As the holiday season approaches, most of us are thinking about how we can give back to our friends, families, and communities. Apparently, Green Diamond Resource Company  has something a little different in mind for the Elk River and Headwaters Forest Reserve. Instead of giving the landscape surrounding Headwaters much needed forest and watershed restoration, Green Diamond has opted instead to give clearcuts, roads, and herbicides. Comic Scrooge and Grinch-like characterizations of Green Diamond’s holiday behavior aside, there is nothing funny about the lump of coal that Green Diamond is stuffing in the holiday stocking of the ancient forest refuge of Headwaters with their new proposed logging activities in the Elk River watershed.
Specifically, EPIC’s monitoring of the timber industry on the North Coast of California reveals that Green Diamond has filed a new Timber Harvest Plan that threatens more than 70 acres of clearcutting in the upper reaches of McCloud Creek, a tributary of Elk River, and at a stone’s throw of the hard fought over Headwaters Forest. The destructive potential of this proposed industrial forestry operation merits a quick history lesson in the evolution of forest management in the Elk River watershed surroundings of the globally important Headwaters Forest Reserve.
The Elk River watershed, located south east of Eureka, is a tributary to Humboldt Bay. The Elk River watershed has been heavily logged over the last century and a half, with only fragments of the original forest such as the Headwaters Forest remaining. Though the Headwaters Forest Reserve provides protection for one of the worlds last remaining intact remnants of the ancient redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem, the rest of the watershed is a myriad of young, recovering forest and regenerating clearcuts.
In the 1990s, the now infamous MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company began the process of liquidating the remaining old growth and mature second growth in the Elk River watershed. This second cycle logging resulted in intensive road building, tractor yarding, and clearcutting throughout the watershed. Eventually, with the advent of the 1996/1997 winter storms, the sensitive geology of the Elk River watershed began to unravel, suffering from the combined effects of weather and intensive logging.
It was not until after these historic storms of 1996/1997 that State agencies began to stand up and take notice of the damaging effects of the contemporary forest liquidation of MAXAAM/Pacific Lumber Company. In fact, in 1997, an interagency team determined that Elk River, along with four other watersheds heavily managed by MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, were significantly, adversely, and cumulatively impacted, with timber harvest being a contributing factor.
The results of the intensive forest management of the MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, as well as other ownerships in the watershed, such as Elk River Timber Company and what was then the Simpson Timber Company (now Green Diamond), were significant landsliding related to both harvest and roads, and significant channel capacity modification in the Elk River itself, leading to high instances of nuisance flooding that threaten the health and safety of downstream residents.
With the creation of the Headwaters Forest Reserve in 1999, a new management regime began to be employed in the Elk River watershed. The BLM immediately began removing roads and selectively managing second and third growth forests in the Reserve in an effort to grow larger trees faster, and to manage for older forest to compliment the newly protected ancient groves. After the MAXAAM bankruptcy of the Pacific Lumber Company, and the subsequent ownership change to the Humboldt Redwood Company (HRC) in 2008, an even greater land base in the Elk River watershed would be managed selectively and for the purpose of growing older, bigger trees faster, with the goal of restoring the watershed to a more natural, unevenaged forest.
Though serious concerns remain related to the volume of HRC harvest in Elk River, the company has without question taken a sophisticated approach to restoration potential and selective forestry in the watershed, and has engaged in an open manner with local and statewide stakeholders with an interest in the long history of industrial forestry reform around Headwaters. In particular, HRC has been attentive to conservationist interest in maximizing the ecological potential of forest management activities in those areas closest to the Headwaters Forest Reserve.
Unfortunately, Green Diamond has chosen to follow the destructive path of their Simpson Timber roots, and the ecologically and economically bankrupt MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber Company, rather than the forward-looking and selective approach of HRC and the BLM. In late November 2012, Green Diamond filed THP 1-12-113HUM “McCloud Creek East #5.” In this THP, Green Diamond proposes to clearcut 70 acres within McCloud Creek, a tributary to the South Fork of Elk River. The THP is located adjacent to a Green Diamond Northern Spotted Owl set-aside, which is adjacent to the Headwaters Forest Reserve. Instead of managing to grow big trees faster, Green Diamond plans to intensively manage for young, evenaged homogenous tree plantations through the application of clearcuts. These practices can cause significant modification to drainage patterns in the watershed and will result in the generation of a significant amount of surface erosion. These effects will in turn be felt downstream as channel capacity in the Elk River proper is continually compromised.
The State, for its part, has been shown to be complicit to Green Diamond’s plans to intensively manage its holdings in such a sensitive and cumulatively impacted watershed. CAL FIRE has thus far shown every inclination that it will approve the THP as written. Meanwhile, the Regional Water Board, in adopting Green Diamond’s property-wide programmatic Waste Discharge Requirement permit in the fall of 2012 (a permit that EPIC has challenged to the State Water Board), placidly accepted the fact that Green Diamond would intensively manage for clearcuts and short harvest rotations in its Elk River holdings near Headwaters. To add insult to injury, the permitting of this new Green Diamond THP will be financed by common consumers through the new lumber tax on retails sales of wood products in the state of California that the legislatures passage of AB 1492 made into law .
Despite Green Diamond’s appearance of compliance with the law through acquisition of Habitat Conservation Plans and other programmatic agreements, the company continues its rapacious march to convert recovering native forests into homogenous evenaged tree plantations. The proposal by Green Diamond to clearcut in the direct vicinity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve is more evidence of how Green Diamond is a nationally relevant case study of “green washing,” and that underneath their public relations campaigns the company really has no inclination or commitment to becoming a responsible forest manager now or into the future—and that the State of California is a willing partner by playing along with their “green washing” politics by providing regulatory cover for their activities.
In conclusion, the filing of THPs such as the “McCloud Creek #5 East” show that Green Diamond is not sensitive to the needs of watersheds or its neighbors, and that the privately-held company is far more concerned with its short-term bottom line than with the long-term well being of the redwood temperate rainforest ecosystem. EPIC will vocally expose the threat that this type of forest management continues to present to the public interest, to local residents, and to the ecological integrity of the most threatened temperate rainforest ecosystem on the planet. Stay tuned for more news and actions from EPIC’s Industrial Forestry Reform program as we prepare to challenge this destructive logging proposal, and to protect the integrity of the Headwaters Forest Reserve.
If it were not for EPIC, the destructive activities of Green Diamond Resource Company (ex-Simpson Timber) would go unexposed and unchallenged. No other organization is watchdogging the timber industry in Northwest California like EPIC does. Your year-end donation can make all the difference for giving EPIC the resources we need to keep up this crucial work to continue to defend Headwaters for the future generations. Please consider donating today!