Note: A few Sundays ago, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre went on a hike with five or so people associated with the Protect the Arcata Community Forest group.
“I thought it was a very positive experience,” Andre said afterward. "Very well thought-out questions and a highly interested, friendly and respectful group of folks who took the time to delve into the community forest management.”
Below are questions for the City submitted by members of the group and compiled by organizer Tricia Riel. Some were discussed on the walk and may be addressed again during the Forest Management Committee’s post-harvest inspection, which will be announced and open to the public as it is every year that a harvest takes place.
1. Although “selective harvesting” is considered a sustainable model for modern forestry and although the recent timber harvest in the ACF is considered a “light touch” by some forestry professionals, many of us are concerned about the “twins” that were recently taken from trees that were growing together.
Are we “stunting” the forest by not allowing these trees to grow together? Does cutting one of the “twins” affect the health of the one that is left behind?
Does cutting one of the “twins” make it more difficult for the remaining tree to withstand powerful winter storms?
2. What rotation intervals does the City harvest on? How many years does the City go before it re-enters an area for harvest?
3. The City says that no “old growth” trees were cut during the recent timber harvest. Some of us are concerned because we saw that some fairly big trees were cut. We have photos with measuring tape showing newly cut stumps that were about four feet wide.
The California State Board of Equalization re-defined “old growth” in a memo about new harvest values on Aug 26, 1999. That definition states that “Old Growth was redefined as wood of high quality lumber with fewer knots in the lower logs. Mature trees in the redwood-Douglas-fir area that are 100 years shall be the criterion. Branches may be down turned and tops may be rounded or flat, generally growing increasingly slower as indicated by annual rings. Grain usually shows six annual rings or more per inch.”
Someone actually counted the rings on some of these large tree stumps that were recently cut in the ACF… after also taking photos. This person believes that some of these larger trees would have qualified as “old growth” according to the state Board Of Equalization’s definition. Does the City have a different definition of “old growth?”
4. Does the City think of all of the trees in the Community Forest as “mature second growth?” If so, is it possible that all of the trees are then up for grabs?
5. We understand that keeping “mother trees” in the forest is important for a number of reasons. Can you comment on this?
6. Why did the City log a whole hillside between Trail 8 and Trail 11?
Is the City concerned with a possible mudslide in this area?
Being that a sort of creek forms in the gullies along Trail 8 in the Winter, is there some concern about erosion or run-off from this hillside clogging up the free flow of this water?
Is part of the plan to correct the clear cut logging of the past, to re-create an old growth-like forest? If so, why were such big redwoods (over 4 t. diameter cut along trail 11?
7. What are the residual tree retention standards that ACF is striving for? What is being left behind?
8. Although the logging operation does not look nearly as bad as it did during the last three months, many of us feel that it has had too big of an impact on our Community Forest (on the old-growth-like trees, the creatures that live in the forest, and on flora and fauna. Would you (or any other Forestry Professionals here consider commenting on this? Do logging operations in the ACF typically go this long?
9. We are concerned with logging’s effect on bird habitat in the forest. The machinery has also appeared to have a disturbing effect upon the birds typically seen in the forest. We have noticed less birds singing and much more silence in the forest since the logging operation began in August. Can you comment on this?
10. Very rare Trillium typically grow in areas that were logged. Was there any concern for these very rare flowers before logging operations began? Is it possible to save the Trillium prior to any future logging operations?
11. We understand the City uses revenue from ACF timber harvests to upkeep the forest and purchase other forestlands. We understand the need for funding, but many of us would like to see the ACF left alone to thrive and grow into an impressive old growth forest. We don’t want it to be a showcase for logging. We know that “The Arcata Forest Fund” and “Humboldt Area Foundation” have helped financially, but has the City considered other funding sources that could support ACF?
12. A number of us feel that the City typically does a really great job managing the ACF, but after seeing the most recent timber harvest, we have a lot of questions. We understand that the City has the ACF on a 30-year timber-harvest plan. When is the next timber harvest planned for? And what areas of the forest does the City plan to log next? Is there a way for the public to have input about future logging before it happens again?
13. What is a Working Forest Management Plan (WFMP)? If the City transitions to this working plan, what does that mean?
14. What logging company got the contract to do the most recent timber harvest in the ACF? (Basically, Who stands to gain?
15. We have heard that revenue from the ACF timber harvests can be around $500,000 a year. We understand that it does not cost that much money to maintain the ACF. And although it’s a great idea to purchase other forest lands for preservation, we wonder if it’s worth the cost to ACF?
16. There has recently been a painted sign posted at the 5 Trailhead entrance with a slash on horse riders. This sign contradicts the “Yield to Horses” sign placed at the very entrance. There are lots of horseback riders that regularly use the ACF. It’s wonderful to see horses while out on the trail. Does the city need to be reminded that the Forest is Public Land, and some horse riders are disabled and can’t walk, hike, run, or mountain bike? We want that sign to be removed. Horses and their riders SHOULD be allowed in our Community Forest. Can the City remove the “no horses” sign?
17. From what we understand, The City of Arcata has purchased some Forest Land as “research forest?” Is logging prohibited in “research forests?” If so, is it possible for the public to visit one of these forests to see how a forest would look if it were left more untouched?
18. We know that there are “Volunteer Work Days” that are scheduled for the ACF, so that the community can get more involved in helping out in the forest. We hear that the next “Volunteer Work Day” will be on Nov. 16 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
What kinds of things will likely happen on this day? Is Restoration part of the plan for these Work Days? Does the City re-plant new Redwood Trees in the areas where trees have been cut down? How do people typically get involved?
19. We have heard that the City’s “Forest Committee” is planning a public assessment day on Nov. 17 or Nov. 21. What kinds of things happen during a public assessment of this nature? Is it similar to the kinds of questions we are addressing today?
20. Have you heard of “The Leshy?”
We appreciate Mark Andre for taking time out of his Sunday to come and talk with us. We understand that some of these questions may seem emotionally charged or controversial, but many of us dearly love our forest and really want it to be protected. Being the caretakers of such a grand treasure is important. If we did not speak up for our forest ancestors, who would? Big thanks to everybody who showed up today, to all of the City Workers who care, and to all of those who contributed to these questions. “May The Forest Be With You!”
Tricia Riel is an organizer for Protect the Arcata Community Forest and the author of the new book, Zephrum Gates & The Strange Magical Treasure.