Diggin' In

The Richard Gienger Report

A map of the project I describe in this article.  Map by Karen Youngblood, RFFI
A map of the project I describe in this article. Map by Karen Youngblood, RFFI

In the beginning of my column in the Winter 2021 issue of Forest and River News, I ecstatically described the record October rainfall. Turned out that the zero measurable rain from 1st January 2022 until well into March was a record for at least the last 130 years. Hella scary. At least some significant Chinook and coho made it up to spawning grounds early: coho seen high up in Mattole headwater tributaries, and Chinook in the mainstem below those tributaries. Just in the last few days [mid-March] significant numbers of steelhead have been observed in the lower Mattole, and the hopes are that the recent “surprise” inch or so of rain (followed by yearned-for BIG rains) will allow successful spawning.

I, like many others, continue to achingly miss John Rogers. There will be a memorial for John on May 14th in the Southern Humboldt Community Park. It is anticipated that the educational forest path established there by John and the Institute for Sustainable Forestry with significant community involvement will be named in his honor.

The Passing of Bob McKee

The passing of Bob McKee at the end of his 93rd year has prompted sadness and reflective deep memories from all who knew him and were affected by his influential role in their lives. He enabled so many to make their dreams reality. A lot of extended family villages and homesteads established in the last 60 years—and the related community skills, involvement, and contributions—still thrive. Thank you, Bob.

Lower reach of Standley Creek near the confluence of South Fork Eel River in Peircy.
Photo by Karen Youngblood

Precarious Perspectives

The small- to the big-picture perspectives we’re observing and experiencing seem very precarious. Dangerous decisions, tirades, and negative impacts are going on at almost every scale. All a part of human and global history, but we can’t continue to shrug and say “whatever,” can we? Done that over and over again. Been delving into American history accounts since I could read. A lot of atoning is due now and in the future.

Will give several situational sketches before presenting some details regarding the present and future of Jackson Demonstration State Forest—and by extension, all of California’s forests. Some of these sketches are directly related to those issues. (For a lot of the particulars and background of these sketches you will need to refer to earlier columns and/or do some research.)

One of my pet peeves since 2012 has been AB 1492 with its so-called “Timber Regulation and Forest Restoration Fund/Program” (TRFR). The “restoration” is unrealized, and the regulation ignores the high quality standards involving the maintenance, restoration, and enhancement that form the core of the 1973 ‘modern’ Forest Practice Act. The TRFR is funded by taxes/fees you pay on retail lumber products, replacing all fees and permitting costs of timber production. AB 1492 (recognize the bill number in your memory?) put a cap on liability for forest fires by forest landowners and extended the time to implement Timber Harvest Plans (THPs). That extension of time wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The liability cap was/is another matter. Anyway, the upshot is that the new law was supposed to result in a whole new realm of public transparency and participation, including the determination of ecological performance measures. Needless to say, it has not.

Unfortunately, with these ‘recent’ catastrophic fires, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (which includes the Board), now known as CAL FIRE (with its Fire Protection work of national and world renown), has relegated the focus on real forest stewardship almost to an afterthought. Some CAL FIRE higher-ups have claimed that, because of their crucial role in saving lives and homes, they have the social license to no longer waste time arguing with the public over forest management. They can just do what they want. The negative impacts of this attitude extend from inadequate road standards, to exemptions that have serious adverse impacts, and even to the incredible leeway given to PG&E for “risk reduction” of power lines. It appears that the contractors with the PG&E jobs programs are mostly from out-of-state in many parts of California.

Breaking news on March 18th, from Forests Forever’s Paul Hughes

Here’s a CAL FIRE press release announcing Joe Tyler’s ascension to director of the department, ‘California’s statewide fire agency.’ No mention whatsoever of Tyler’s role or the agency’s responsibility in overseeing resources management and regulating logging on some 9 million acres of non-federal forestland in the state: www.fire.ca.gov/media/y4tnjwzs/appointment-of-new-cal-fire-director.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery

More Related News

Former CAL FIRE Director, Richard Wilson, co-author of “Why It is Time for A CAL FIRE Divorce” with Attorney Sharon Duggan (“Golden Gate University Law Journal” 2020, https://digitalcommons.law.ggu.edu/gguelj/vol12/iss1/2/) has written a book entitled Stand for the Land which is about to come out. It will include close looks and broad perspectives and experiences of his that cover more than a half century of deep and committed conservation values.

Let’s Look at Some Positive Developments

The $4 million-plus Northern Mendocino County Forest Health Collaborative, a 4-year start on a multiple-phase program, has gotten underway with regional contractors creating fuel breaks along Highway 1. Work of the same type will be accomplished along the road to Bureau of Land Management’s Red Mountain Area.

photo link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/blmcalifornia/51345892428/

Work will also be done in the Usal Redwood Forest, including management of shaded fuel breaks with fire, consistent with traditional practices and knowledge. RFFI and Usal Redwood Forest recently obtained funding to do comprehensive planning in the Standley Creek watershed for implementation of both forest and watershed recovery.

Gross tractor logging impacts in the Standley Creek watershed, late 1970s. Photo by Robert Ballard

Land Back and Related

In large part as a result of proclamations by former governor Jerry Brown and current Governor Newsom, the opportunities for returning land to California Tribes and facilitating co-management of state lands are happening. A couple earlier examples happened when over half of the 7,500 acres acquired from Georgia Pacific to protect the Sinkyone Wilderness Coast went to the Intertribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council (Council) in 1997. Shortly after that, Save the Redwoods League (StRL) passed on 160 acres to the Council at Four Corners at the Usal and Briceland Roads junction. Most recently, 523 acres of perhaps the most intact real forest in northwestern Mendocino County was passed on to the Council by the StRL, ironically from money that PG&E was fined for a catastrophic gas explosion in San Bruno. That land, named Tc’ih-Leh-Dun, crosses a major coho salmon refugia and includes coastal prairies above Bear Harbor.
See: https://www.savetheredwoods.org/project/tcih-leh-dun-fish-run-place/

In September, a press release from State Senator Mike McGuire announced that the spectacular “Blue’s Beach” where Chadburn Creek flows to the Pacific will be transferred from CalTrans to a combination of the Sherwood, Coyote Valley, and Round Valley Tribes. Additionally, the StRL this past fall (2021) purchased 3,100 acres from Soper-Wheeler Company (which includes the old DeVillbiss Ranch) from the Usal area almost to Rockport. It includes a very crucial part of the Cottoneva Creek watershed coho refugia. StRL stated that they would pass it on to the State or the Tribes for management.

Klien Gulce, tributary of Standley Creek Photo by Karen Youngblood

Jackson Demonstration State Forest: Reform and Native Land

This brings us to the crucial issues regarding Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). There is a lot of background for this, some of which I have described in back columns for a number of years. The simplified upshot is that, all of a sudden, parts of the Forest dear to trail users, including redwoods close to or greater than 7 feet in diameter, were marked for cutting. You might know or guess what happened next: multiple layers of committed resistance. A key element here is the State’s commitment to co-management of state lands with Tribes. You’ll have to go to the following organizations and links to get a fuller picture. A pronouncement by Senator Mike McGuire at a town hall meeting for Northern Mendocino County on March 8th gave well-based credibility to those advocating for change in the forest stewardship of JDSF. This is included. The devil is in the details as always, but it is overdue movement if we are to come to grips with our local, regional, and global plight. See links for those involved:

Zoom Presentation to the Oakmont Progressives on Jackson Forest: https://vimeo.com/683517488 Vince Taylor talks about the long battle to change the mission of Jackson Demonstration State Forest from industrial logging to a preserve. He is joined on the Zoom presentation by several members of the Save Jackson Coalition that picked up the battle a year ago: Ravel Gauthier, a 12-year-old climate activist, Michelle McMillan and Alder, a couple who have put their bodies in the woods to stop the chainsaws, and Chad Swimmer, the person who started the renewed effort.

Contention with CAL FIRE & BoF

At the March Board of Forestry meetings, committees on the 1st, and full board on the 2nd, I brought up the ridiculous refusal to address the Jackson management issues in the BoF Management Committee, as requested by former CAL FIRE Director in September 2021. The meetings were virtual webinars. I was able to testify under the Director’s Report on the 2nd, but on the 1st the Committee Chair lost it, demanding the plug be pulled on the microphone. For 6 months the Board had stonewalled—and needed to be reminded.

My Basic Message to BoF/CAL FIRE

“I bring to your attention, under #1 priorities for Management Committee in 2022, as follows:

Jackson Demonstration State Forest Management Plan Review

Objective: The Department and other stakeholders, have requested that the Board participate in discussions surrounding the Management of JDSF to ensure that the forest remains a functional and valuable public resource into the future.

Status: Board staff and Board members have participated in Jackson Advisory Group meetings in September 2021 and intend to continue to work with the JAG on the development of future management issues.’

It is prejudicially excluded from today’s Management Committee agenda, consistent with continued failure by BoF/CAL FIRE to address what the “functional and valuable public resource” JDSF actually is into the future. Management Plans have been approved which do not begin to adequately take into consideration, fire, climate change – carbon sequestration, hydrological & watershed/forest recovery, and Native American heritage and cultural response/implementation. A moratorium is essential until these issues are resolved and positive alternative are determined by a double-blue ribboned panel that truly reflects conditions, public, scientific, and California Indian representation—that is not dominated by CAL FIRE and Industry’s dominant historical paradigm.

