Published Wednesday, March 15, 2000, in the San Jose Mercury News
Compromise likely in logging rules
Amid loggers', Earth First protests, forestry board delays vote to today
BY PAUL ROGERS Mercury News Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO -- With logging trucks circling capital streets and police
arresting Earth First activists, Gov. Gray Davis and his lieutenants
on Tuesday scrambled to find compromise on contentious new logging
rules to protect California's struggling salmon populations from
The State Board of Forestry held a six-hour hearing, adjourning
without a vote, on a package of new rules that would set tougher
restrictions on millions of acres of privately owned timberland from
Santa Cruz County to the Oregon border.
The seven-member board, appointed by the governor, is scheduled to
vote on the new rules today.
However, by the end of the day Tuesday, it appeared Davis' office,
working with state Fish and Game Director Bob Hight and Resources
Secretary Mary Nichols, had hammered out a deal with top
environmental legislators, including state Sen. Byron Sher, D-Redwood
City, and Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Fred Keeley, D-Santa Cruz, to
alter the changes.
The latest version of Davis' plan -- which still must be approved by
the Board of Forestry -- would establish interim rules for the next
six months that would reduce logging along streams, Keeley said in an
The plan would set tougher regulations to reduce cutting along those
rivers and creeks where endangered coho salmon and steelhead trout
It would put stricter regulations on road building to reduce erosion
that harms endangered fish.
"It's definitely a move in the right direction. They have my
support," said Keeley, who was named environmental legislator of the
year Tuesday by the Planning and Conservation League, a Sacramento
The rules would affect logging on more than 16 million acres of
privately owned forests in California. Keeley said they could be
replaced after six months by two measures currently in the
A $7 million item in Davis' proposed budget that requires the
State Resources Agency to assemble stacks of biological data about
dozens of watersheds in Northern California, attempt to fill the gaps
in information, and then have scientists review the documents.
A bill by Keeley that would require the Resources Agency to set
standards for water temperature, sedimentation and other indicators
in streams statewide. These benchmarks would be used to determine
rules on each timber harvest plan, region by region.
"We're heartened," said Elyssa Rosen, a spokeswoman for the Sierra
Club. "But we're very concerned that in six months Gov. Davis applies
Endangered Species Act protections fully to help salmon."
Every coho salmon population in California is on the endangered
species list. Steelhead trout are listed as threatened in most of the
Biologists disagree over the reasons. But most say the fish have been
devastated by large dams that block spawning runs, as well as mining,
logging and cattle grazing, real estate development, overfishing, sea
lions and natural cyclic changes in ocean temperatures.
Along the southern Oregon and Northern California coasts, there were
an estimated 150,000 to 400,000 coho salmon half a century ago. Today
there are fewer than 10,000 native coho.
Federal biologists have recommended that California ban logging for
180 feet on each side of streams. Environmentalists want 300-foot
buffers. The original proposal to the Board of Forestry would set
150-foot buffers and require loggers to leave 85 percent of the tree
canopy in the first 75 feet and 65 percent of the canopy in the next
More than 300 loggers who packed the board hearing Tuesday said the
rules were a one-size-fits all approach that could bankrupt them.
They drove two dozen logging trucks, some with raw logs, through
Sacramento streets in protest.
"This is like setting a speed limit of 5 mph to avoid all risk," said
Lloyd Tangen, a forestry supervisor from Simpson Timber in Orrick.
William McKillop, a professor emeritus of forest economics from
University of California-Berkeley, said the rules would cost up to
8,000 jobs and reduce the statewide cut on private lands by as much
as 24 percent. Logging levels already have fallen 58 percent in
California since 1988.
"We normally don't do demonstrations," said Bud McCrary, co-owner of
Big Creek Lumber in Santa Cruz. "But this is a matter of life and
death. All 200 employees in our company are watching this."
Meanwhile, nine chanting Earth First protesters were arrested at the
front of the hearing when they linked themselves together with paper
The National Marine Fisheries Service says the old rules are
inadequate, and if no action is taken, the agency could go to court,
acquire an injunction and potentially shut down all logging in
Contact Paul Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (408) 920-5045.
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