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One step closer to tribal co-management at JDSF

December 6, 2021 — A local tribe learned last week that CalFire has decided to review its management plan of Jackson Demonstration State Forest, with an eye toward tribal co-management with the Sherwood Valley and  Coyote Valley Bands of Pomo Indians.

Polly Girvin, a longtime advocate for Coyote Valley, says the tribe is ready to get specific.

“We have a plan in hand, at our fingertips,” she said. “A habitat management plan, crafted with the Save the Redwoods (League). We are going to be presenting amendments to the Forest Practice Act, amendments to the regulations of the Forest Practice act, and the habitat management plan.”

The review is part of a lengthy process, which hasn’t started yet. But last year, Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order encouraging State agencies to move toward co-management of tribal ancestral lands that are under the ownership or control of the State. It’s part of an acknowledgement of the violent dispossession of Indigenous people, and it emphasizes access to sacred sites and cultural resources.

There are ongoing government-to-government consultations with the Tribe, but Priscilla Hunter, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for Coyote Valley, says they haven’t been transparent.

“Especially regarding our sacred sites,” she said. “They only tell us so much, and then we come back a second time to review the site...the sites that we have visited have been driven through with trucks, tractors, and they want to use those same roads to continue to destroy our site.” The Tribe has asked for a moratorium on logging in JDSF while the management plan is being amended.

The Governor issued his executive order about tribal co-management in September of last year. At this year’s September meeting of the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as CalFire, outgoing director Thomas Porter recommended a review of the JDSF plan, years ahead of when it was originally going  to take place.

And Porter said there’s money to carry out co-management and scientific management practices. “Co-management in the context that I am talking about means access to and ongoing dialogue of culturally important plants and animals, and how those can be managed in conjunction with each other’s desires and needs on the landscape,” he told the Board during his Director’s Report. “I think that under the current administration and the direction the State is going, related to tribal engagement, I think that it warrants a review before its regular time for renewal….in the Governor’s budget, we the Department are going to see a $10 million placement of funds that is directed at Demonstration State Forest management, in science as well as increasing the staffing to get back to a place that we haven’t seen since the 1900’s.”

Girvin says the tribes could use some staff, too, especially independent archeologists, “because each tribe on its own, they do not have archeologists, cultural resource protection staff,” she said. “What has happened to date is, Tribes have been inundated with THP’s (Timber Harvest Plans), saying there are sites on them, with no ability to have staff to respond. So we’re really going to be demanding some, I would say, reparations. If they’re not going to give the land back, then at least give us some mechanism to help defend the cultural resources there.”

Plans for the review of the plan are  in the earliest stages, in a newly-created sub-committee to an advisory group that meets twice a year.

Two months after the Board of Forestry accepted Director Porter’s recommendation, the Jackson Advisory Group created a sub-committee consisting of JAG members Charlie Schneider and Amy Wynn to start the fact-finding process. State Forests Program Manager Kevin Conway said the sub-committee will bring its information back to the full advisory group at its next meeting in April or May, and, from there, the JAG will develop recommendations to take to the Board of Forestry. 

Girvin and Hunter said they learned about all this from a third party, in spite of the ongoing government-to-government consultations. Girvin wants those consultations to move beyond the JAG. “We have to go to the very top,” she declared. “To effectively look at changing legislation is on our agenda…we will not be the sub-committee of the Jackson Advisory Group...we’ll soon have to establish a protocol for our government-to-government consultation expanding to include co-management.”

Reached by phone on Friday, Keith Gilless, the Board of Forestry chair, said he has not yet received the materials for the review, but that it has been in the Board’s work plan and that he himself has had a long interest in tribal co-management of public lands. He hadn’t yet seen the November 15th resolution by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors to ask the Governor for a review of the plan for JDSF, but he expects the Governor’s office will send it along. 

In September, he told Porter he thought the request for a review of the scientific management was entirely in order.

“We have a lot of places where we can do various things,” he mused; “but we don’t have any other place, from my point of view, as a forest scientist, that is really on a par with Jackson to inform our management on the North Coast. So it is a critical issue, and I’m quite responsive to your request.”

But Girvin says tribal co-management and this view of scientific management are not exactly the same thing, which is why she’s advocating for an independent archeologist. “Our protection mechanisms in the Forest Practice Act are whether the State historic preservation office’s archeologists think a site is worthy of extracting information from,” she said. “Not protection. Scientific extraction. So we were not at the table in ‘73 when this bill was enacted, the Forest Practice Act. We're here today, we have a team, and we will probably have to augment our team with an independent archeologist. Not Cal Fire and the timber industry archeologist determining what is sacred. No. That has to stop.”

At a recent sacred ceremony in JDSF, Hunter recalled, “We brought some singers in. When we got in, where we were going to start, it started raining. And it just poured. I was like, there it is, guys. Our prayer has been answered. And the prayer is going to carry it further, each time.”

 
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