Activist Corner

Jackson State Forest Update: CAL FIRE Poised to Restart Logging While Promises for Tribal Co-Management and Protection of Sacred Sites Go Unfulfilled

BACH_Red-Tail-Fallen-Grandma-Redwoods

Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters

By Karen Pickett, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH), Coalition to Save Jackson State Forest

The good news is that quiet and calm settled into the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) during the last year and a half, absent roaring chainsaws and falling redwoods. The bad news is that the forest’s managers at CAL FIRE continue to offer assurances of a “new vision” out one side of their mouths, while touting their out-of-date and misguided “business as usual” plans that fly in the face of promised collaboration and cooperation. The further bad news is they plan to skirt CEQA, California’s foundational environmental protection law, while writing a new management plan.

On Sept. 15, the Jackson Forest Advisory Group (JAG) and CAL FIRE saw close to 100 people pack their meeting in Ft. Bragg, including strong representation by the Coalition to Save Jackson Forest (of which BACH is a participant). With Tribal voices in the forefront, hours of public testimony caused the JAG to scuttle their protocol.

And with good reason—that protocol is fundamentally (and deliberately) flawed. The recent resignation of a qualified facilitator hired by CAL FIRE made plain those flaws. Hired to shepherd the JAG through a collaborative and forward-looking process as per CAL FIRE’s so-called “new vision” announced in August of 2022, that facilitator found herself stymied at every turn in implementing a truly inclusive and collaborative process. CAL FIRE was also forced to delay the approval of a new Timber Harvest Plan, which they were rushing through before relevant management plan changes can be reviewed or implemented.

CAL FIRE’s—and the JAG’s—agenda is to move into a planning process for a new (and badly needed) Management Plan for the Jackson Forest. A new plan, informed by an updated Environmental Impact Report, replacing the 16-year-old assessment, would allow for co-management with area tribes and cultural and climate considerations (previously absent) high on the list. Jackson also needs a new mandate—it has had the same mandate for commercial logging from its founding 70 years ago, which ignores the high value of this forest type for carbon sequestration and storage, and fails to recognize the ancestral homelands and sacred sites that lie within the forest’s borders, and indeed lie within THP borders. CAL FIRE claims to be on track to correct these failures in existing management, but so far is not delivering.

Jackson advocates saw a significant victory in August of this year, when the 10-million-strong statewide California Democratic Party passed a resolution supporting tribal co-management of the forest. This Resolution falls in line with Gov. Newsom’s 2020 policy directive to implement, wherever possible, co-management agreements on state-owned lands with the descendants of tribes who had been forcibly dispossessed of that land. Jackson is the ancestral home and refuge of the Northern Pomo and Coast Yuki Tribes, and it holds one of the largest archeological repositories of Indigenous cultural and sacred sites found on California public lands. This fact, and climate considerations, should stand out as primary considerations for management decisions.

The Coalition to Save Jackson Forest, comprised of local residents, forest experts, environmental groups, and tribal members, is stepping up its game, bracing for CAL FIRE’s intention to start up logging plans. The Coalition continues to support co-equal, co-management agreements arrived at via government-to-government negotiations with tribes. We invite you to join us.

The theme of this Forest & River News is cooperation, collaboration, and communication, which is truly how our Coalition to Save Jackson Forest works. If only the agencies that oversee these precious ecological and cultural resources could use that model.

See SaveJacksonForest.org to sign up for updates and learn more to help preserve the integrity of Jackson Forest.