during the administration of Gray Davis.
In 2003, Davis appointed Bosco to be chair of the California Coastal Conservancy, which allocates money for coastal protection throughout California. Bosco's role on this public agency made conservationists especially angry when he turned up as GRT's attorney.
The Coastal Conservancy has been an important funding source for The Conservation Fund, a Virginia-based land trust, which has purchased several large forested tracts in the Gualala and Garcia river watersheds in recent years. These same groups are keen on purchasing Gualala Redwoods Timber's land, and they would need to raise funds from the Coastal Conservancy again to do so.
According to Ed Yates, an attorney for the environmental groups that have sued to stop the “Dogwood” timber harvest plan, Bosco's arguments during the September hearing before Judge Rene Chouteau were “mostly broad and political,” whereas Chandler demonstrated that she was far more familiar with the details of the case.
Chandler says she will be submitting a final briefing on GRT's behalf by February 2nd. The “Dogwood” lawsuit will be decided soon after that.
To tell this tale fully, you also have to mention a man named Henry Alden, who, as GRT's forestlands manager, designed all of GRT's floodplain logging plans. Certainly no stranger to sagas of upheaval and controversy in redwood country, Alden was Maxxam's lead forester in the late nineteen-nineties as it sought to fell the Headwaters forest.
Maxxam went bankrupt in 2008, exiting the logging business after taking the best redwood and fir left on North Coast's private lands with it. But the the era that Maxxam belonged to – one that involved conflicts and tensions concerning environmental destruction wrought by logging -- has not yet ended.
Many of the same people even continue to play the same roles.
Make Mendocino County Great Again? Timber.
“The logging trucks are rolling through Whitmore again and it has nothing to do with President-elect Donald Trump. The bone-dry woods of eastern Shasta County have finally absorbed enough water from recent storms to permit timber harvesting after a Cal Fire-enforced hiatus last season. It’s good to see them, and even though they’ll be gone as soon as the limited cutting’s done, I like to imagine Trump is already making Shasta County great again.”
“And it’s not just happening here. It’s happening all over rural America. In one sense, Trump’s victory represents a cry for help from mostly white small town America, Hillary Clinton’s deplorables, Barrack Obama’s bitter clingers, the great white underclass excoriated by National Review political analyst Kevin D. Williamson in a widely-read essay during the run-up to the election:
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible. … The white American underclass is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.”
Make Shasta County Great Again? Timber!
Deplorable and bitter clinger.
“According to environmentalists, these unique groves serves as a thin green line against the extinction of endangered and threatened species of salmon and trout, which feed, rear, shelter and migrate in them, particularly during big storms such as the downpours roiling California’s northern coastal waters as this issue of the AVA goes to press.”
Cutting through the personalities, legal nuances, cultural clashes, and ideological assumptions; from a scientific stand point the above Environmental narrative ran off the tracks a long time ago. Harvesting timber along the Gualala River, or not harvest timber will do nothing to change the reality of salmon populations on the Gualala River. Our best science today indicates, those populations are controlled by ocean conditions that effect available food, and levels of predation in the ocean. Salmon population metrics are difficult to specifically predict, but follow well defined ocean condition trends.
What we have seen historically is, false narratives have a tendency to obtain a life of their own. So this one, along with a multitude of of others, will continue for a while.
Sorry, but riparian habitat loss, not the only factor but a major one for anadromous fishes, the prime issues being dams, siltation and seasonal flow, especially in tributaries. For the Gualala, siltation secondary to deforestation and hillside agriculture contribute, but too few vineyards to affect flow. So far. University of Oregon has many resources for salmonid ecology.
Thanks for replying. That does not take away from the fact that we currently have more freshwater habitat for coho than we have coho. In the past, lets say 40 years ago, it was the opposite. We had more coho than freshwater habitat.
The coho population fluctuates between lean years and more robust years, based on ocean conditions. Salmon are somewhere in the middle of the food chain. Animal populations, that are in the middle of the food chain, will have fluctuations in population sized due to two primary factors; food supply and predation. That is what we are seeing with salmon.
What we saw 40+ years ago, with exceedingly high coho populations, would indicate that food supply in the ocean was considerably better then, and predation was less. Logging in this time period, going back 150 years, was inconsiderate of freshwater habitat, yet the coho were in all the local rivers in high numbers. An abrupt change happened in 1977, when coho numbers crashed, everywhere.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge about this. You mentioned that the best science points to ocean conditions as the dominant factor.
What I’ve gathered from reporting on land-use impacts to fisheries for several years is that several variables influence salmon population and return numbers, including loss of habitat from factors like sedimentation and dams and instream temperature increases, interactions with hatchery fish (decreases genetic diversity), ocean/climate conditions, and (especially in the past) overfishing.
