A Profile of MRC Timber Harvests and Herbicide Use

by Will Parrish,
July 8, 2015

Perhaps more than any large private timber company in the history of California’s redwood coastal region region, Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) has branded itself as an environmentally responsible land steward.  The company’s main goal, according to the About Us section of its web site, is “to demonstrate it is possible to manage productive forestlands with a high standard of environmental stewardship, and also operate a successful business.”  Other goals include “improvements in aquatic and upslope habitat, old growth protection, clean water, and community well being, in addition to producing long-term sustainable timber supplies.”

The timber production part only makes its perfunctory arrival at the end of the sentence.

Other large timber companies in California makes essentially the same claims. For example, California’s largest timberland owner, Sierra Pacific Industries, claims to be “managed by professional foresters who practice responsible land stewardship. While providing long-term sustained yields of quality timber, care is taken to preserve the healthy and diverse ecosystems of our forests.”  SPI, however, clear cuts forests as a matter of course.  A former company executive once even defended clearcutting as a tool for protecting spotted owl and other forest species at a Congressional hearing.

But MRC has various credentials that these other companies do not.  It does not use traditional clearcutting (more on that below).  Further bolstering the company’s green credentials, many environmental non-profit organizations have heaped praise on its practices.

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Can forests rebound from severe drought?

Even after drought conditions subside, trees may take years to resume normal growth, say scientists.

Joseph Dussault, Staff Writer,
Christian Science Monitor
July 30, 2015


Courtesy of Leander Anderegg

It’s no surprise that droughts can severely weaken forests. But what happens when the drought ends?

Traditionally, climate models have operated under the assumption that forests bounce back quickly from periods of extreme stress. But new research, published Thursday in the journal Science, suggests that trees may take years to resume normal growth after a period of drought.

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Parrish’s Notes on Main Page’s MRC Logging Plan Herbicide Use

Author’s Notes from Will Parrish, A Profile of MRC’s logging plan and herbicide use.

As I noted above, my method of collecting data for this study was simple. (I’ve resisted the temptation to use the word “methodology,” since one of my implicit purposes is to show it’s possible to do this sort of study without an academic research grant, and also without using inaccessible academic jargon.) Here is a short explanation of what I did, complete with screenshot images.

In March, I logged onto the Cal Fire Watershed Mapper page and searched for information on timber harvests in Mendocino County, as below.

I scrolled through every watershed number and collected the data it had to offer. My computer screen looked like this when I clicked on each watershed number.

From there, I saved each watershed’s data file using the “save spreadsheet” option built into the watershed mapper system (just by clicking on the icon in the lower left corner of the data set). I saved each file by watershed number so that I could check later to avoid errors of repetition or duplication when it comes to saving the files. The files saved as OpenOffice Spreadsheet files (which are convertible to Microsoft Excel and other spreadsheet programs). Here, I’ve created fake file names for some of the files in the folder where I kept the data to protect my privacy.

Then I consolidated all of the resulting OpenOffice spreadsheets into a master spreadsheet, and used the program’s “Sort” function to aggregate Mendocino Redwood Company’s THP data together and delete all the other THP data from the file. Ultimately, that process resulted in a master file that you can download by clicking here. I used this file to generate all of the data I used in this article.

As I noted, I have edited my data somewhat since first publishing a piece about this study in the AVA three weeks ago. The basic conclusions I described in that piece remain the same. I decided, however, to omit 2013 data (which is incomplete in the Watershed Mapper) and remove canceled logging plans from the data file. I also checked through CalFire’s THP library for North Coast THPs to make sure logging plans for which MRC has not filed a completion report remain active. If they were active, I kept them in the master spreadsheet. In one case, I discovered a THP (1-09-003MEN) that Cal Fire scuttled after initially approving it, and thus removed that THP from my data.

I initially sought to determine how MRC’s recent large Timber Harvest Plan acreages compare to historical totals. I determined, by the way, that the recent THPs do not – contrary to what many environmentalists and investigative journalists suspected – do not signal an increase in harvesting rates based on the available acreage data. MRC is logging about as much acreage as usual in the last few years — as Mike Jani has maintained in public statements. (I did not, however, look at the historical intensity of harvests on an acre-per-acre basis. That line of inquiry remains open.)

Here are some studies in the same bailiwick and may be worthwhile: a comparative study of MRC logging data and logging data of a comparable timber corporation, such as Green Diamond; a study of tree diameter sizes MRC harvests in its THPs; and a GPS study illustrating the intensity of harvest by watershed.

