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March 19, 2003

Contact: (see list below for contact info)

Environmental Groups Applaud New Momentum To Make Logging More Sustainable

SACRAMENTO - Top state legislators have introduced bills that will reform logging practices on state and private lands in California. The legislators, as well as a coalition of statewide environmental groups, gathered Wednesday to announce the bills, and outline the package’s importance to California.

Senate President Pro Tem John Burton called for a forestry reform bill package this legislative session when he asked Senator Sheila Kuehl, the chair of the Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee, to direct committee staff to develop policy proposals that would make logging more environmentally and economically sustainable.

“I requested the Senate Natural Resources Committee to do a report on opportunities for logging reform because uncontrolled logging is turning California’s forests into a disaster area,” Burton said. “With the Bush administration pursuing a slew of harmful policies towards our national forests, this is the year when the California Legislature needs to step up and be a leader on forest protection.”

Senator Burton is carrying SB 810, a bill that requires timber operators to comply with Regional Water Quality Control Boards basin plans in order to better protect water quality. “We can’t continue to allow out of control logging to destroy water quality” said Senator Burton. Assemblyman Joe Nation is the principal assembly co-author of this measure.

Senators Sheila Kuehl, Byron Sher and Don Perata, and Assemblymembers Hannah-Beth Jackson, Sally Lieber, Joe Simitian and Darrell Steinberg also discussed their forestry reform bills:

Assemblymember Simitian (D-Palo Alto) introduced AB 47, which will improve information about the cumulative effects of logging. Simitian said “AB 47 simply says that we need to look at the cumulative impacts of a proposed cut before the Department of Forestry approves that cut. This is the same commonsense approach that we’ve used for decades to understand and manage the impacts of development. Let’s take a look at the big picture. The failure to adequately analyze the cumulative impacts of logging has resulted in impairment of water quality, destruction of habitat, increased flood risk, and contamination of drinking water for rural communities.”

“My bill (SB 557) saves the General Fund $21 million each year, and creates a way to pay to improve the environmental performance of timber landowners,” said Senator Sheila Kuehl. “It does this by imposing a fee amounting to a penny a board foot on purchasers of timber products, and takes some of the burden off of the industry, which is in a period of low prices. The fee will increase the cost of an average new home by only $100, but it will generate up to $75 million each year to restore watersheds and repair damage caused by historic timber operations.”

“Two years ago, the Legislative Analyst reported that clearcutting had become the predominant method of logging used to harvest private timberland in California,” Senator Sher said of his bill, SB 217. “There is evidence that excessive rates of logging, particularly clearcutting, contributed to the flooding and landslides experienced by the north coast earlier this winter,” Sher added.

“Clearcutting has also become the favorite harvest method being used by the state’s largest private timber company (SPI). I believe California needs to stop clearcutting of our ancient forests, and curb excessive rates of logging that cause landslides, flooding and water pollution.” Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson is a co-author of this bill.

“We have allowed 97% of California’s native forests to be cut down,” said Senator Perata of his bill to ban the cutting of ancient trees, SB 754. “The least we can do is act now to protect what little remains.”

“Bipartisan cooperation, public participation and scientific input led to the development of the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework. The Bush Administration should not undo this decade long-effort that once implemented will reduce the risk of fire while protecting our magnificent forests,” said Assemblymember Hannah-Beth Jackson, Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, of her resolution, AJR 11.

“Preserving forests for the enjoyment of future generations is a priority for Californians, yet the state continues to use taxpayer funds to purchase old-growth wood, jeopardizing some of our most beautiful natural resources and critical habitat,” Assemblymember Steinberg said of his bill, AB 466, which would ensure that state agencies do not purchase wood or wood products made from ancient trees. “Reclaimed and sustainably managed wood can meet the state’s construction needs. There’s no reason to use public money to fund destruction of ancient forests.”

“I’m pleased to be carrying AB 561, sponsored by the Defenders of Wildlife,” said Assemblymember Lieber. “In response to public concern about excessive clearcutting and damage to wildlife and water quality, the timber industry is increasingly pursuing the concept of variable retention. Unfortunately, variable retention is a name without a definition. My bill would direct the Board of Forestry to define the term in a way that helps retain important habitat for wildlife.”

