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Participants in tribal rally hope to halt logging in Jackson State Demonstration Forest

Watch: Tribal rally at Thomas Plaza in Ukiah.

UKIAH — Tribal members from across Northern California joined with environmentalists Monday in support of efforts by the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians to halt logging in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest in central Mendocino County.

About 180 people, many wearing yellow “Pomo Land Back” T-shirts, watched traditional dancers from several local tribes perform ancestral songs. The celebration underscored the need to preserve the region’s Native American culture and ancient customs, some of which are tied to the sprawling forest.

Coyote Valley Band Tribal Chairman Michael Hunter has been working to bring attention to conditions in logged areas of the nearly 50,000-acre state-owned forest in the hope of protecting cultural sites and artifacts there.

The tribe is working with the California Natural Resources Agency under initiatives by Gov. Gavin Newsom to improve Native American access to ancestral lands that are owned or under control of the state. The tribe ultimately would like to enter into a comanagement agreement with the state for the forest, which covers roughly twice the square mileage of the city of San Francisco.

The goals are to ensure ancient village sites are not destroyed by logging activity; to gain or maintain access to certain areas of the forest for cultural practices, like food gathering; and to preserve the overall ecosystem.

“We want to be able to have access to our territories — that was our territory — and be able to go in and be able to have ceremonies with our ancestors,” said Hunter’s mother, Priscilla Hunter, the tribe’s historic preservation officer.

Both say negotiations have been proceeding slowly. They fear logging in the forest, suspended since Feb. 1 for Northern Spotted Owl survey season, will resume in April before an agreement can be reached.

They are particularly concerned about a 533-acre segment of forest known as the Caspar 500 timber harvest plan area. Logging in the area, on the coast near Caspar, was paused in June after activists took the woods to stop the timber cut. It is scheduled to resume in April, Cal Fire forest managers have said.

“I’m hoping for a moratorium on logging before the logging in Caspar 500, which I believe will happen in mid-April,” Michael Hunter said.

Priscilla Hunter also expressed concern about work on the 445-acre Soda Gulch plan on the eastern side of the forest, which State Forests Program Manager Kevin Conway said should be expected to continue.

“We’re encouraging (state Sen. Mike) McGuire) and (Assemblyman Jim) Woods and (Rep. Jared) Huffman to stop the cutting,” Priscilla Hunter said. “We were told that they’re going to cut starting in the Caspar and the Soda Gulch area, and that area really has a giant cultural site, sacred site we found, and it has a lot of village sites there. And we don’t want the trees to be cut around there and roads to be built in there.”

As Monday’s rally concluded, participants walked a petition to McGuire’s office, then sang songs and prayed.

Jackson forest is one of nine demonstration forests in the state and by far the largest. It was created in 1949 to demonstrate forest restoration and sustainable logging after a century of clear-cutting across the region left much of the North Coast decimated.

Though the timber is sold to commercial logging interests, it is harvested under a management plan aimed at advancing some areas of older-growth forest, limiting removal of the largest trees.

But some very large second-growth redwoods are still regularly cut, raising objections that the trees best able to sequester carbon being lost in the midst of the climate crisis.

Monday’s rally was supported Monday by tribal members from Point Arena, Manchester, Round Valley, Hopland, Robinson Rancheria, Sherwood Valley and even Redding.

Jack Potter Jr., chairman of the Redding Rancheria of Wintu Indians said he came “to stand in solidarity.”

The effort was also widely supported by environmentalists who have been spent most of the past year working to raise awareness of increased logging in the forest near popular recreational areas.

“I’m very concerned about logging in a way that is very inappropriate for long-term fire survival,” said Marc Jensen, who came from Fort Bragg to attend.

Redwood trees 16 inches in diameter and larger should be preserved to capture and store carbon and not be logged, he said.

“They’re managing the forest like it’s a tree plantation, when what we really need is carbon banking with all these redwoods, considering the life span of these trees is upward of 1,000 years.”

Willits City Councilwoman Madge Strong said she came down, not as a city representative, but because of her own desire to see the logging stopped and “the native people in charge of the forest, and not for logging.”

Coyote Valley Letter to Governor_JDSF_1-31-2022 (2) (004).pdf

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

Watch: Tribal rally at Thomas Plaza in Ukiah.

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