Locally, the most important factor effecting freshwater habitat, is the presence of “heavy woody debris” in the stream channel. Sediment is marginally significant. Same for shade. This is based on what is seen in the Caspar Watershed, and corroborated from studies on other creeks in this area.
But that does not take away from the realities that the ocean holds the key to salmon population levels. There was a brief article in Scientific American, from the 1990s, that I kept for a long time, but have probably thrown out; that discussed a limit to population levels of salmon in the Pacific. The article proposed that those limits were being achieved and no more salmon could be added. The article also suggested Japan’s hatchery program was providing a significant % of that population.
We have known about ocean influences for a long time. We have known about the effects of El Nino events, and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation on salmon populations. There is a lot we still don’t know, to me, the biggest being the reason for the large salmon populations we had up until 1977. One factor I have suggested would be worth looking at is the return of large populations of whales that compete directly and indirectly with salmon in the ocean food chain.
I would add that vineyard development has significantly impacted flow in the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala.
How is vineyard development impacting flow?
Here are excerpts from the National Marine Fisheries Service Biological Opinion for the Gualala:
Both authorized and unauthorized withdrawal of water from riparian wells (and potentially from wells throughout the watershed) for residential or agricultural use can lower groundwater levels and thus reduce contribution of cold groundwater flows to surface water, and decrease the level of or eliminate surface water flows, particularly during the summer months when flow is at a minimum. (p. 42)
Conversion of timber lands to new vineyard development in the basin are of particular concern for both sediment runoff and water usage because agricultural water use is highest during summer, when sufficient flow is essential for providing rearing space and ameliorating high temperatures. (p. 42)
Reduced summer flows throughout the watershed due to human uses and the likely effect of logging on the annual hydrograph have greatly diminished the amount of suitable rearing habitat and are likely affecting the quality of the rearing habitat in the Gualala River Lagoon during the summer through reduced freshwater inflows. (p. 43).
“wells (and potentially from wells throughout the watershed) for residential or agricultural use can lower groundwater levels and thus reduce contribution of cold groundwater flows to surface water, and decrease the level of or eliminate surface water flows, particularly during the summer months when flow is at a minimum. (p. 42)”
Of course they “can”, but then they may not either. Wells in the riparian zone one would easily conclude would have an effect. Wells otherwise, unless there is a defined ground water basin, are the subject to much speculation.
The largest user of soil moisture in the Gualala Watershed is native vegetation. Logging, in it’s nature, reduces the loss of soil moisture. Logging potentially increases the availability of water in a watershed. Sediment? First, remember, sediment is a requirement for salmon habitat. The on going Caspar Watershed study has some good information on this subject. There are negative impacts from logging(clear cutting), but they are not necessarily what we assume them to be.
I am not an advocate for converting timber to grapes. But if we are serious about understand the issues effecting salmon, we need to look at the science. And that science will continue to evolve.
It’s tiresome hearing self-justifying propaganda from someone who got rich by cutting down trees.
An interesting read, but how does it apply to what is going on in Gualala, and the conifer forests of the temperate zone?
Trees absorb carbon dioxide, prevent soil erosion, and form the habitat of countless species of birds and other animals.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen. This is enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people.” Trees, shrubs and turf also filter air by removing dust and absorbing other pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. After trees intercept unhealthy particles, rain washes them to the ground.”
However trees left standing—whether in the Amazon Rain Forest, Gualala, or New Guinea don’t produce profits for corporations, which is why Gualala Timber has hired well connected mercenaries like Ginevra Chandler and Doug Bosco.
While the rate of deforestation has diminished in the last 20 years, the extinction of thousands of species of life, increasing desertification, and climate change would be strong enough motives to preserve our remaining forests in any rational species.
Your arguments that the harvesting of timber along the Gualala River doing nothing to change the reality of salmon populations on the Gualala River is a subterfuge. They reek of the same self-interest and dismissal of the concerns of ecologists and environmentalists as your denial of climate change in other comments you have posted.
Your apologetics remind me of those of the tobacco industry.
A common narrative indeed. But again, how does this apply to what is going on in the Gualala Watershed, and to what is going on in temperate forests around the world?
The common ground here should be sound science. I think we can both agree on that.
How old are the oldest redwoods?
Some redwoods live to 2,000 years.
What is the average age of the redwood trees?
500-700 years old.
How many redwoods have been logged?
96 percent of the original old-growth coast redwoods have been logged.
Common ground should be the commons—our common heritage.
Value should trump profit.
These beautiful living things, that were here before our great grandparents, should be cherished and preserved.
Too often “science” is what Monsanto, Dow, or GRT’s house scientists say it is.