Environmental advocates applauded the legislators for their leadership in protecting California’s forests and watersheds. Defenders of Wildlife, Environment California, Planning and Conservation League, and Sierra Club California are working as a coalition to support the legislative reforms announced by the legislators. “ It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this kind of momentum for protecting our forests in Sacramento,” said Susannah Churchill, Environmental Preservation Advocate for Environment California.

Staff Contacts:
SB 810 (Burton) Water Quality
Staff contact – Dave Sebeck – 916-445-1412
Sponsor contacts – Paul Mason, Sierra Club, California - 916-557-1100, x 113
Karen Douglas, Planning and Conservation League - 916-313-4512

SB 217 (Sher) Watershed Thresholds and Ancient Forests
Staff contact – Jeff Shelito - 916-324-0894
Sponsor contact – Paul Mason, Sierra Club, California - 916-557-1100, x 113

SB 557 (Kuehl) Timber Product User Fee
Staff contact – Bill Craven - 916-445-5441

AB 47 (Simitian) Gathering Better Information for Cumulative Impacts Analysis
Staff contact – Priscilla Ouchida - 916-319-2021
Sponsor contact – Karen Douglas, Planning and Conservation League - 916-313-4512

AB 561 (Lieber) Defining Variable Retention
Staff contact – Marva Diaz - 916-319-2022
Sponsor contact – Kelly McDonald, Defenders of Wildlife - 916-313-5808

AB 466 (Steinberg) - Preventing the State from Buying Wood from Ancient Trees
Staff contact – Sam Delson – 916-319-2009
Sponsor contact – Susannah Churchill, Environment California - 415-206-9185 x 306

AJR 11 (Jackson) – Sierra Nevada Framework
Staff contact – Aristotle Evia – 916-319-2092
Sponsor contact – Susannah Churchill, Environment California - 415-206-9185 x 306
Jay Watson, The Wilderness Society - 415-518-2604

SB 754 (Perata) – Heritage Tree Protection
Staff contact - Gareth Elliot – 916-445-6577
Sponsor contact – Kent Stromsmoe, Campaign For Old Growth - 925-228-3579

SB 711 (Kuehl) – Timberland and Oak Woodland Conversions
Staff contact – Bill Craven - 916-445-5441

Forestry Package Summary

2003-2004 Legislative Session

  • SB 810 (Burton) – Sponsored by Sierra Club California & Planning and Conservation League First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife SB 810 would require that Timber Harvest Plans comply with the applicable regional water quality control plan (basin plan), and clarifies that final determination of whether the harvest plan complies with the basin plan lies with the Water Quality Control Board or the EPA. Additionally, in watersheds that have been classified as impaired due to sediment, logging plans would have to be certified by the Regional Water Quality Control Board that they would not result in discharge of sediment in violation of the Basin Plan, and that the rate of harvest would allow for recovery of the beneficial uses in the impaired watershed.
  • SB 217 (Sher) – Sponsored by Sierra Club California First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife on March 25 SB 217 would require the Board of Forestry to adopt regulations that provide standards and procedures for determining the maximum harvest limits for the timberlands of each ownership within a planning watershed. The bill would also establish a harvest limit of 15% even-aged management (defined as methods that remove more than 70% of the average basal area per acre) per ownership in a planning watershed per decade. It would place additional limits (including a ban on clearcutting and maintaining structural characteristics) on logging of ancient forest stands larger than 40 acres.
  • SB 557 (Kuehl) First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife on March 25 SB 557 would establish a “Timber Products User Forest Restoration Fund” and impose a fee of $.01 per board foot on timber products sold for consumption in California. The fee is expected to generate up to $100 million, which would fund THP review (approximately $21 million annually) as well as restoration activities.
  • AB 47 (Simitian) – Sponsored by Planning and Conservation League First Hearing: Assembly Natural Resources on April 7 Inadequate assessment of the cumulative impact of multiple logging plans has long been identified as one of the biggest problems with forestry in California. This bill requires the Board of Forestry to adopt rules to gather basic information, including maps of past projects and current conditions of the watershed, so that the additive environmental effects of the current project can be effectively reviewed.
  • SB 711 (Kuehl) First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife Requires CEQA to apply to timberland conversion and oak woodland conversion, classifies those projects as discretionary, and assigns CDF as the lead agency in charge of those approvals.
  • AB 561 (Leiber) - Sponsored by Defenders of Wildlife First Hearing: Assembly Natural Resources on April 7 Directs the Board of Forestry to define “variable retention”
  • AB 466 (Steinberg) – Sponsored by Environment California (formerly CALPIRG) First Hearing: Assembly Business & Professions Prohibits state agencies from purchasing wood or wood products from ancient trees.
  • SB 754 (Perata) First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife Protects old-growth trees in California that were growing in 1850, the year California gained statehood. Some of these trees are thousands of years old.
  • SB 694 (Kuehl) First Hearing: Senate Natural Resources & Wildlife Relates to Sudden Oak Death and cleans up various obsolete sections of law.
  • AJR 11 (Jackson) – Sponsored by Environment California and The Wilderness Society First Hearing: Assembly Natural Resources AJR 11 memorializes the President and the Congress of the United States to take necessary action to implement the Sierra Nevada Conservation Framework as originally adopted. The Framework, as currently written, would reduce the risk of fire in the Sierra Nevada, protect old forests in this extraordinary region of California, and preserve essential habitat for the California spotted owl and other imperiled wildlife.

