Timber Company’s Quiet Lawsuits Against CalFire Raise Questions About Mendocino Redwood Company CEO Doubling as Jackson Advisory Group Member

The Coalition to Save Jackson Forest has learned that Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) has filed suit against CalFire, (listed as the Dept. of Forestry and Fire, CCFFP), alleging breach of contract on the controversial Soda Gulch timber harvest plan (THP) in Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF) that the Company contracted to cut in 2021, but was ultimately unable to operate, after intense public protests halted logging.

Mendocino Redwood Company is the largest landowner in Mendocino County. One of their top executives, John Andersen, is also a member of the Jackson Advisory Group (JAG), who advises the Board of Forestry and CalFire on THPs. As a Registered Professional Forester experienced in commercial forestry and Forest Policy Director for both Mendocino Redwood Company and Humboldt Redwood Company, Andersen wields considerable clout in the JAG’s advisory role to the Board of Forestry.

The lawsuit, Mendocino Forest Products vs Ca. Dept. of Forestry and Fire (CDFFP), was filed on October 18, 2022 as Case Number 22CV0030 [link], but went unnoticed until mentioned in an Oct. 7, 2023 article by local reporter Frank Hartzell, raising questions as to whether this arrangement is legally or ethically permissible.

“This is a ridiculous set of conflicts of interest. No timber company should be allowed to have a representative serving in an advisory capacity to Jackson Forest while, at the same time, that company is both profiting from and suing the forest. How could anyone in that situation objectively advise on Jackson’s management? ” said Linda Perkins, a local environmental advocate and former JAG member.

Judge Jeane Nadel issued a tentative ruling on 9-29-23 denying CDFFP’s motion alleging that Mendocino Forest Products had not followed the correct procedure for dispute resolution outlined in the sales contract, which was to contact CDFFP’s Acquisitions Manager. But in her ruling, Nadel pointed out that there is an alternative route for dispute resolution, as found in the Contract’s Scope of Work, stating that Plaintiff only needed to contact the State (‘notification to the State’) and that this
alternative indeed appeared to have been followed when both parties and/or counsels were in discussion with one another after the suspension of operations on the Soda Gulch THP.

After reviewing the ruling, all parties agreed to a case management conference scheduled for Friday, October 13th.

On that same Friday the 13th, the JAG ad hoc committee on the Scope of Work for a new Management Plan for JDSF held a “listening session” for public input. John Andersen, scheduled to be one of the JAG “listeners”, did not attend. About thirty people were at the evening meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Ft. Bragg. All who spoke asked for a number of changes to the Scope of Work, to address both environmental concerns and indigenous co-management inclusion.

Willits Redwoods Company, the only sawmill in the region capable of milling large diameter, “old growth” redwood logs, is also suing CalFire (aka CDFFP) in Case Number 22CV00929, filed on the same day with a consecutive number by the same attorney, also alleging breach of contract the “Caspar. 500 THP.”

Both the Caspar 500 and Soda Gulch plans were approved at the onset of the Covid pandemic and had gone unnoticed until the very large, old redwoods were observed encircled with blue lines, marking them for cut. Cutting in Caspar was halted in June of 2021 by intense public protests, including nonviolent direct action. The Soda Gulch plan, which also provoked prolonged public protest, was put on hold by forestry officials in early 2022, a “pause” that applied to all Jackson logging activities.

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