MENDOCINO COUNTY, Calif. — On Thursday, CAL FIRE announced that previously approved and contracted timber operations will resume in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest starting this week and throughout the year.
The agency said this comes after an eight-month pause and discussions with local Native American tribes, community members and stakeholders. CAL FIRE said work will resume with modifications including focusing on smaller trees, ensuring slash piles are removed in certain areas, permanently protecting large trees, and modifying current Timber Harvest Plans to enhance the existing protection of culturally sensitive sites.
Despite this, critics such as the Environmental Protection Information Center, or EPIC, claim CAL FIRE made this announcement without informing the tribes that they have been at the table for six months. Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians Chair Michael Hunter said the state did not notify the tribe beforehand and he was "shocked" by the news.
CAL FIRE said the operation modifications are part of broader discussions focusing on the future vision and direction for management of the state forest, including co-management with tribal partners, furthering fire resiliency and restoration ecology, and other restoration and conservation projects.
"Working with local Native American tribes, forest stakeholders, timber operators, conservation organizations and the local community has brought us to a reasonable place for resuming sustainable operations in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest," Deputy Director for Resource Management Matthew Reischman said.
However, EPIC maintains the Timber Harvest Plans were written without community or tribal involvement and directly threaten large second-growth coastal redwoods and tribal sacred sites.
“CalFire appears intent on burning bridges,” Staff Attorney at EPIC Matt Simmons said. “The ‘pause’ in operations made community input and tribal negotiations possible. Now, any progress or goodwill has been shattered. We call on CalFire not to resume logging until they have a new Management Plan.”
According to EPIC, the Mendocino County Youth for Climate will hold a rally will on Sunday at the Casper Scales in JDSF to change the forest’s mandate and have logging remain paused.
Meanwhile, CAL FIRE said logging operations would resume in phases, where previously paused operations will re-start by completing smaller segments of incomplete work.