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New standoff over Bohemian Grove timber plan


The Bohemian Club?s new timber harvest plan for its 2,650-acre property near Monte Rio faces continued opposition from environmental groups that say it still would allow the cutting of too many large Douglas fir and redwood trees.

The two sides sharply dispute whether the latest plan would help or hinder the preservation of the forested Bohemian Grove property, which includes a rare stand of ancient redwoods.

?It?s literally the biggest stand of old-growth redwoods along the Russian River,? said John Hooper, a former club member who helps oversee the Save the Bohemian Grove Web site. He called club?s stand larger than Armstrong Grove State Natural Reserve near Guerneville.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for the San Francisco-based club, said the new timber plan would improve fire safety while allowing for a sustainable amount of logging.

?We?re properly and respectfully preserving the old-growth redwoods trees, as well as the natural state of the Bohemian Grove,? Singer said.

But critics said the club can reduce the threat of fire by removing dying tan oaks and other non-timber hardwoods and underbrush. The tan oaks are succumbing to the disease sudden oak death.

?The kind of logging they are proposing doesn?t really reduce the fire danger,? said Jay Halcomb, chairman of the Sierra Club?s Redwood Chapter. He maintained the club?s application ?looks more like a commercial logging plan than a restoration plan.?

The two sides have battled over timber harvest since the club made its first proposal nearly three years ago. Critics said the club is applying for a permit that would remain valid virtually in perpetuity.

The all-male Bohemian Club is famous for its annual gatherings in the Grove along the Russian River that attract rich, famous and powerful personalities from around the world.

The state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection soon will set the date for a formal review of the timber plan. The public will be able to attend that meeting and submit written comments.

Ronald Pape, a division chief for the department?s Forest Practice group, said state and federal wildlife agencies had voiced concerns about the earlier plan. In response, the Bohemian Club submitted a new plan.

?They completely redid it,? Pape said. ?The rate of harvest now is significantly lower.? He added that it remains to be seen whether the plan would satisfy the wildlife agencies.

The club said it plans to cut on average 700,000 board-feet of timber for the first 10 years. That would be less than its earlier proposal of about 1.1 million board-feet. Critics said that amount in later decades could rise substantially to upwards of 1.7 million board-feet per year.

The critics acknowledged that the club intends to plant new trees and to grow more timber than it cuts each year. But they maintained that too many large trees ? those 24 inches in diameter or bigger ? still would be taken down.

?There will be more trees, but they?re going to be little sticks,? Hooper said.

The two sides both cite experts who dispute one another in regard to fire safety and forest preservation.

Singer also has contended that Hooper, who owns forest land in Mendocino County, has a timber plan that is ?far more aggressive than the Bohemian Club?s.?

Hooper called that contention ?completely false.? He said he has placed his land in a conservation easement that sets a limit on each year?s harvest that is more strict than would be the case for the club under a state timber plan.

Among those who have supported the club?s earlier plan is Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman. He said Wednesday that the Bohemian Grove has worked responsibly to reduce the threat of wildfire and to engage in good forestry practices.

?Everything the Grove has done so far has been in the right direction,? Baxman said.