Arcata forest managers weigh planning options

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – Arcata’s Forest Management Committee enjoyed unusual participation by members of the public at its monthly meeting in February. A half-dozen or more Humboldt State students in the Forestry 400 class populated the gallery in City Council Chamber, appearing promptly at 7 a.m. for the meeting.

Their punctuality was rewarded by a languid delay in getting the meeting started. As yawning students waited for the meeting to begin, committeemembers chatted among themselves, while Environmental Services Director Mark Andre came and went, delivering various meeting documents.

Finally, at 7:20 a.m., Chair Michael Furniss called the meeting to order.

Zane Brotherton, a member of the Parks and Rec Committee, had been appointed by that group the previous evening to sit in on FMC meetings, as the two committees have common interests and make decisions which impact each other.

One of the Humboldt State students told the FMC of a study he is doing in Redwood Park, tracking forest growth in two plots.

The FMC is revising the 1994-Forest Management Plan to include the many acquisitions added to the Arcata Community Forest and Jacoby Creek Forest since then. Members discussed ways to jointly comment on and revise the document electronically.

Intended for public consumption, Committeemember Russ Forsburg urged that the members write “a hair more simplistic” than they normally would, to aid comprehension.

“We’re also writing this to our successors in the future,” Furniss said, suggesting that the document make clear the context and direction the committee intends.

Ensuing discussion touched on the basic underpinnings of the plan – harvests, management techniques, future forest scenarios and metrics to ensure that the approach is sustainable. The desirability of eventually regrowing very large trees which once dominated the forest was weighed.

“You have to have a vision of where you’re going,” said Committeemember Yana Valachovic. She argued for an adaptive plan, keeping options open with “rolling retention.”

Furniss said that ethic was being maintained. “I don’t think we’re closing off options,” he said.

“We are trading growth for other social values,” said Russ Forsburg. “We’re maximizing all the other values that we can.”

“When you try to emphasize any one value, you run into trouble,” Furniss said.

Forsburg agreed that the FMC shouldn’t close off options for future forest managers.

More discussion ensued, encompassing forest harvest history, its consequences and hard lessons learned. The FMC is always trying to balance timber harvest revenues with natural values, ecosystem health, aesthetics and public expectations.

A post-harvest inspection field trip is planned for May, during which time the committee may also visit 2015 forest sites.

Annexation hearings are continuing before the Planning Commission. Some residents of Fickle Hill Road have expressed concerns about logging and effects on water springs. “At some point we’ll have to get to know those county neighbors,” Andre said.

He said the forest is primarily managed for Arcata residents, who own it, but that forest neighbors outside city limits will also be heard.

“I think it [participation] is good, no matter where they live,” Forsburg said.

The FMC meets the second Thursday of each month at 7 a.m. at Arcata City Hall.

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