CONSERVATION REPORT, March 91 Storm Petrel1
"Medford Summit" – Shasta Costa2 unravels. "John Muir–like" goals and guidelines implemented by quota–driven rangers is futile.
A meeting was convened by the Siskiyou Forest Supervisor on 1/30/91 to discuss the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Shasta Costa roadless area. It included representatives from the environmental community, the State, the timber industry, O&C Counties, and various scientists.
Background of the meeting
The good ideas people call "Shasta Costa" are the features of alternative "C" of the Draft Environmental Statement (EIS) which was selected by the Forest Service as their preferred alternative. Soon the final EIS will be announced. This meeting was held to discuss some of the problems that environmentalists and others have with the draft. These have been discussed in detail in the last three issues of the Storm Petrel.
Shasta Costa was to demonstrate the Forest Service's (FS) commitment to a new way of managing the forests. The key features were: enter a basin to do logging, but without roading its roadless portion; almost no new roads to be built; old roads to be closed; much of the volume to be obtained by thinning using helicopter logging; not much cutting of old growth; some clear cuts would be used, but of only a few acres in size; only 100 acres of old growth would be involved, and much of that would not be clear cut. The "Shasta Costa" ("New Perspectives") approach would produce less volume for this Basin than called for in the Siskiyou Forest Plan.
Environmentalists concerns There was concern about what appeared to be inadequate research into the watershed and geological aspects of Shasta Costa. We worried that the Forest was watering down the plan to make it more palatable to the timber industry. Most importantly, we were interested in how the FS was going to respond to our comments on the draft EIS. We hoped to define what New Perspectives should or could be, and explore what it is.
What happened at the meeting?
The FS unveiled a new approach to Shasta Costa. This totally new approach for Shasta Costa abandons many of the the desirable features of the old plan and violates the design criteria of the preferred alternative. The revised alternative "C" now being considered: 1. Logs on 600 acres of old growth, not 100. 2. Builds more roads, and roads the core of the roadless area. 3. Retreats from the commitment to close old roads. 4. Abandons the concept of helicopter thinning 5. Changes most of the units in the original proposal. Only 5 million board feet of the original 11 are retained from the preferred alternative, and the total plan volume could go as high as 15 million board feet. 6. Features a one hundred acre unit called an "aggregated" cutting unit which takes about 60& of the trees. 7. Fragments more than the original plan.
The Forest Service claims that all of the above is not a change in direction because all Shasta Costa is, and always has been, is a way to implement the Forest Plan. The timber industry says that "New Perspectives" should be used to log in Wilderness Areas, and thinks that all the land in the Forest should now be open to logging. (If logging is now kinder and gentler, why not do it everywhere?
Where Do We Go From Here?
I can't speak for the other environmentalists at the meeting, but I think New Perspectives is creating serious problems:
- If we don't support the project we can be accused of being spoilers and ruining an effort for change. I have already heard that if the FS gets discouraged about "New Perspectives" and gives up, it will be our fault because we spoiled everything and undermined pathfinders in the FS. On the other hand, if we let this project proceed it may doom a roadless area.
- "New Perspectives" may merely be a strategy by the FS to reduce objections to entering roadless areas. If "Shasta Costa" is now the plan that was presented at this meeting, then the work that all of us did was largely a waste of time. We may have been a victim of "bait and switch".
- We made a strong appeal that a new draft EIS be written and that we get a new chance to comment; however the FS wants to get this timber out for the 91 sale program, and redoing things would probably put this project off until the 92 program.
It is obvious this Forest has received two opposite and conflicting orders. On the one hand it is supposed to be piloting a national model for new forestry that demonstrates a new commitment to environmental sensitivity as outlined in the glossy Shasta Costa booklet. On the other hand it is under orders to get the cut out and meet the unrealistically high timber targets in the forest plan which assumed the forest would be clear cut and turned into a tree farm.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to he one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Matt. 6.24
THE UNDERLYING ISSUE OF SHASTA COSTA
Many Ancient Forest activists support, as I do, some level of logging. Our concern is that current logging practices are brutally destructive of the forest. We fear that if the door is left open to logging old growth and roadless areas, even under environmentally sensitive guidelines, future rangers will use those guidelines as loopholes. If there was some way to insure that truly sustainable logging would be done only under careful conditions (without destroying wild fish habitat, without clear cutting, without roading the roadless areas, and without fragmenting old growth) then many Ancient Forest activists would support it. Of course, sustainable logging would result in less volume, but it could go on forever. Our present path will take us to old growth liquidation, or legislation putting all old growth off limits.
Some of us thought projects like Shasta Costa would be a realistic alternative to the devastationist–preservationist impasse. Unfortunately, it seems the model of vague John Muir guidelines implemented by quota–driven revolving door rangers, monitored by volunteer citizens in their spare time, just doesn't work. The continuity problem alone is almost insurmountable. Shasta Costa Basin covers two Ranger Districts and there have been more than nine different people through the three positions of District Rangers and Forest Supervisor since this project started –– each with his or her own idea as to what Shasta Costa is all about. In any case, if even a national model like Shasta Costa can be sacrificed to meet a timber quota, as we fear it will be, then what hope is there for forests far removed from the spotlight?
But that just brings us back to the original impasse. Is "lock up" legislation the only answer? If all the "significant" old growth is off limits and the logging is pushed on to "insignificant" watersheds, then what happens to them? On the other hand, if logging continues on its present course we will lose all the unprotected Old Growth, and then the pressure will be irresistible to break into Wilderness Areas. Can we be sure that ten years from now an aging America will choose wilderness values over toilet paper and 2x4's? This will be the choice we face if our only path leads to "cut it down" or "lock it up".
Shasta Costa is so important because it gives us a middle path. The explicit and implicit design criteria of the original alternative "C", if given the force of law (possibly through new regulations) can bring an end to the war in the woods with neither side winning nor losing. What are the essential elements of a new forest policy? They are often the concepts that Forest Service professionals taught environmentalists in the first place.
- no fragmentation of big pieces of intact forest
- no clear cuts (by whatever name)
- Protection of fisheries
- Mapping and protecting important corridors
- timber volume approximately 25% of the forest plan
- No new roads in roadless areas -existing roads to be closed
- extirpated species inventoried and reintroduced
- Thinning and helicopter logging emphasized
Is there still time for a compromise to be struck for the Northwest, by the Northwest, in the Northwest?