Gov. Jerry Brown eases timber-cutting rules to prevent fires on North Coast

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Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation that includes Sonoma and three other North Coast counties in a pilot project allowing trees up to 24 inches in diameter to be felled without a formal timber harvest plan for fire prevention purposes.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, the bill extends to Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte counties an exemption from certain forest protection laws previously authorized for 24 Sierra Nevada and other inland counties in the aftermath of last year’s devastating Rim fire in Yosemite National Park.

The Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Project Exemption is designed to permit property owners to more readily harvest smaller trees if the aim is to reduce forest fuel loads and avert the kind of calamitous blaze that scarred 250,000 acres in the Yosemite area last year.

“Because coastal forests are also vulnerable to catastrophic wild fires, it made sense to extend the pilot project to parts of the coast,” Chesbro, chairman of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee, said in a statement. “When it expires, we can conduct a more thorough analysis on how to move forward with forest fuel treatment policy. The legislation does not allow clear-cutting and imposes specific requirements to ensure over-cutting does not occur.”

The exemption is to be operable for a three-year period expected to start later this year, when the state Board of Forestry implements the final regulation, legislative staffers said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@press democrat.com.

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