Well then we can agree that our differing view points have nothing to do with disagreements on science, and everything to do with differing faiths, and beliefs. It is a reality that transcends human conflict around the world, for all time. It is a also a timeless lesson to be learned, right here in Mendocino County. To me, there is some irony about that.
We agree on no such thing.
Don’t fucking patronize me.
Have there been any reliable environmental impact studies about the effects of GRT’s proposed cuts?
Louis, The only study of GRT’s harvest plans in specific are the THPs GRT itself prepared and submitted to Cal Fire. There are, however, plenty of scientific studies concerning the impacts of this kind of logging.
If humans had any decency 96% of the old redwoods would be saved — not destroyed.
Costs of Cuts:
1. Habitat Loss: The trees removed during a clear cut are part of the local ecosystem. The animals that depend on the trees may be displaced as a result of clear cutting, and they may have to find new habitats. The local flora may also fail to adapt. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says that most animals in this situation will fail to adapt to new habitats, and they will become more vulnerable to predators.
2. Local Ecosystem Effects: Clear cutting can have complicated effects on local ecosystems. According to the Forestry Department of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FOA), the simple industrial processes involved in forest utilization can leave different ecosystems more vulnerable to invasive plants and animals.
Invasive species may fill niches formerly occupied by animals that were economically important to humans or nutritionally important to wildlife—like bees and other pollinators, while they themselves may be useless. Invasive species may also introduce new diseases, which could affect humans and wildlife, according to the NWF.
3. Almost anything that removes a large number of trees is going to have some effect on carbon dioxide levels, since trees function as effective carbon sinks. Clear cutting could have a significant impact on global climate change.
4. Trees act as anchors for soil. Removing those anchors can make the soil more vulnerable to erosion. Removing trees during clear cutting can also take away the bacteria, worms, and fungi that maintain and treat the forest soil, and removing these organisms may also put other forest plants at an increased risk of illnesses. The degradation of soil is one of the most pressing environmental issues facing society at present, and clear cutting only contributes to it.
5, Clear cutting can worsen the results of flooding, since the lost trees can no longer function as barriers and sinks for the excess water. Clear cutting can increase the risk of landslides. Root systems help anchor the soil and the forest canopy helps keep the forest relatively dry, while logging machinery itself may degrade the topsoil and make it less absorbent
6. Clear cutting can create new breeding grounds for mosquitoes, which can transmit deadly diseases ranging from malaria to yellow fever. The explosion of Lyme disease in the United States can also be traced to forest degradation, since the subsequent ecological changes led to a larger mouse population, and ticks get the Lyme disease bacteria from mice.
7. While clear cutting is potentially economically beneficial for scumbag timber companies like Gualala Redwoods Timber, contractors and employees do not receive the same benefits. The recreation associated with national forests may bring in 31 times as much income as logging these same national forests in the United States, and recreation may yield as many as 38 times as many jobs.
8. As a result of clear cutting, a formerly vibrant forest can look diminished and sparse. The aesthetic value of forests has economic value, since beautiful forests can increase the property value of a given area and attract tourists. Recreation is one of the ways in which the habitat loss caused by clear cutting can intersect with other consequences of clear cutting, since people interested in hunting or fishing for certain wildlife may lose the opportunity to do so as a result of clear cutting. While the value of natural beauty can be difficult to quantify, some statistics suggest that scenic highways may bring in as much as 32,500 dollars per mile.
9. Corporations like Gualala Redwoods Timber prioritizes profits at the expense of the public good. Unfortunately, governments at all levels are often little more than a branch of the Chamber of Commerce.
Attorneys like Chandler and Bosco, and apologists for the timber industry like George Hollister, will resort to all of the tactics used by the sugar, tobacco, or GMO corporations (and of the Christian Apologists) to confuse and muddy the issue: subterfuge, changing the conversation, questionable statistics and conclusions, simplification of the issue, and distortion.
Which is more important to you? GRT’s profits and the dividends it pays to its shareholder—or the benefits provided for everyone by the remaining redwoods in Gualala? What right does GRT have to convert resources that benefit the entire community into profit?
Is there clear cutting being proposed next to the Gualala River?
BTW, I love the personal description of apologist.
Apologist: person who offers an argument in defence of something controversial:
e.g. ’an enthusiastic apologist for fascism in the 1920s’
My definition of “apologist” appears to be more lexical than personal.
And don’t forget, you’re the asshole who referred to “environmentalism” as a science.
“The towering second-growth redwoods GRT intends to cut down include many of the largest trees remaining in a watershed that has been particularly hard-hit by clear-cutting since World War II.”
Fuck you, George.
Anyone who got rich from practically anything, will act as apologist for it, if he’s even able or willing to discuss it. See Trump, Donald.
“There are two kinds of people – those who think there’s such a thing as enough money…and people with money.” — Fran Liebowitz