SB455 Abandons Overreach on Watershed Scale Logging Plans

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Thursday, May 24th, 2012

In a vital victory for EPIC and other conservation groups, the Watershed Timber Harvest Plan (WTHP) provisions of Senate Bill 455 have fallen by the wayside. Early versions of Senate Bill 455 would have created watershed-scale Timber Harvest Plan documents and longer Timber Harvest Plan permits.

SB455 now will focus on policy concerning requirements for landowners to mitigate greenhouse gas increases associated with converting forest land to other uses such as housing tracts or vineyards. EPIC from early on suggested concentrating on this element of the bill and pursuing other available means to addressing needed reform in timber harvest review and regulation. We congratulate sponsor Senator Fran Pavley for stepping forward to protect open space through out the state, and look forward to working with her office directly on future natural resource issues.

EPIC and other conservation groups opposed the WTHP language in early versions of SB 455 because the bill would have allowed large logging corporations such as Green Diamond and Sierra Pacific Industries to lock up entire ownerships within a given watershed in a long-term permit. These “watershed THPs” would have been locked in without the ability of agencies or the public to revisit the plans.  The plans would have allowed large timber corporations to concentrate harvesting activities in watersheds already severely impacted by logging and other disturbance, severely reducing opportunities for restoration.

There is little question that the current Timber Harvest Plan review process is in disarray, and that substantial changes need to be made to the current process before another long-term permit is created.  To this end, staff working in Wesley Chesbro’s office have been working hard to maintain a high level of participation in a Timber Harvest Working Group from a very diverse group of stakeholders. The decision of the proponents of SB 455 to focus on land conversion mitigation is a mature gesture that EPIC takes seriously. This is a welcome development, and it insures that our organization will come to the timber harvest working group table with the energy and expertise necessary to contribute to a cost effective regulatory solution for those operators and landowners who have a demonstrated commitment to sustainable forestry and a high quality wood product. Be sure to stay tuned for updates about this and other elements of EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform program initiatives.