Last Wednesday, to a packed Bayside Grange, Green Diamond Resource Company held a town hall meeting. It was a chance for the company to discuss their forestry practices and vision, and for the public to ask questions and voice concerns.
The meeting was attended by Neal Ewald, Vice President and General Manager of Green Diamond’s California operations, along with Manager of Forest Policy and Communications Gary Rynearson and several of the company’s staff and scientists. Among the plans they outlined were the intention to create a 27-acre conservation easement along the trail to Strawberry Rock, as well as the rock itself, and a planned 1,200-acre community forest on the McKay Tract near Cutten. Logging is scheduled to continue on both sites outside of the conservation areas.
The meeting was part of the company’s bid to gain Forest Stewardship Council certification, which they obtained earlier this month. The FSC certification, which could potentially open up new markets to Green Diamond products, certifies that timber is harvested in a way that provides “environmental, social, and economic benefits” to the land and people. The FSC recently changed its certification standards to allow for even-aged management, or clear-cutting, in the Pacific Coast region, a decision Andrew Orahoske of the Environmental Protection Information Center called “deeply disappointing”.
During the first half of the two-hour meeting, Green Diamond staff discussed their practices, plans, and philosophy. They outlined what the company was doing to be a responsible member of the community, including cutting back on pesticide use, conserving biological habitat, and developing techniques to reduce soil erosion.
According to staff the company plants 700,000 trees per year, and employs 45 scientists to monitor environmental conditions. Rynearson also said positive carbon sequestration is occurring on their properties. “We expect our volume of trees will double over the next 50 years,” he said. “We don’t know of any other forest that can make such a claim.”
After a break, the microphone was turned over to public. For the next hour, people took turns commending, questioning, and lambasting Green Diamond and its employees. Given the chance to take a verbal swing at the controversial company, many people were more than happy to do so. While some lauded the conservation areas at Strawberry Rock and the McKay Tract, others felt it did not go far enough, calling it “a joke”, and “a tiny step in the right direction.” Several speakers asked for the entire McKay Tract and Strawberry Rock Timber Harvest Plans to be turned into conservation areas, a suggestion Rynearson says the company is not considering at this time.
Several people also asked that the company stop its use of pesticides entirely, and questioned the adequacy of their water testing program. Others called for them to end the practice of clear-cutting, including an impassioned plea from EPIC’s executive director Gary Hughes that was met with raucous applause. A Yurok tribal member who spoke called the practice “horrendous,” and said “anyone can see clear-cutting is a crime against all of us.”
But overall, for what was a fairly hostile crowd, everyone was well-behaved, and a good groundwork was set for future meetings. “We were very impressed with the respectful nature of the participants,” said Rynearson.