Facts and Quotes on California’s Logging Rules

  • In 2001, the University of California Committee on Cumulative Watershed Effects (convened at the request of the Department of Forestry) determined that applicants and reviewers repeatedly deny the likelihood of cumulative watershed effects, “despite the widespread recognition among environmental scientists that, in the aggregate, timber harvest in coastal California has resulted and continues to result in radical alterations of water quality, habitat conditions, and perhaps flood risk.”
  • In 2000, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reported that sensitive resources, such as salmon, are not adequately protected in northern California. NMFS cites the “inadequate and ineffective cumulative effects analysis” as part of the problem.
  • In 1999, the Scientific Review Panel appointed by the Wilson administration concluded that “the cumulative effects of multiple logging operations on watersheds, water quality, and aquatic resources are not adequately analyzed and mitigated under current law.”
  • In a 1998 review, the federal Environmental Protection Agency commented that “silviculture is the leading source of impairment to water quality in the North Coast of California. Related to these water quality problems, California has a number of species, in particular salmon, that are endangered, threatened or otherwise seriously at risk, due in very significant part to forestry activities that impair their spawning, breeding and rearing habitat.”
  • NMFS’ 1998 assessment of state rules cited the lack of scientific justification for many rule provisions and the failures of the logging plan approval process. The assessment concluded that “[A]lthough the FPRs mandate protection of sensitive resources such as anadromous salmonids, the FPRs and their implementation and enforcement do not accomplish this objective”
  • In a 1997 letter to the Board of Forestry, the US EPA noted that: “In 1994, the Little Hoover Commission found that the Timber Harvest Plan (THP) ‘process looks at potential damage on a site-by-site basis rather than across entire ecosystems, making it difficult to assess cumulative impacts over time and throughout watersheds’. EPA concurs that improved methods for assessing cumulative effects on a watershed basis are necessary. In addition, EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have found that additional management measures are necessary in order to attain and maintain water quality standards.” Clearcutting in California: Since 1985, over 1,440,000 acres of private forestland has been clearcut (CDF-FRAP, 2002) That is the equivalent of nearly 10 acres per hour, 365 day per year for 17 years. Between 1992 and 1999 Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest private landowner in California, increased its utilization of clearcutting by 2,426%. SPI has stated its intent to convert 70% of its 1.5 million acres to even-aged plantations in coming decades. Endangered Species Imperiled by Logging in CA: Northern Spotted Owl – Listed 1990 Marbled Murrelet – Listed 9/92 Coho Salmon Central CA Coast – Listed 10/96 Northern CA Coast – Listed 5/97 Chinook Salmon Central Valley Spring Run - Listed 9/99 Central Coast – Listed 9/99 Upper Klamath-Trinity Rivers – Listed 3/98 Steelhead Trout: Southern CA – Listed 8/97 South-Central Coast – Listed 8/97 Central Coast – Listed 8/97 Central Valley – Listed 3/98 Northern CA – Listed 6/00 Red-Legged Frog – Listed 2001 Forest-dependant species threatened by logging but not currently listed under the Endangered Species Act: California Spotted Owl Pacific Fisher Pine Marten Green Sturgeon Northern Goshawk ###