Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA COMMUNITY FOREST – Logging equipment owned by contractor Diamond R Ranch was severely vandalized in the Arcata Community Forest (ACF) over the weekend. The damaged equipment included a new log loader and other machines which were left at the junction of Trail 4 and Road 9. Arcata Police have begun an investigation.
“Hydraulic fluid stored on site was poured into the engines of two machines,” said Police Chief Brian Ahearn. “The other machines on site appear untouched. Fire extinguishers and oil from both machines was also sprayed/poured into the cab of both machines.”
Some graffiti was also smeared on a tractor, and could help identify culprits.
Ahearn said APD has “good suspect information.” A photo of the suspect has been obtained, and may be released in the course of the investigation.
Environmental Services Director Mark Andre said a nearby game camera captured “crystal clear” footage of the vandalism, which took place Friday night.
The estimated $89,000 logging contract was awarded at the July 15 City Council meeting. Diamond R Ranch provides “high quality selective timber harvest,” Andre said. The Ferndale small business has worked in the ACF before, and is experienced with conducting operations with concurrent recreational use in the vicinity.
Andre said the vandalism won’t halt, but may prolong this year’s harvest and increase the cost of future harvests. If security must be hired, that will drive up expenses. “That translates, ironically, into cutting more timber to make up for that,” Andre said. “It’s kind of a bummer for their whole crew,” he said.
He said similar equipment used for restoration work, such as improving fish habitat and restoring flood plains, has been vandalized in the past. “You can’t assume that heavy equipment equals something bad,” Andre said.
City officials have struggled to inform the public about Arcata’s forest management policies and procedures, which were set in motion by successful passage of the 1979 "Forest Management and Parkland Initiative.”
Established in 1955, the 2,350-acre ACF is managed for environmental values, science, recreation and education, and is considered a world-leading model for sustainable forestry. It is also an economic asset in terms of enhancing local quality of life for residents, visitors and those interested in relocating locally.
Sustainable harvests are conducted under the city's Forest Management Plan and Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan.
Just a fraction of the forest’s annual growth is harvested, with revenue used to fund forest operations and acquisitions as it continues to grow and expand.
This year’s annual growth is estimated at 1,800,000 board feet, while the harvest is 285,000 board feet – the equivalent of 15 percent of what grows.
Harvests are planned in coordination with the citizen-led Forest Management Committee (FMC), and are generally used to help resolve legacy damage from more aggressive harvests in the past. Techniques include reducing single-age tree stands where clearcuts have occurred, improving habitat by opening dense forest canopy to stimulate diverse growth in the understory. Numerous sensitive areas are permanently off limits to logging.
Andre said the majority of recreational users support the city’s community-based forestry. He said the ACF is “full of people” enjoying its trees, trails and wildlife at the moment. Many are “smoke refugees” from Sonoma, Marin and other parts of the Bay Area presently affected by wildfires.
Questions may be directed to Environmental Services at (707) 822-8184.
Update late Monday morning: Andre says logging operations have resumed.