- Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) - http://www.wildcalifornia.org -

Road to Nowhere—Humboldt Redwood Company Making a Mess of the Mattole

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Photo courtesy of ‘Save the Mattole’s Ancient Forest’

Humboldt Redwood Company doesn’t seem to be learning the lessons handed down by its predecessor, the now-bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company. Faced once again with community and activist resistance to its plans to log previously-unharvested and extremely rare upland Douglas-fir forests, the Company is resorting to some very Hurwitz-era tactics by proposing to construct over 1,000 feet of new road along Long Ridge in the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole Watershed for seemingly the sole purpose of circumnavigating community and activist resistance to its logging plans.

HRC has proposed a major amendment to THP 1-12-026HUM, the “Long Ridge Cable” THP, erroneously arguing that the new road segment is necessary to facilitate greater access to the Mattole property for timber management and fire suppression activities, without offering any explanation or rationale as to why the pre-existing road network, which it has already used to conduct partial harvesting operations, is not sufficient to do the job.

Behind the scenes is a live and real controversy over the company’s claim that the forests to be logged are not “primary forests,” as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), triggering additional conservation requirements and HRC’s refusal to entertain a proposal by the local community to purchase the land for conservation purposes. Why? The answer seems to be that HRC bought damaged goods from Pacific Lumber on the whole as a property investment, and the forests of the North Branch of the North Fork of the Mattole represent the last of the best of what the company has left to work with to meet the financial bottom-line for their owners, the San Francisco-based billionaire Fisher family, which is notorious for the Gap clothing company.

HRC, EPIC, and Mattole community interests and activists have spent the better part of the last five years interacting over the potential fate and management of the North Branch of the North Fork Mattole holdings, with Humboldt Redwood Company once-promising an open and transparent collaborative solution-based process. For years, HRC honored that agreement and we made headway in addressing the controversy. Forest defenders came out of the woods and there was a truce. That has unfortunately ended, as HRC announced that it plans to move forward, simply announcing its findings and decisions without any effort to collaboratively or openly solve the continuing disputes through direct dialogues.

Faced with Mattole community and activist resistance to the logging it proposes, HRC has chosen to forge stubbornly ahead and to propose what is clearly unnecessary additional road construction under false and erroneous pretenses.

Because the amendment to allow the road construction to go forward constitutes a major change to the Long Ridge Cable THP, HRC must go through the normal THP review process, including allowing CAL FIRE and other agencies and the public to inspect and comment on the proposed new road construction. EPIC has submitted comments to CAL FIRE pertaining to the legality and legitimacy of the road construction amendment. Our comments on the Long Ridge Cable THP can be viewed here. [2]

EPIC urges HRC to abandon this ill-conceived and pigheaded approach to community engagement and to return to the table with EPIC, Mattole community interests, and activists to orchestrate a more genuinely collaborative and legitimate outcome for the rare, unique, and critically-threatened upland Douglas-fir forests of the North Branch North Fork Mattole.