Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – Arcata’s citizen-led Forest Management Committee (FMC) met in two places July 2 – City Council Chamber and deep in the Jacoby Creek Forest (JCF). The meeting’s mission was to inspect sites which will be harvested beginning later this month.
The harvest of about 350,000 board feet of timber will take place at four locations in the JCF, all hosting second-growth trees. Harvested long before the area was acquired by the City of Arcata, the sites suffer from even-age growth and dense canopy, which inhibits regrowth.
The harvest will be conducted under the auspices of the city’s Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP), developed using the guidelines of the Forest Management Plan.
The city expects to garner about $300,000 from the harvest. That will fund this year’s forest operations, including routine expenses, trail maintenance and further improvements on the Arcata Ridge Trail.
Work will begin in mid- to late July, and is expected to take about three weeks. The logging will be performed by Ford Logging, doing business as Pacific Earthscapes. Environmental Services Director Mark Andre said the company understands Arcata’s stringent standards for forest work, and did a good job during the last two harvests in the Arcata Community Forest.
“They have a good track record with us on quality,” Andre said. “They know what we expect in terms of post-harvest conditions.”
Best practices include avoiding damage to adjacent trees and soil compaction, plus strict adherence to equipment exclusion zones such as botanical and riparian areas.
Under an agreement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the city ensures no net loss of foraging and nesting areas. That rules out industrial activity within 500 to 1,000 feet from such “activity centers.”
The harvest is composed of 60 percent redwood, plus 125,00 board feet of Douglas fir, 10,000 board feet of Grand fir and 30,000 board feet of Hemlock. The Doug fir will be processed by Sierra-Pacific Industries’ Arcata mill in Manila. The rest is headed for Humboldt Forest products’ Scotia mill except for a small load of Western red cedar, sold to and processed by Almquist Lumber in Arcata.
Incidental takings of Tan oak and Bay laurel will be turned into firewood, then sold to raise more funds for the Ridge Trail. One costly item on the way is a $14,000 bridge to be situated on the lower Ridge Trail near the West End Road trailhead.
The sustainable harvests occur nearly every year, but never remove more than a fraction of the annual growth. This year’s harvest will eventually result in more tree volume – and sequestered carbon – than if the trees were left standing. That’s because sunlight will be able to enter the presently darkened canopy and stimulate growth of fewer, but much bigger diameter trees.
“These are stands that will benefit from thinning, for structural diversity and stimulating old growth,” Andre said.
Some of the thinning is already underway, conducted by forest residents – bears who strip bark from redwoods to get to the trees’ sugary cambium layer, which transports nutrients. Numerous trees in the JCF are heavily ravaged, some with strips of bark dangling from them like shredded entrails. A fully girdled tree, with bark removed all around its base, will likely die because the tree’s circulatory system is effectively severed.
Andre said that the bear vandalism is an added complication to forest management, but also a natural process that introduces needed chaos into the forest mix.
Chaotic conditions are highly desirable characteristics of a natural ecosystem, and by definition, maddeningly difficult for humans to systematically implement.
“We’re all about chaos,” Andre quipped.
The JCF contains Northern spotted owl habitat, is surrounded by privately held parcels and is technically off-limits to the public, though mountain bicyclists routinely trespass on the site. Most utilize the Jacoby Canyon Trail, which intrudes on spotted owl habitat.
City forests are certified as being sustainably managed by the Rainforest Alliance, a program of the Forest Stewardship Council.
The city has recently pushed to improve the environmental potential of its forest holdings by selling carbon credits. The credits pay for improvements and expansion of the managed forest, an ever-increasing carbon bank.
“We’re trying to do more with the big equation of Arcata greenhouse gas management,” Andre said. “There are opportunities to tap the forest for offsetting impacts from private development.”
Toward that end, the city internaly purchases carbon credits to compensate for developments that generate CO2 through use of heavy equipment.
The City of Arcata purchased the 575-acre Jacoby Creek Forest in 1944 for $18,000, or up to $245,000 in today’s dollars, according to online inflation calculators. The JCF has since been expanded to 1,300 acres, and is worth multiple times its initial investment.