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A Solution for California’s Water Woes

During the drought, the state has failed to safeguard water supplies and the environment, and now there’s a growing call to finally fix California’s archaic “water rights” system.

By Will Parrish

In a decision bursting with symbolism, the California State Water Resources Control Board recently announced its intention to draw down the main water supply reservoir for a half-million people to only 12 percent of capacity by September 30. Lake Folsom on the American River — the main water source for Roseville, Folsom, and other Sacramento suburbs — will plummet to 120,000 acre feet by that date, according to a forecast by the water board, which announced the plan at an unusually lively Sacramento workshop on June 24.

The artificial lake will therefore be only months away from turning into a dreaded “dead pool,” a state in which a reservoir becomes so low it cannot drain by gravity through the dam’s outlet. Such an outcome would leave area residents scrambling for water — if recent predictions of an El Niño weather pattern fizzle and rain fails to appear later in 2015. If that were to happen, then Folsom could be a harbinger for the rest of California.

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Discussion on Threat of Logging Plans

I sent the message – below – to Stephen.  If this is allowed to be how forests are managed on private lands in California – virtually all private forest lands will be put in these permanent large scale Non-industrial Timber Management Plans (NTMPs) – with no future environmental review or ability to update to new rules – we, the public, will be left in the dust.

Your thinking on this – please.

Stephen

You might want to start talking about this.  You  are not going to have much water, or slow down global warming, without trees.

If this goes unchecked – the public and responsible agency will be, forever, removed from the process of managing private (non-industrial) forests in our State.
New rules for the forests of the State of California – Statewide – creating Working Forest Management Plans – where combined acreages can be put into a single plan – where a simi-CEQA  process is applied once –  the the plans are good forever – without future review of harvest plans or updates in new rules governing forest management.  This will occur (the rules are approved) – even though these rules  allowing for forever WFMPs are not consistent with other State Code (as mandated in the authorizing legislation).

This is a very large problem and significant threat to our forests. . Coast Action Group (CAG) is currently working with Sharon Duggan and EPIC on future litigation. .

See brief summary (and note on combining properties from BoF) of the WFMP issues – below.  We need to hear from you about your thinking on this issue – before we make any financial decisions.

The TNC supported a bill  AB 904 –  the legislation would permit large long term timber harvest plans  “Working Forest Management Plans” (up to15,000 acres)  – where the plans would  forever (in perpetuity – one could question anything  land use plan with no horizon). These plans could (and likely would – eventually) comprise up to 2 million acres of forestlands in California. Additionally, once approved – the WFMP may  not be upgraded to comply with new advanced management criteria.

The benefit to the environment would be  the goals of: long term planning that would allow un-evenaged management (no clear-cutting), rigorous standards applied to inventory management attain a goal of Long Term Sustained Yield – allowing for recovery of watersheds, forest stands,  wildlife and water quality values – with carbon benefits.

The legislation required the  California Board of Forestry to promulgate rules consistent with the legislation and consistent with “all applicable code.”  To a great extent the Board of Forestry did not follow the plain language or the intent of the legislation.

The Nature Conservancy staff – not knowing how forestry works in California – left the rule writing unattended with the result (final rules)  that none (zero) of the stated goals (stated above – and – below – brief summary) can be meet.

Considering (above and below) –  what do we do  now?

The Legislation called for:

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry – Consistent with all California Law – The newly approved rules do not comply with Cal Water Code, Forest Practices Act, and  Federal Clean Water Act

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry – Providing for Erosion Control Management Plans to address existing and potential sediment sources  – The newly approved rules do not include potential sediment sources and allow for workarounds to this requirement – thus not consistent with Porter-Cologne (Cal Water Code), regional Basin Plans, and the federal CWA (not TMDL compliant)

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry –  that plans provide  analysis  that assures and measures the intent to meet long term Sustained Yield – Growth and Harvest analysis.  The current approved rules do not assure and do not provide  capability for rigorous analysis (stated by the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection – see file on agency comments).  In fact, current rules make the goal/task impossible.

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry – to provide a 5 year periodic review process that includes public participation.  The public may write letters but is locked out of any meaningful position to review data and have any say in the future of these plans

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry is supposed to protect forest resources as well as water quality resources.  Nope ! – the rules circumvent these responsibilities – including compliance with TMDLs and Porter – Cologne.

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry – does not assure un-evenaged forestry management or Long Term Sustained Yield.

