On April 5th, 2023, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) gave an update to the Board of Forestry (BoF) regarding the status of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). If you are subscribed to our newsletter, then you know that JDSF has been the site of considerable conflict and protest regarding CAL FIRE’s management.
The problem stems from a mismatch between the decades-old legislative mandate for the forest, which promotes commercial logging, and our society’s changing values. In 1947, when the legislation that governs JDSF was first enacted, there was no consideration given to biodiversity loss, climate change, or Native American cultural values. As a result, early State management of the forest entailed clearcutting most of the remaining old-growth groves.
Other State laws such as the Forest Practice Act and the Endangered Species Act have curbed these excesses, protecting the few remaining old growth groves in the forest. But, as many visitors to the forest were shocked to discover in 2020, very little protects large second growth redwood trees like those found in the Caspar 500 timber harvest plan (THP). The “Mama Tree”, a more than 100-year-old redwood with a 240” circumference which CAL FIRE had marked for harvest, came to symbolize the problem. How can we grow future old-growth forests if CAL FIRE sells the trees in California closest to becoming new old-growth?
At the same time, the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians has led the charge in pointing out CAL FIRE’s insufficient protection of Native American sacred sites located within the forest. They are requesting co-management of the forest in order to better protect cultural resources and values. You can listen to Tribal Elder Priscilla Hunter and Tribally appointed representative Polly Girvin discuss these issues on KMUD radio here.
Over the past 3 years, in response to sustained community protest, tribal engagement, and the efforts of EPIC, CAL FIRE has made a few concessions. First, they unmarked the Mama Tree. Then they withdrew three proposed THPs from review. Then, in August 2022, they unveiled their new vision for the forest and promised to update the management plan. Now, several of the currently approved timber sales on JDSF are nearing their contract expiration dates. At the last Jackson Advisory Group (JAG) meeting, State Forest Program Manager Kevin Conway indicated that the Caspar 500 sales contract may be allowed to expire and would then be modified with community input before being sold again.
On April 5th, 2023 representatives from CAL FIRE gave an update on the progress of the management plan update to the Board of Forestry. They unveiled a timeline for the upcoming process that proposes to deliver a final plan by November 2024.
Now, more than ever, it's necessary that we make sure that the public’s voice is heard. This new management plan could govern the forest for the next 10 years or more. It’s our job to ensure that CAL FIRE considers all of the other benefits our forests provide besides timber. Be sure to visit savejackson.org and sign up for updates from the Save Jackson Coalition. There’s a lot more work to do.