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Supervisors hear update on JDSF scientific review

A crowd of people in front of some trees.
A crowd of supporters in JDSF in February, on a tour led by Michael Hunter (rear, holding drum), Chairman of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians.

The public was largely skeptical about new developments in the review plan. The Jackson Advisory Group has some new members.

April 20, 2022 — Attendance was low at the first hybrid in-person zoom Board of Supervisors meeting in two years yesterday.

After public comment, which ranged from unresolved issues in the cannabis department to dissatisfaction with the covid response, the Board received an update from state officials on the scientific review of Jackson Demonstration State Forest, which the Board requested last year.

At the close of the presentation, the board voted unanimously to request representation on the Jackson Advisory Group, or JAG, though it hasn’t been determined if that means an appointed representative or a supervisorial liaison. The JAG advises CalFire and the Board of Forestry on the management of JDSF. Last month, two new members joined the group. Reno Franklin is the chairman of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians in Sonoma County, and has served on the National Indian Health Board and is a member of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

Joanna Nelson, the director of science and conservation for the Save the Redwoods League, joined the JAG with the intent of advising “on the development of improved, science-based restoration management practices,” according to an announcement by the conservation group.

There was no written material accompanying the presentation by Deputy Director of California Natural Resources Jessica Morse and Demonstration Forest Manager Kevin Conway, of CalFire.

Morse spoke about who will be involved in the scientific review. Dr. Elizabeth Forsberg, who is a PhD scientist with the Nature Conservancy, was appointed to the Board of Forestry in September. She will be running the management sub-committee of the Board of Forestry. “As to this board’s request specifically around reviewing the science, the forest and wildfire resilience task force at the state has a science advisory panel made up by PhD forest scientists from the UC’s and other institutions, and we’ve asked them to do a scientific review of the Jackson,” Morse said. “That study is underway right now, and they’ll be reporting back to us in the coming months.”

Marie Jones, a member of the Mendocino County Climate Action Advisory Committee and a county planning commissioner, wanted more detail. “I would love to actually see what the proposal is for the scientific study of JDSF,” she said. “It sounds a little haphazard, and like the advisory group will actually be doing some of the work. Is it possible to provide us with an outline of the proposed study so that we can look at it and be sure that our issues will actually be looked at?”

Morse reminded supervisors that the board of forestry voted last year to review the JDSF management plan with an eye toward tribal co-management. But David Martinez, a longtime activist with Winnemem Wintu heritage, said he hasn’t seen evidence of it yet. “I’ve been out into the forest many times, especially in the Caspar 500 and Soda Gulch,” he said. “What I see is the road building and the destruction of sacred sites, cultural properties, and I see the proposed destruction of cultural gathering zones. And it’s all been approved and okayed. It is not okay to destroy the historical properties of the Pomo people. And the Yuki peoples. Everything in their management plan says they can do these things because it is necessary for forest product production. This has to change,” he insisted.

That might be possible, with a different funding stream. Morse said this year there is a $10 million budget for the demonstration forests, “so that there’s not any pressure to be able to harvest trees. We’ve asked for additional funding in this year’s current budget before the legislature so that these demonstration forests can just have a steady income, so that their costs are covered and that they can be these world-class forests that we need them to be.” She added that, “There are some studies happening on carbon sequestration and climate resilience that these new investments are going to be focused on.”

Conway said Calfire plans to use some of the money for a fuels reduction project on road 408-409 near the Caspar scales; improve trail signage; and conduct fire resiliency work, like completing a long-planned fuel break along Three Chop Ridge, and re-introducing prescribed fire to the forest. “We’re also going to be engaging with some scientists to try to answer some of the questions that the community has about our forest management and climate change,” he said. He also reported on CalFire’s efforts to engage the community, including the activists who have brought the logging to a standstill. “We have not entered into any timber sales in 2022, in order to give us an opportunity to give a public tour of the sales prior to going out,” he said. “We have also been slowing down our submittal of new plans…we had three members of your climate action advisory committee come out and look at the forest. We’ve done five community tours.”

But Jones remained dubious about what she called the mission of the forest. She said that, “The climate action committee was taken on tour of the site by the Mendocino Redwood Company,” a prominent lumber company in Mendocino and Humboldt counties. “The fact that CalFire notes this as a project that they did illustrates to me the lack of separation of the forest industry and CalFire’s management of JDSF. A lot of the talk this morning was about, seems like CalFire thinks there’s a problem in communication. And I don’t really think that’s the problem. I think the problem is much more fundamental than that. And it’s the mission and the role of this publicly owned property that composes 50,000 acres in our county, and the value that it can provide in terms of addressing climate change, providing jobs in the tourism and recreation industry. And those things are negatively impacted by the relentless focus on cutting down trees.”

Local News
Sarah Reith is the lead reporter for KZYX News. She joined the KZYX News team in 2017, and covers local politics, water, law enforcement and the arts in Mendocino County.