August 18, 1999
Anderson Valley Advertiser
Letters to the Editor

Andrea E. Clearcut

To Ms. Susan Moloney, Redway

Dear Ms. Moloney:

August 3- Governor Gray Davis has asked me to respond to your recent correspondence concerning the cutting of old growth trees. This is a complex issue that requires thoughtful analysis.

Old growth means many things to many people. Some people think of old growth forests as virgin, never harvested in any way and containing a high density of very large trees. These are the areas often pictured in magazines and literature, and generally preserved in state and federal parks. Many people also think of these as ancient forests. There are other forests where some of the trees are very old, are much more scattered, and have much younger vegetation interspersed among old trees. In these situations, the natural effects of fire and other natural events have molded the forest into its current condition even without any direct action of people. The last situation is where old scattered trees exist because some of the original stand has been harvested. Given that there are graduations of each of these types, there are many opinions as to where in that continuum one wants to define old growth.

Although the Governor has publicly stated his opposition to cutting "old growth" trees, exactly what constitutes old growth has not yet been defined in law. Current law gives private landowners the right to cut their timber. California's Forest Practice Act (FPA) requires state agencies to review proposed cutting proposals to ensure adequate environmental protection including the needs of all species that live in old growth forests.

Old growth habitat is receiving more protection now than at any time in the past. The modern FPA under which we now operate has been in existence since 1973. Since then, the laws and regulations that govern timber harvesting have undergone dramatic changes. Most recently, in 1994, additional protections were added that require protection of "late successional forest strands." The concept of this regulation is to protect "stands" of trees to maintain properly functioning habitat, rather than individual trees themselves. So the Board of Forestry will be considering additional regulations aimed at increasing protection of streams, watercourses, rivers, and the associated habitat along these waterways. This will have the effect of protecting and saving even more old trees. The future for the protection of old growth (however it is defined) looks better now that its ever has.

With respect to THP 1-95-315 MEN Amendment #10, the stands in this THP are not considered old growth. Therefore, a majority of the large trees proposed for harvest under this amendment could have been harvested without the approval of this amendment. However, Mendocino Redwood Company's policy on this THP is to leave all large trees greater than 250 years of age with a diameter at breast height of 48 inches and greater.

Thank you for your inquiry and concern. Governor Davis and his administration will continue to strive for protection of the public trust resource values in California's forest.


Andrea E. Tuttle
Director, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

State of California, The Resources Agency
PO Box 944245
Sacramento, CA 94244-2460 (916) 653-5296