Take Action: Private non-industrial forestland owners in California are seeking an increase on the acreage cap that restricts the number of landowners that can enroll in the Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) program. The current program caps participation at 2,500-acre ownerships. These smaller non-industrial forestland owners are required under the current NTMP program to only conduct unevenaged management (i.e. no clearcutting or similar methods). The current acreage cap has proved problematic for some of the larger non-industrial landowners, including our own Arcata Community Forest.
In an attempt to address the acreage cap, as well as addressing deficiencies in the current NTMP process, State Assembly Member Wesely Chesbro has introduced AB904. This proposed legislation would potentially increase the acreage cap to as much as 15,000 acre ownerships, and require landowners to manage for the goal of “unevenaged” stands and long-term sustained yield of forest products. This new program, dubbed the Working Forest Management Plan (WFMP) like the existing NTMP, once approved, is valid into perpetuity, leaving considerable questions about public involvement and oversight of these projects in the long-term.
The devil, of course, is in the details. The bill currently only requires small landowners to work towards the goal of unevenaged management, rather than explicitly banning clearcutting and requiring selection forestry. Further, due to the increased acreage size, concerns persist over the ability of public agencies and general public members to adequately review, monitor, and enforce the implementation of the standards of the WFMP. Finally, concerns persist about how the WFMP will achieve long-term sustained yield of forest products over the life of the plan.
Given these concerns, EPIC has taken an “oppose unless amended” position on AB904. EPIC staff has participated in lengthy discussions with stakeholders, and has submitted several comments to the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on the proposed bill detailing our concerns. As it stands now, the current version of AB904 is insufficient to address lingering environmental and process-related concerns.
So, what can be done? AB904 can and must be improved to ensure a viable public process, long-term sustained yield of forest products, and overall management with the objective of growing older forests through application of “unevenaged” management techniques. Tell Assembly Member Chesbro to amend AB904 to address these and other deficiencies identified by EPIC and others in the environmental community.
To put emphasis on the crucial importance of taking action and engaging with Assembly Member Chesbro today, the team at EPIC is publishing the following letter from our colleague Richard Gienger that drives home the critical nature of what is at stake with AB 904.