Rule writing by the Board of Forestry – revised the intent of the legislation that the lands comprising a Working Forest Management Plan be owned by a single entity (“A person” or a single ownership entity).  Combining ownerships was explored and found impossible to manage due to differences in land types, inventory bases, management styles and goals, types of silviculture used – and/including – effects of potential changes of ownerships complicating issues. Calfire sees issues in apply rigorous standards, assessment of compliance,and other issues (see – Cal fire comments at the Rule Making Website).  This all can turn into a huge problem – subjecting much more than the 1,200,000 acres (projected) that could be combined in these plans. Please understand that individual and grouped landowners can keep Notices to Harvest open for 7 years (with no acreage limitations) on multiple ownerships with varying types of management goals and silviculture (with no assurance of  un-evenaged management – while not being consistent with other State Code or rules upgrades).

If you ask me this is pretty crazy.  Who  would not want to sighn up for a forever timber harvest opportunity?

Here is the link to all the pertinent documents @ Board of Forestry web-site: http://www.bof.fire.ca.gov/regulations/proposed_rule_packages/

This is just a summary.  In short this is a mess.  What do we do now – that the rules have been approved by the Board of Forestry?

Note on combining properties from Matt Dias – BoF- Below

Alan,

Sorry for not getting back to you earlier. The WFMP regulation would allow for multiple landowners to engage in a single WFMP, but the total acreage of a single WFMP cannot exceed 15,000 acres (per WFMP Definition in 1094.2).  The Board recognized the issues of multiple landowners and therefore provided clarity on the fact that each landowner must have their own growth and yield so that the Department can review the growth and yield standards of each individual landowner at plan submittal and to assure compliance with those approved standards during the 5 year review.  This is attained by having growth and yield data by individual management unit (defined in 1094.2) and each individual management unit is restricted to a single ownership entity (1094.6(e)(1)).

Multiple landowners have long been allowed to cooperatively participate in a NTMP. During the development of the WFMP CAL FIRE did express some concern over the issue of having multiple landowners associated with a single NTMP.  It was for that purpose that the Board, in conjunction with CAL FIRE, developed the idea of the Designated Agent (as defined in 1094.2).  Throughout the regulation there are multiple references to the responsibilities of the Designated Agent and how this single point of contact will aid the Department in the long term interaction between Working Forest Landowners and the Department.

Talk with you soon.

Matt Dias, Assistant Executive Officer
State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection
916.653.8031 Office, mailto:matt.dias@bof.ca.gov

Posted in Environmental Impacts, Logging Impacting watershed, Salmonid/Wildlife Impacts, Streams and Wetlands Impacts, Watershed Related Concerns | Leave a comment

Sonoma County Well Ordinance Hearing, July 21, 2 pm

To All,

There is a public hearing on a Sonoma County well ordinance that has important ramifications on new well development that will impact water availability.

Permit and Resource Management (PRMD), 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa CA

July 21  2:00 p.m.  Item 74- Conduct a Public Hearing and Adopt a Resolution – Adopt a Resolution, reading the title of, waiving further reading of, and introducing for adoption an ordinance to revise Chapter 25B of the Sonoma County Code related to water well construction standards, add or replace definitions, and make other miscellaneous changes to Chapters 1 and 25.

((All relevant documents and proposed draft language from County’s website.))

http://sonomacounty.ca.gov/PRMD/News/Draft-Water-Well-Construction-Standards-Ordinance/

Larry

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“Turning Water into Wine” Discussion and Link

I opened the following “Drinking our Rivers Dry” email from Will Parrish. It includes a link to his partner Burl–who was at the Jenner meeting of the Four County Network–and her new album “The Deep Well.” Music and other art forms can be helpful in our growing response to the Wine Empire. Please consider forwarding this widely.

Shepherd

Most of my research in the last month has focused on the economic and political forces that are destroying the waters of many of California’s coastal regions — such as where I live, here in the Russian River watershed.

The drought gets treated largely as a natural disaster. I see it mainly as a systemic consequence of organized greed on a spectacular scale.  One feature of that system is that life-giving water is treated as a commodity for export, piped and drilled like oil, and those with more capital get to drill deeper and out-pump the little person whose wells go dry.

