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GUEST OPINION: Bohemians are stewards of the grove


As we approach a possible extreme fire season, it is time to set the record straight.

After three years of a public process and in consultation with leading experts and authorities, the Bohemian Club has crafted a sensible and sustainable timber plan for its property in Sonoma County. This plan has been exhaustively reviewed by the California Department of Forestry, which has termed it a model for proper forest management.

The Bohemian Club is seeking to act as a responsible landowner by protecting old-growth trees, restoring a revered forest to more of its original condition and lessening the real risk of a catastrophic fire.

This set of facts was turned upside down in a recent Close to Home column by Jay Halcomb and Dan Kerbein ("Bohemian Grove is as unique as Armstrong Redwoods," Feb. 23). While they are entitled to express their opinion, they do not hold a unique concession on the truth. And their deliberate distortion of the facts calls into question the sanctity and veracity of their argument.

Particularly disingenuous is the suggestion that the grove will be turned into a commercial "logging tract." It's no surprise that Halcomb and Kerbein would resort to such inflammatory and misleading language as they are supporters of a lawsuit filed last month against the state seeking to block implementation of the proposed timber management plan at the Bohemian Grove.

The critics would like to compare the private forest at the Bohemian Grove to the public state park at Armstrong Redwoods. But they have no basis for the comparison as neither Halcomb nor Kerbein has ever set foot in the Bohemian Grove to examine forest conditions there firsthand.

On the other hand, five Sonoma County fire captains; Humboldt University professor Stephen Sillett, a renowned redwood expert; and forest management experts from the University of California, Berkeley have all toured the grove and are on record supporting the timber plan proposed for this mixed-growth forest. The only thing motivating these experts to state their support is the sound science of this plan.

The critics claim old-growth trees in Bohemian Grove haven't been identified and won't be protected. They fail to mention a publicly announced conservation easement that will preserve 162 acres of old-growth trees from any harvesting. They offer a hodge-podge of pseudo-science and alleged errors made by CDF without mentioning the 600 pages of responses provided by state regulators to each and every question posed and assertion made by plan opponents.

Managing the forest responsibly at the Bohemian Grove won't add to global warming. It will not result in the destruction of centuries-old trees that have been protected by generations of Bohemian Club members.

The Bohemian Club is the very opposite of the "greedy absentee landowner," as portrayed by Halcomb and Kerbein. Indeed, the property is monitored and maintained year-round for the benefit of the forest and the safety of neighboring landowners.

It is perhaps a sign of the weakness of their legal case that the critics are now resigned to name-calling and demagoguery. The truth is they have a long history of opposing nearly any timber management plan approved in California, no matter how responsible or sustainable it might be.

Readers of The Press Democrat are smart enough to make up their own minds and don't need other folks to tell them what to think. Your readers can see pictures of the Bohemian Grove, learn about the history of the property and view letters of support at www.protectbohemiangrove.org. They can also review the entire record on file with CDF in Santa Rosa where the facts have been painstakingly sorted from fiction.