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October 13, 2003

For More Information, Contact:
Daryl Savage at (650) 688-6384


PALO ALTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) announced today that the Governor signed Assembly Bill 47, Simitian’s bill to more fully protect sensitive forest habitat and watershed. Davis signed the bill over the weekend, in an effort to beat the Sunday midnight deadline. AB 47 is the fourth and final piece of Simitian’s environmental legislation for this year.

AB 47 provides additional protection for California’s watersheds. Now, any entity submitting a timber harvest plan to the State must include maps that show where logging has occurred over the past 10 years in the watershed, and where it is likely to occur in the future. The maps will help assess the cumulative impact of logging in a watershed, and identify appropriate mitigations.

“The problem,” Simitian said, “is that timber interests have been playing hide-and-go-seek with environmental degradation. The new law,” said Simitian, “simply requires logging interests to show us where they are, where they’ve been and where they’re headed. In this way,” said Simitian, “we can better understand and manage the cumulative adverse impacts of logging in our forests.”

Simitian developed AB 47 in consultation with the local Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club. The bill was sponsored by the California Planning and Conservation League and cosponsored by the Sierra Club.

“I’m happy—and relieved—to see this bill become law,” said Simitian, who waged a tough fight on this issue and worked hard for the past year to broker a deal between labor, industry, and environmental groups. “It’s about time we examined the real impact of logging—all logging—on a watershed.”

Currently, plan submitters only include a list of past plans, and are not required to provide maps or any indication of plans for future logging in the same watershed. All too often, timber harvesting plans are analyzed in isolation, without accounting for other logging that is happening in the same watershed. Logging can significantly and adversely affect rural water quality and wildlife habitat.

“It’s actually quite difficult for the public to get information on timber harvesting at a watershed level,” said Karen Douglas, General Counsel of the Planning and Conservation League, which sponsored AB 47.  “Individual timber harvest plans provide almost no information about where in the watershed other timber harvests occurred or whether these areas were selectively logged or clear-cut. With the passage of AB 47, this essential information will now be available to anyone who looks at a timber harvest plan,” said Douglas.

“AB 47 makes timber harvest plans much more useful to the State and concerned members of the public by requiring useful maps,” said Paul Mason, State Forestry Representative for the Sierra Club. “It’s an important step in protecting our watersheds.”

AB 1545 Also Just Signed

This past week, the Governor also signed another of Simitian’s environmental bills, Assembly Bill 1545. As a result state law will now allow concerned individuals and advocacy groups to e-mail their comments on environmental documents to the appropriate public agency, rather than requiring a “hard-copy” conventional letter of comment.  The need for legislation came to Simitian’s attention when a constituent forwarded an e-mail response he had received from the Department of Forestry stating that it refused to accept e-mail comments.

“As a Silicon Valley legislator, I was particularly taken aback that a person sitting behind a desk in Sacramento would tell one of my constituents that the State would accept a type-written, hard-copy comment, but not that same comment sent via e-mail. This was particularly ironic when you understand that the EIR in question concerned a logging plan; presumably, there would be less need for logging if we all submitted our comments via e-mail,” Simitian said.

AB 121 and AB 1330 Previously Signed

Last month, the Governor signed into law Simitian’s AB 121, which prohibits cruise ships from discharging sewage sludge and oily bilge into statewaters and national marine sanctuaries along the state’s coast. The legislation will require cruise ships to pay $25,000 per violation if they fail to comply. AB 121 makes California the first state in the nation to ban cruise ship dumping as a matter of state law. 

Simitian also was successful in his legislation to create the California Outdoor Environmental Education Program (AB 1330). AB 1330 marks the first time in California that outdoor education programs will be systematically developed, privately-funded, and then studied for their impact on student behavior and learning. This bill gives under-served children the opportunity to experience nature by providing outdoor classes which will by privately funded.

From an environmental standpoint, “it’s been a good year,” Simitian said. “The Governor understood the importance of pushing environmental issues to the forefront. I’m gratified that he signed all four of my environmental bills into law.”