The main face of the problem in many California coastal regions has long since been the wine industry. I wrote the main feature in this week’s East Bay Express, called “Turning Water Into Wine,” about how “the unregulated growth of California’s wine industry in the state’s coastal regions is depleting groundwater supplies and devastating rivers and fisheries.”  Here’s a link:

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/turning-water-into-wine/Content?oid=4301724&showFullText=true

Speaking of wells, my partner Burl’s band just came out with an awe-inspiringly beautiful new album called “The Deep Well” – http://inleelni.bandcamp.com/releases.

I’ve given several public presentations in the last month or so.  Here in Ukiah, the documentary “Russian River: All Rivers” airs at the SPACE Theater on June 2nd at 6:30. I hope to share some words there, and I’ll also be the keynote speaker at the Four County Network gathering in June, a regional assemblage of people taking on the wine industry’s long-running sociological and ecological reconfiguration of California’s North Bay and North Coast.

Best wishes,
Will

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California water bill likely to pass U.S. House, then lose steam

BY MICHAEL DOYLE
Sacramento Bee, July 7, 2015

Wheat near harvest - Sacramento, CA

Gino Celli inspects wheat nearing harvest on his farm near Stockton, Calif., in this May 18, 2015 file photo. An ambitious California water bill will pass a key U.S. House committee this week and soon will sail through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on a near party-line vote. Then it will crash into the U.S. Senate.
Rich Pedroncelli – AP

An ambitious California water bill will pass a key U.S. House committee this week and soon will sail through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives on a near party-line vote.

Then it will crash into the U.S. Senate, where negotiators may or may not be able to craft a package acceptable to enough Democrats that it can become law.

It’s a familiar Capitol Hill script, where the ultimate plot twist for California water legislation would be bipartisan compromise that leads to relevant, real-world success.

“I know we’re never going to get 100 percent buy-in on this, but it’s a good place to start the conversation,” the House bill’s lead author, Rep. David Valadao, R-Calif., said in an interview.

Co-sponsored by 25 House members, with Rep. Jim Costa of California the only Democrat, the legislation introduced June 25 resurrects ideas that passed the House last year over objections from the Obama administration and Northern California Democrats.

This year’s 170-page bill, for instance, repeals a San Joaquin River salmon-and-habitat restoration program, replacing it with something smaller. Between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2014, the federal government committed about $169 million to the river restoration program. More than $860 million will be required over the next decade, the program estimates.

While it’s expensive, the current river restoration program settled a lawsuit and was approved by a federal judge, so the attempted congressional repeal could get complicated.

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Re: H.R. 2898 (Valadao) “Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 ” OPPOSE

Opposing H.R. 2898 (Valadao) "Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015" OPPOSE

United States House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
July 13, 2015

Dear Members of Congress:

The undersigned conservation and recreation organizations, outdoor businesses, and Native American Tribes urge you to reject Rep. Valadao’s H.R. 2898. Under the guise of water and food “security,” H.R. 2898 proposes to maximize water exports, and weaken regulations protecting threatened and endangered fish and wildlife in California.

Passage and implementation of this complex legislation will almost certainly result in the extinction of the endangered Delta smelt in its native habitat and accelerate the already precipitous decline of the Central Valley’s wild salmon and steelhead towards extinction. It will also further degrade Delta water quality (the drinking water source for millions of Californians) and harm rural and urban communities throughout the state, while primarily benefitting just a few water districts in the southern Central Valley.

H.R. 2898 fails to provide real water and food security because of its narrow focus on maximizing water exports and expediting costly, ineffective, and environmentally destructive new dam projects. These water options cannot produce new water supplies in this unprecedented fourth year of drought (no matter how quickly they may be

implemented) and they may never be able to produce new supplies with our changing (and likely to be drier) climate.

Just a few of the most egregious provisions of H.R. 2898 include:

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California’s ‘relentless’ drought has taken a dire turn

Fenit Nirappil and Scott Smith, Associated Press
Jun. 12, 2015

California drought

Horacio Cisneros spays spa water in a backyard before removing the spa, in Lake Elsinore, California. As residents struggle to reduce potable water consumption by 25%, the California Pool and Spa Association is aggressively trying to quash proposed bans on filling pools and spas.

As California grapples with a relentless drought, state regulators on Friday ordered farmers and others who hold some of the strongest water rights in the state to stop all pumping from three major waterways in one of country’s prime farm regions.

The order involving record cuts by senior water rights holders in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and delta watersheds followed mandatory water curtailment earlier this year to cities and towns and to farmers with less ironclad water rights.

The waterways targeted Friday in the order by the State Water Resources Control Board provide water to farms and cities in the agriculture-rich Central Valley and beyond.

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