Northwest California’s National Forests in the Big Picture by Scott Greacen
A decade into the 21st century, the US Forest Service is only beginning to face the challenges that nearly overwhelmed it in the 20th. The tension between competing desires to exploit western forests for immediate gain or to protect them to provide for long-term sustainability first drove Teddy Roosevelt to create the national forest system to secure both forests and key sources of clean, abundant water. But following World War II, the national forests became the focus of an enormous logging and road-building boom.
By the 1970s, the timber extraction boom had begun to create busts for wildlife and water, with salmon populations crashing and serious questions being raised about the long-term viability and desirability of plantation forestry on the public landscape. The reforms that followed, including laws like the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), sought to mitigate but not to challenge the fundamental premise of “multiple-use” management – that the public forests could continue to support functional, productive ecosystems, endless recreational opportunities, and a timber program that would, not incidentally, pay to build and maintain a road network ten times larger than the interstate highway system.
Today, Northwest California’s four national forests offer a particularly compelling case study of both the risks of continuing down the path of least resistance – of trying to pretend that we can have our cake and eat it too – as well as the potential rewards of setting a new course for the Forest Service, one that focuses on the restoration and protection of ecosystems for the critical services they provide, including clean water, biodiversity, and climate stability.
The Obama administration has a critical opportunity on this front to take actions today that could set us collectively on a better course, and so save a great deal of pain in the future. Unfortunately, there is little evidence that the new administration is paying much attention to the national forest system as such. Today’s opportunities could too easily become tomorrow’s regrets. …to be continued
Navigating the Timber Harvest Plan Process
by Kerul Dyer and Rob Diperna
Looking out over the hills of the Northcoast region, the expansive patchwork of clearcuts and young tree plantations mark a stark contrast from the tiny patches of preserved old growth redwood forests within parks and the Headwaters Preserve. Private timber operators logged for years without regulation, and nearly destroyed the integrity of forest ecosystems for all of the species that depend on them. Since the 1970’s local community activists and EPIC have worked to support better logging practices and provide habitat protection in our region, by monitoring industrial timber operations through the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) process.
While the California Department of Forestry and Fire ‘s (CalFire) process for reviewing logging plans can be daunting at first glance, improvements in access to information, online mapping tools and published opinions can help people interested in monitoring THPs participate easier than ever before. To quickly find information about THPs online, check out thptrackingcenter.org. This website offers summaries of all THPs submitted to Cal Fire, with interactive maps and links to Cal Fire documents.