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Protesters rally as Cal Fire announces plans to resume logging in Mendocino County

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Manola Secaira
/
CapRadio
Protesters gather outside California’s natural resources agency building to protest the logging of redwoods in Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

After an eight-month pause, the state’s fire agency Cal Fire announced it will soon resume timber harvesting plans in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest.

Jackson is the largest of California’s state-owned forests, located in Mendocino County, and known for its redwood trees. Controversy sparked in the area over two years ago when protesters rallied and even camped out in the forest to prevent Cal Fire from logging its redwoods.

The forest has a long history with logging, but some local activists and Indigenous leaders say that logging these trees ignores the interests of tribes in the area, among other concerns.

“Our movement is not just about the trees or just about the climate or just about Native land,” said Sarah Rose, the 16-year-old co-founder of Mendocino Youth for Climate. “It's the combination of all of them.”

In the past few months, Cal Fire has met with community members, activists and tribal leaders to discuss a vision for the future of the forest. This resulted in changes to the forest’s 10-year management plan, which was set to expire in 2026. Among the changes was halting the removal of trees over 48 inches in diameter and a focus on climate science and restoration ecology.

In a press release about the changes, Cal Fire also announced “a new forest co-management concept with sovereign tribal nations,” which includes the creation of a Tribal Advisory Council. Cal Fire also plans to dedicate a portion of revenues generated from the forest for tribal priorities.

However, Cal Fire says that it must fulfill the timber harvesting plans to which the agency had already committed.

“Once these [timber harvesting plans] are complete soon, we then have the opportunity to look forward together and revisit future [timber harvesting plans] and the broader [Jackson Demonstration State Forest] management plan as a whole,” Cal Fire said in a statement.

In the statement, Cal Fire also said that there was a need to continue with its already established plans soon.

“Given the contractual legal commitments at stake, the time utilized for holding productive conversations, and the resulting vision document that highlights an assortment of shared values to guide future operations, outcomes aligned and resulted in resuming the one THP currently underway,” the statement said.

Days after the announcement that logging would continue, activists gathered in front of California’s natural resources agency building in Sacramento to protest the decision.

“We felt like we were making progress up until this announcement that they were going to start logging,” said Matt Simmons, a staff attorney for the Environmental Protection Information Center.

Some of the protesters were also dissatisfied with the changes Cal Fire recently made. Thirteen-year-old Ravel Gauthier, the other co-founder of Mendocino Youth for Climate, said that the plans for a Tribal Advisory Council aren’t enough.

“The Pomo should have the final say in things, not just have this powerless advisory body,” Gauthier said. “We don't want Cal Fire to just be able to resume logging, resume business as usual.”

Also in the crowd was Polly Girvin, who has helped represent the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians during consultations between the tribe and forest managers. She says that she wasn’t surprised by Cal Fire’s decision to move forward, but that it spurred the tribe to take further action.

Jackson Demonstration State Forest is a research forest by statute. Girvin says that tribal leadership wants to change that and plans to pursue legislative action that would prevent logging in the forest altogether.

“We need to change the mandate of the [forest],” Girvin says.

Plans for logging in the forest will occur in phases. Cal Fire’s release announcing its plans did not specify the date on which this work would begin.

Manola Secaira is CapRadio’s environment and climate change reporter. Before that, she worked for Crosscut in Seattle as an Indigenous Affairs reporter.
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