Board of Supervisors Approves Scientific Review of Jackson Forest Unanimously

Jackson Forest activists were surprised and jubilant yesterday when the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a Resolution calling for a Scientific Review of Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) to determine the Forest Management Plan’s conformance to Governor Newsom’s 30X30 conservation policies requiring thirty percent of California lands to be set aside to address Climate change.

Fifth District Supervisor Ted Williams cited “brewing conflict between citizens and civil servants” because “the State has put out ambiguous statements…we need clarity”. Nonviolent protests erupted last April, with early morning gate blockades to prevent logging and tree-sits to protect the centenarian “Mama” and “Papa” redwood trees marked for cut in the Caspar 500 timber harvest plan (THP). Protests have continued nonstop, bringing about a de facto People’s Moratorium. Acknowledging that Jackson is un-ceded territory of the Indigenous Pomo people, Williams cited climate change and the need to ensure alignment with 30×30 policies.

Co-sponsored by 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, the Resolution specifically did not call for a moratorium on logging. However, every speaker in favor also called for a halt to logging, beginning with Coyote Valley Tribal Preservation Historian, Pricilla Hunter. Hunter stated the Tribe was in favor of the Resolution and grateful that the protection of Indigenous rights was included, but expressed concerns about fire danger and water, emphasizing that a main issue was the ongoing destruction of sacred sites and saying she feared the trees would be cut down and the Tribes’ spiritual and cultural sites would continue to be destroyed if logging activities were not stopped. “In the past, there were recommendations to protect the sites but Calfire didn’t follow those recommendations. If they keep continuing to cut trees down and build roads on those sites, then they’re continuing to destroy those sites”. Speaking to safety concerns she asked, “You don’t want anyone to get hurt over money, do you?”, concluding that “we do need to update the Jackson Management Plan. We do request a Moratorium to help Mother Earth out”.

Marie Jones, Chair of the Mendocino County Climate Advisory Committee (MCAAC) that helped develop the Resolution said the Resolution was needed based on their widely circulated and supported report on JDSF titled “Time to Change the Mission”.  

JDSF interim manager, Kevin Conway, other Calfire representatives and Willits Redwood Company owner Bruce Burton and son, opposed the Resolution on the premise it was unnecessary because, they asserted, the JDSF Management Plan was already in compliance with the goals of the 30X30 Plan. Conway complained he “couldn’t talk with a leaderless coalition” to which Williams replied, “You call it a leaderless coalition – we call it the public”.

 Almost all of the twenty-five members of the public who spoke were in favor. Over 800 comments were received in writing as well as an unprecedented number of voice mails. In recent years, adjacent residents and recreationists who go to Jackson, a publicly-owned forest of nearly 50,000 acres designed for recreation, wildlife preservation and industrial timber harvesting, have seen logging up close. Many speakers testified eloquently to the facts on the ground they had observed while riding or walking “hundreds of hours ” in the forest, describing current management practices including clearcutting, dead trees left standing from “hack and squirt”, enormous piles of slash and “almost every” large, old redwood marked for cut.

Highlighting the afternoon session were three students, Ravel, Sara Rose, and Walker, who left their classes to speak. Ravel, a 12-year-old 7th grader at Mendocino Montessori School said, “Climate change is real and urgent!” Citing studies that show most of the carbon in forests is stored in trees above 26” in diameter and that 46% of all carbon is stored in these trees, they illustrated the fire danger caused by 30’ tall slash piles in JDSF. Ravel called for a Moratorium and asked “Do you feel you are authorized to make a decision that would endanger the lives of my generation and generations after mine in Mendocino County? That is what you would be doing by voting no on this Resolution”.

Sixteen-year-old Caspar resident Walker, a student at Mendocino Community High and College, asked Governor Newsom to halt all logging practices including hack and squirt (the killing of hardwoods by lethal injection of Imazapyr) in Jackson saying “Tan oaks provide food for local Native tribes, foragers and wildlife. All species of trees are important for forest health. I’m counting on you to help secure my future”.

Sara Rose, a sophomore at Mendocino High School and student climate activist involved with Coalition to Save JDSF, urged a yes vote for “my future”. She described Climate change, with record temperatures, raging wildfires and water shortages as “the biggest threat to my future. If we do nothing to end the Climate crisis, it will be the end of the human race.” Stating that the recent COP has “done nothing” to address the crisis, she exhorted the Supervisors, “This is your chance to do what world leaders aren’t: make a real climate difference”.

Sara Rose continued, “Redwood is a luxury wood and the redwood industry is a luxury we cannot prioritize over our collective future. JDSF needs a MP based on modern science. This forest has amazing climate mitigation potential, and the management needs to maximize that potential. We love the redwoods. Amazing progress has been made through community outreach, government-to-government consultations and direct action.  We need your support. We are the ones who have to face the realities of climate change. I want real climate action and I want it to start here”.

Anna Marie Stenberg, a forty-year Mendocino Coast resident, community organizer and activist, explained to the Board that the people doing direct action over these last seven months were almost entirely community members who live around Jackson, ”The People’s Forest”, and promised that without a moratorium direct action would continue.

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