A timber harvesting plan at the exclusive Bohemian Club's Monte Rio retreat has been approved by the state, ending three years of controversy.
The San Francisco-based club said that no old growth redwoods will be among the trees that are removed through 2016. The intent is cut tan oak and thin Douglas fir trees to protect a stand of old growth redwoods from fire danger.
"We will remove the tan oak and thin the Douglas fir that is prevalent there, so if there is a fire, it won't sweep through the grove and impact the old growth redwoods the club treasures," Bohemian Club spokesman Sam Singer said Wednesday.
While some young redwoods would be felled, redwood seedlings would be planted where any tree is taken out, he said.
Some critics called the promise to protect the old growth redwoods a positive step, but said there still are patches in stands outside of the two main groves that could be at risk.
"Although two of the major stands we forced them to protect," there are a number of old growth patches and stands in which the protection is not as clearly defined, said John Hooper of the Bohemian Redwoods Rescue Club, Forest Unlimited. "A lot of mistakes happen on the ground."
Some of the redwoods that don't meet the old growth criteria may be 110 years old, Hooper said.
Other opponents said the plan still allows too much logging.
"We are displeased they approved the plan, we think the rate of harvesting is still too high," said Jay Halcomb of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter. "It is unjustifiable over-logging."
Halcomb said the redwood grove rivals that of the Armstrong Grove State Park in Guerneville.
Cal Fire gave approval Tuesday for the non-industrial timber management plan that allows for the removal of 7 million board feet of lumber between now and 2016.
The plan meets the requirements of sustainability, improving fire safety and protecting wildlife and water quality, Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
"The private landowner is required to do healthy managing of the timberland, they can't just go in and clear cut," Berlant said. "This is keeping the timber healthy in a long-term view."
Berlant said the approved plan does not rule out cutting redwoods, if normal forestry practices are followed.
He noted that the majority of the old-growth redwoods already are protected by a conservation easement.
Singer said the logging would be 10 percent redwood and 90 percent Douglas fire.
He said that a stand of redwoods, some 1,000 years old, is in danger should fire break out because of the growth of tan oak and Douglas fir crowded around it.
"Those are the ones that endanger the old growth trees, the fire could just sweep right through the place," Singer said.
The all-male Bohemian Club is famous for its annual summer encampments at the grove, where 110 campsites dot the steep hillsides, attracting the rich, famous and powerful from around the world.