Quincy Library Group wins 3-0
Jackson’s comments came as he updated the group on recent developments.
Early in September, negotiations with the Sierra Forest Legacy, a coalition of 100 environmental groups, yielded a small victory when SFL agreed to withdraw its motion for a preliminary injunction against the Freeman project.
According to Jackson, Indian Valley logger Randy Pew made quite an impression on the SFL representatives. “They didn’t want to put a small business out of work,” Jackson said. “They felt bad about that.”
Later negotiations in Washington did not go as well — one source described the proceedings as “gruesome” — and the parties could not agree on several contested projects.
Representatives of the QLG, the Forest Service and SFL, and Senator Dianne Feinstein and members of her staff, participated in the talks, which Feinstein virtually ordered during a meeting at Lake Tahoe in mid-August.
“Feinstein gave the environmentalists a chance to lay out their case and they failed. From her point of view it sounded like all that was happening here was obstruction,” said Jackson. “I sat and watched the reputation of the environmental movement move back 10 to 15 years.”
County forester Frank Stewart, another QLG negotiator, said the meetings were “worth a $1,000 ticket to watch.”
“I would have paid $1,000 to be invisible,” responded fellow negotiator Linda Blum.
The day after the negotiations concluded, however, the QLG scored a significant victory. After two-and-a-half hours of testimony Friday, Sept. 21, U.S. District Court Judge Morrison England ruled from the bench. As smoke from the Moonlight Fire fouled the air in Sacramento, site of the hearing, England denied SFL’s motions for injunctions to stop three QLG pilot projects — Empire, Slapjack and Basin.
According to Jackson, the decision releases 70 million board-feet of timber.
County supervisor Rose Comstock greeted the news with excitement. The ruling “means we can get back to managing our national forests before we lose the entire Sierra Nevada to catastrophic wildfire,” she said in a prepared statement.
The threat of wildfire was at the top of Feinstein’s concerns, too, according to the QLG negotiators.
“She wants to stop fires that destroy communities and watershed,” said Stewart. “She said she couldn’t live with herself if communities in (QLG) project areas burned down.”
The SFL did not return a request for comment before press time.
At Thursday’s QLG meeting, agency representatives sat mute as Jackson and Blum described their insights from the Washington negotiations. Of particular concern were “set-asides” — acres taken out of consideration on QLG projects in an agency attempt to pacify the environmental lobby.
In the case of the contested Slapjack project, Blum said, two-thirds of the project-area acres had been removed, resulting in a 3,200-year tree rotation — far longer than what the QLG legislation stipulates.
Stewart brought up the Flea project, in which 8,000 acres of group selection had been reduced to 2,800.
“People at the district are sabotaging the law,” he said.
Jackson pointed to the economics of the Slapjack project. Forest personnel and green groups had agreed on what should be done with 3,000 acres, but couldn’t come to consensus on a final 50 acres.
“Those 50 acres of group selection logging made the difference between economic good for the government and being $1.5 million in the hole,” Jackson explained.
“The language of the (QLG) law is that cost-effective methods are supposed to be used. Anyone can do a welfare project,” he said. “We, too, could create Iraq.”
Jackson went on to say that the environmental groups liked defensible fuel-profile zones and group selection; they just didn’t want to log any trees greater than 20 inches in diameter at breast height. The problem with that position, said Jackson, is that the increment between 20- and 30-inch dbh trees is what makes or breaks the economics of a project.
“How is it that no one gets this?” asked Comstock. “What’s wrong with the agency?”
What they concluded from the negotiations, Jackson and Blum said, is that the QLG has not been paying enough attention to project design. That is about to change, Jackson said.
If a project “doesn’t look like the QLG legislation, if it’s close to the margin and causes loggers to go broke, we may sue you,” Jackson told the Forest Service.
“But we will scope first,” interjected Blum, referring to the agency’s feedback process.
Maria Garcia of the Plumas National Forest responded, “We look forward to your response in scoping. It will help us get where we need to go in the documents.”
Group member George Terhune said that he hoped helping the Forest Service win some legal challenges would “put some starch” in the projects.
“We want to see ‘starch’ in the planning process,” agreed Jackson.
An agency representative pointed out that while the Forest Service was guided by the QLG legislation, it was guided by other laws as well.
“We understand that,” replied Blum. “We’re going to help you understand how they apply.”
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