By Chris McManus
Mendocino Redwood Company released a draft late last month of an 80-year comprehensive plan for management of its 350 square miles of forestland spanning 350 square miles of forestland spanning 75 Northern California coastal watersheds.
The main component of the plan is a Habitat Conservation Plan that deals with preserving habitat for nine animal species, 31 plant species and four rare natural ecological communities.
The public will have 90 days to comment on the plan, which has been more than 10 years in the making and is now described in a five-inch stack of documents consisting of 16 chapters with 26 appendices.
Mike Jani, President and Chief Forester for the company, gave an overview to Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Tuesday at the request of Board Chair John McCowen and Supervisor Dan Hamburg.
McCowen said constituents have expressed concerns to him about the short review time. And in an email to constituents, Hamburg said, "I admit that reading these voluminous documents is beyond my capacity."
In his presentation, Jani said the purpose of the plan is to manage the forestlands as an ecosystem, rather than on a small-scale, project-by-project basis. "The idea is to really develop habitat, not just maintain habitat," he said.
Once approved, however, the company would still file individual timber harvest plans, but public input on these plans would be limited to whether the timber harvest plan is consistent with the overall plan.
"That is true," Jani said, when asked about the limitation on future public comment, but added that accountability is built into the plan through a monitoring program that requires the company to monitor whether the plan is achieving its goals. "The public will be able to bring issues to the agencies," he said.
Hamburg asked Jani to address the issue of "incidental takes" of various threatened or endangered species allowed for in the plan. In environmental speak, "take" means to "harm, harrass, or kill," but Jani said the actual takes contemplated in the plan will occur during monitoring activities, such as counting or banding species, and that no killing of endangered species was either contemplated or allowed.
Hamburg said the main concern he is hearing from constituents is the 80-year duration of the plan. Jani said the time horizon was the company's estiamte of the time needed for its old-growth managed acres to be in balance.
Currently, he said, the company is harvesting less timber than it is growing. At the end of 80 years, the company expects to be able to cut as much timber as it grows every year.
Only one member of the public, Tom Kalantarian of Rancho Navarro, commented on the plan at Tuesday's Board of Supervisor's meeting. "I'm really disgusted by the amount of herbicide use being poured into our environment by this company," Kalantarian said.
Herbicides are used by the company to reduce hardwoods - primarily tan oak and madrone - to make room for more conifers.
"I'd just like to see them use other means to manage the tan oak and madrone," Kalantarian said. Jani replied that herbicide use is not part of the Habitat Conservation Plan.
The public can access the plan documents at www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_EPRP_PTEIR.php Written comments can be submitted by 5 p.m., Feb. 21, 2013, to Chris Browder, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Resource Management, P.O. Box 944246, Sacramento, CA 94244, or by emial to firstname.lastname@example.org.