UPDATED! Stop SB 455 – Save Our Forests

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Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

UPDATE: Everyone’s efforts paid off, as we clearly changed the dynamics surrounding this bill. It did pass out of the California Senate, but with the bare minimum of 21 votes. We sent senators hundreds of email messages, and demonstrated leverage in Sacramento. This means that we are much better positioned to stop this bill in the assembly and promote a legislative proposal that offers true advances in the legal framework that guides forest management. Stay tuned as we keep working on this issue in our Industrial Forestry Reform Program.

Thanks for taking action to stop a dangerous new bill in the California Senate: SB 455 (Pavley).  This bill would dramatically expand the specific 3-year timber harvest plan required under current law, giving logging companies the option of preparing a very general 20-year plan covering up to 100,000 acres.  Astonishingly, the bill proposes no increased protections over existing law, no restrictions on clearcutting, and fails to meaningfully address cumulative impacts to watersheds and endangered species. Furthermore, the bill fails to provide for necessary public participation to ensure that our forests are managed in compliance with the law.  As EPIC and our members know well, but for the public’s watch-dogging efforts, hundreds of thousands of acres of precious native forests would be lost due to the lax oversight by regulatory agencies.  Nor does the bill provide the kinds of enforcement and monitoring provisions that would protect against abuse.  In exchange, industrial timber giants like Green Diamond Resources Company and Sierra Pacific Industries would be able to lock in 20-year plans for aggressive clearcutting across hundreds of thousands of acres in California.

Richard Gienger, longtime forest activist from southern Humboldt/ northern Mendocino, provided EPIC with his dire assessment of SB 455:

“SB 455 is misguided in so many ways – and takes energy away from the major, and often quite simple, reforms that need to happen on private and state forestlands in California. Instead of making sure that information is usefully organized and easily accessible to actually respond to legacy cumulative effects on all California forestlands, it empowers the large companies to make their own environmental documents in a process that is largely out of reach of the public and public trust agencies. Each huge so-called “watershed THP” would last for a human generation. Instead of improving existing long-term planning processes like the flawed Sustained Yield Plan process, a whole new ‘wheel’ is invented that facilitates a plantation-styled forestry that dooms vast acreages to homogeneous tree farms – with no forests being older than 45 to 55 years old. SB 455 does not ensure a sustained yield of high quality timber products, nor does it provide for recovery of invaluable wildlife, water, and fisheries resources. This is all being pushed forward under the guise of improving “carbon sequestration” on California’s timberlands – with the actual benefits being highly speculative, abysmally small or actually negative, and are not even enumerated in the version being considered by the State Senate on Monday. Despite ostensible good intentions of SB 455 supporters, the contents of the bill are a half-thought-out mistake, which may easily be construed as pandering of the worst sort. The people, forestland, and legislators of California deserve a better effort.”