Continued inaction is among other things, a violation of public trust and a variety of laws, regulations, and
court decisions.

Richard Gienger
And on behalf of Forests Forever”

A week later, nobody pulled the plug on Senator Mike McGuire, as he brought some common sense forward. It’s not going to be simple or easy to do what needs to be done, but industry/CAL FIRE stonewall denial is firmly shaken.

Senator McGuire Weighs In

From the Northern Mendocino County Virtual Town Hall Meeting, as transcribed by Matt Simmons of EPIC:

8 March 2022

Senator McGuire:

Alright, let’s go to our next [question]. Joseph writes in about the Jackson Demonstration State Forest and wanting to get my thoughts and am I going to attend [a tour]… this past Monday (when I was in Sacramento), a walk in the forest, but Joseph, my opinion as you had asked…

Look, here is my bottom line on the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, and I look forward to hearing from all of you.

#1, I believe the model for Jackson Demonstration State Forest is antiquated.

#2, In these modern times, I’m not exactly sure what the forest is demonstrating to the State of California.

#3, I firmly believe that JDSF must have a focus on climate and fire resiliency, which currently it does not have a significant focus on those two critical issues that are impacting our community and our planet.

And I am a firm believer that this State needs to advance a[nd] revamp the management plan early. So, we already know that the CNRA [California Natural Resources Agency] will move up their review and revamp of the management plan 5 years early. It’s actually gonna kick off this year.

And I am also a firm believer that we need to have an interim plan. Because to complete that management plan starting this year it’s probably going to take 24 to 36 months to complete.

So, I believe we need to have everything on the table for this interim plan. And we need to have a serious conversation about what we want the future of the JDSF truly
to be.

And candidly it’s beyond time. I’m grateful to so many in this community who have stepped up—Chairman Hunter [Tribal Chairman of the Coyote Valley Pomo], by the way, being the leader on this issue, and I look forward to robust dialogue as we move forward. I’ll be honest that I’m a firm believer that we shouldn’t be cutting these large trees in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest any longer.

And I will tell you that the Natural Resources Agency is working hard on this issue. I want to say how grateful I am to Secretary Crowfoot, who is the Secretary for Natural Resources for the State of California. He has involved himself through thick and thin on this issue. He is meeting with us collaboratively working with CAL FIRE on this issue.

And I don’t mean to be coy, but I believe I can say with authority there is more to come in the coming weeks. And I believe everything should be on the table, especially with this interim plan that would be the bridge to what a larger revamp of the management plan would look like. That’s my personal opinion. More to come, I promise you on that, but I wanted to turn it over to the supervisors if they had anything to say on the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Supervisor Gjerde :

Well, I just want to thank Senator McGuire for his leadership on this and many other issues and that’s along the lines of what the BOS [Mendocino Board of Supervisors] requested [unanimous Resolution]. At least specifically we were requesting that the State take a look at the management plan as it relates to climate change and carbon sequestration and also fire resiliency. So, it was a unanimous vote to ask them to relook at the plan with those two issues in particular in mind and consultative process with the Tribes, and it sounds like that’s what is underway, and I appreciate that update, Senator McGuire.

[Big rallies were held in Ukiah on March 14th and in Sacramento on March 25th by Pomo Land Back supported by Tribes, the Save Jackson Coalition, Mendocino Trails Stewards, and many others.]

Supervisor Haschak:

And I’ll just add that part of our resolution was that we, the County Board of Supervisors, were going to be more involved in the Jackson Advisory Group [JAG]. That’s a group that looks at the THPs and the big-picture plan for the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, so hopefully that will happen soon because I guess they’re in transition in Jackson State and the Board will be involved.

Senator McGuire:

Thank you so much, Supervisor Haschack, Supervisor Gjerde, on that issue. [For more on JDSF, see pages 32 and 39 from this issue.]

Rugged winter mid-reach of Standley Creek, looking upstream.  Photo by Richard Gienger

Several More Links of Great Interest:


Go to the Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF) at calsalmon.org and register for the 24th Coho Confab—will be wonderfully local in Northern Mendocino and Southern Humboldt County—September 9-11. Home base for the Confab in South Leggett! [See page 34 from this issue]

Brand new Oregon forestry laws and Private Forest Accord [see page 30 from this issue]:


and https://oregonwild.org/about/blog/breaking-news-private-forest-accord-passes

Klamath dams removal news:


Please help out where and when you can. Check out the work and other information for Sanctuary Forest, the Institute for Sustainable Forestry (ISF), EPIC, Forests Forever, and Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc. Thank you, Trees Foundation!—rg

To Get Involved