Close to Home: Put cultural resources ahead of logging
Matt Dias of the California Forestry Association, cheerily nicknamed “Calforests,” paints a rosy picture of Cal Fire’s management of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (“A success story in forest management,” Close to Home, Sunday). If I was the head of the state’s largest timber lobbying organization, I would be pretty happy too. California operates the Jackson Demonstration State Forest as industrial timberlands, centering land management decisions around timber profits. The rest of us have to live with Cal Fire’s logging of our public lands. Let’s look at the facts.
Jackson forest is the ancestral home of the Pomo and Coast Yuki people. Tribal people have lived and tended to these lands since time immemorial. The forest was also a refuge, a literal hiding spot, from white settlers bent on extermination of local tribes. The forest is replete with tribal artifacts and resources. Logging has damaged these sacred sites before and will continue to do so if the state doesn’t make changes.
Don’t take my word for it — that’s the conclusion of the 1999 Betts Report, which found that logging operations routinely damage cultural artifacts. This state-sponsored archaeological report recommended that no timber operations or road building activities be conducted in the areas of sacred sites until their boundary could be adequately surveyed and a road maintenance plan be developed for their protection.
Yet destruction continues to this day. Cal Fire continues to recklessly threaten tribal culture through construction of roads in areas known to contain sacred sites. New roads don’t just threaten sacred sites, they also cause sedimentation of salmon-bearing streams. Cal Fire also continues to use herbicides in hardwood stands that tribal people cultivated to support greater densities of conifers for the timber industry. (There is no money in tanoaks.) Killed-off hardwoods together with the slash left over after logging operations are turning Jackson into a pile of kindling, endangering neighboring communities. These are just a few examples of the unpleasant realities of managing our state lands as an industrial timberland.
There is an alternative: the Save Jackson Coalition has called for a public rethinking of the management objectives for the forest. Instead of managing primarily for timber production, the state could manage these lands together with local tribal governments to protect cultural resources and artifacts, safely sequester and store carbon, provide habitat for fish and wildlife, defend homes from wildfire and support recreation economies for local communities.
Tom Wheeler is executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Arcata.
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