Timber Harvest Plan process needs major rehab

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

ARCATA – North Coast industrialists and environmentalists are in accord that old state regulations for controlling timber harvests need a 21st century upgrade.

Of California’s maze-like Timber Harvest Plan process, Green Diamond’s Gary Rynearson says the system may not be completely broken, but it certainly needs revamping.

Rynearson said a common comment he hears from timberland owners and foresters is that it is not the protection measures that worry them, but rather the cost and time associated with the review and approval process for Timber Harvest Plans.

Small timberland owners of 10 to a few hundred acres who rely on a plan for an occasional harvest are increasingly at risk of being priced out of the market, owing to costs, Rynearson explained. “This not only takes timber off the market, reducing local jobs and tax [revenues], but also may lead to conversion of the timberland to other uses.”

Like the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), Green Diamond has concluded that Sacramento will have to act if regulatory relief and stronger environmental stewardship are to be achieved.

In Rynearson’s words, “Any substantive changes to the Timber Harvest Process will require legislation.”

EPIC’s Rob DiPerna and Nattalyne DeLapp agree that statutory action must be rooted in a cooperative effort among all the stakeholders. The two maintain that a consensus already exists that could serve as a springboard.

Rynearson outlines several hypothetical solutions. One is to adopt a consolidated, property-wide permitting process—streamlining. It would establish a comprehensive review of the forest resources on a given property and establish protective measures specific to its own fish, wildlife and water resources.

Another idea is to create a cooperative, easily accessible database about wildlife. Time delays and additional costs often stem from wildlife concerns, according to Rynearson.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) maintains one such database, but the information is not always timely, he said.

It might be more up to date “if DFW personnel coordinated with landowners to help conduct surveys.”

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