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Jackson Demonstration State Forest Update: July 2023

Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Photo by Jeff Goll.

The fight continues to hold CAL FIRE accountable for their management of Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). Since 1947, CAL FIRE has been managing the forest as an industrial timberland, “demonstrating” commercial timber harvests for the State’s timber companies. For the past 3 years, EPIC and our allies have been engaged in a campaign to improve the forest’s management in order to protect the forest’s biodiversity, fight climate change, and protect local Tribe’s sacred sites.

In response to this campaign, CAL FIRE has made some concessions. For example, they’ve promised to stop harvesting trees greater than 48” in diameter at breast height in existing timber harvest plans. And they withdrew several timber harvest plans that were previously under consideration. Most importantly, they agreed to rewrite the Forest Management Plan several years early, which we hoped would be an opportunity to improve the forest’s management to better reflect California’s moder values.

However, now it seems CAL FIRE is trying to weasel out of their commitments. First, CAL FIRE has re-released a previously withdrawn timber harvest plan. The former timber harvest plan named “Boundary Creek” was withdrawn in response to intense community opposition to CAL FIRE”s management of the forest. CAL FIRE has now re-released the Boundary Creek THP with a new name “Camp One” and in accordance with their new vision for the forest.

So what does that mean? The main difference between the two versions of the plan is that one area that was formerly single-tree selection logging will now be a commercial thin. CAL FIRE has also increased the basal area retention targets in two of the three THP units and added additional fuel treatments including mastication, hand loping, and prescribed fire. These are improvements, but are they in line with the desires of the local community, Tribes, and the people of California? CAL FIRE is basing these improvements on a vision that they wrote, without public input, or robust consideration.

The Coalition had asked CAL FIRE to delay submitting new timber harvest plans until they had rewritten the forest management plan. The reason we asked for that was to ensure that new timber harvest plans were written in accordance with what the people truly want from this publicly managed forest. Now, CAL FIRE is re-releasing plans without waiting for the process whereby the public will tell them what they want.

Even more concerning, CAL FIRE announced that they would be shirking environmental review when writing the new management plan. Under the California Environmental Quality Act, (CEQA) environmental review is required for all projects approved by the State of California. CAL FIRE has decided not to perform CEQA review as they rewrite the management plan, effectively limiting public participation and oversight of how this publicly owned forest will be managed in the future. CEQA defines a “project” as “an activity which may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment…” (Pub. Rec Code § 21065) So, CAL FIRE is stating that their new vision and management plan won’t change (or improve) the physical environment in JDSF.

This is a concerning new development. CAL FIRE has performed environmental reviews when updating the JDSF management plan in the past, most recently in 2017. So, for them to decline to do so now is a serious backslide. CAL FIRE maintains that future environmental review conducted on individual timber harvest plans on a case by case basis negates the need for overarching CEQA review of the forest management plan. This is simply unacceptable. By limiting environmental review to individual timber harvest plans, CAL FIRE effectively limits environmental review of the overarching goals of the demonstration state forest. Sure, the public can comment on individual timber harvest plans, but they won’t have any opportunity to truly influence the overarching purpose of the forest’s management. The forest management plan is meant to house standards and guidelines, a rulebook, that the forest is required to follow. Why would you skip environmental review of those rules? EPIC and our allies are currently researching options for holding CAL FIRE accountable and ensuring that adequate environmental review is performed both on the new management plan and all future timber harvest plans.


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