By Jennifer Poole/TWN Staff Writer Posted:   12/26/2012 10:05:47 AM PST Representatives from federal and state agencies far outnumbered members of the public at a Ukiah meeting on Mendocino Redwood Company's 80-year habitat conservation and timber management plans. About 20 people, at least 14 of them agency staffers, attended the December 11 meeting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the California Department of Fish and Game were all involved in contributing to the analysis of the draft environmental impact Several people asked questions, but no formal "comments" were given. Attendance by the public was reportedly somewhat higher at the public comment meeting held the next evening in Fort Bragg. Matt Baun of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told The Willits News his agency thought timely public notice had been sent to the county's newspapers, but "a new email system" at the Arcata offices had apparently failed to work properly. Public comment was also sparse at last week's presentation by Mendocino Redwood Company at the meeting of the county board of supervisors. One member of the public, Mike Kalantarian, asked questions about the company's use of herbicides to eradicate tan oaks and other hardwood trees from their timberlands, and the subsequent fire danger of standing dead trees. MRC's president and chief forester Mike Jani told The Willits News the timber company was planning its own set of meetings early next year to answer questions and provide assistance for the public review the plan. The deadline for public comments is February 21. MRC is Mendocino County's largest private timberland owner. The company is owned by the Fisher family, founders of The Gap clothing stores, who bought Louisiana-Pacific's depleted forestlands in Mendocino County in 1998. The proposed Mendocino County plans would cover about 213,244 acres of timberland, about 10 percent of the entire coastal redwood region. Jani told board members the primary purpose of the plan was to "manage the forestlands as an ecosystem, rather than on a small-scale project-by-project approach." MRC intends the plan to restore balance in the timberland between growth and harvest, along with improving habitat for endangered species, growing forests with high-conifer inventory, improving riparian buffers on significant creeks and streams, and controlling 2.2 million cubic yards of sediment from entering streams. Board Chairman John McCowen suggested the intention of the plan was to "return to a saw-log economy," meaning the trees harvested would be larger diameter trees with more of the heartwood redwood that is more valuable than the sapwood in smaller diameter trees. Jani agreed with that assessment, suggesting the trees the company eventually aimed to harvest would be 30- to 40-inch diameter trees. MRC anticipates forest inventory property-wide will increase from the current 3 billion board feet (up from just over 2 billion board feet in 1998) to about 6.3 billion board feet in 2093. The plan which, along with the wildlife agencies' analysis, makes about a 9.5-inch thick stack of paper, took about 10 years to produce. Jani said MRC spent $4 million developing the plan, which also cost an unknown amount staff time at the agencies over the last 10 years. If the plan is approved, MRC said, it will "streamline multi-agency review and focus staff time on field work and boots on the ground." According to the wildlife agencies, an HCP plan "benefits threatened and endangered species by providing an incentive for landowners to integrate conservation measures into the management of their lands." An HCP allows for an "incidental take" of endangered species, but Jani told supervisors "take" can mean many things, including disturbance. "Certainly the death of an endangered species is one form of 'take,' but that's actually prohibited by law." Jani said "the bulk" of the anticipated "take" in MRC's plan would involve scientific monitoring. "Any time you go out and call a spotted owl, or our fisheries biologists dive in rivers and do fish census," Jani said, "that is also considered 'take.'" Link to original source: