Mike A'Dair - Staff Writer
The Willits News
April 16, 2004

In a series of complicated and preliminary moves county supervisors Tuesday moved closer to answering the question of what to do with Enchanted Meadows near Albion.

The fate of the 104 acres of land has been in dispute since the late 1980s, when the Mendocino County "Timber Wars" were at their height. In 1992, a spontaneous display of mass civil disobedience resulted in a six-week occupation of Enchanted Meadows and a series of court actions between environmentalists, sympathetic journalists and then-land-owner Louisiana-Pacific Lumber Company. The suits resulted in a series of settlements between activists Beth Bosk and Zia Cattalini and current landowner Mendocino Redwood Company.

The agreements involved transfer of the land from Mendocino Redwood Company to Bosk and Cattalini, who are transferring title to the Friends of Enchanted Meadows and the Coastal Land Trust, which have agreed to protect the lands in perpetuity.

For that agreement to be binding, the board of supervisors must approve transferring the lands from timber production to open space. Voting unanimously against the recommendations of both the county's planning and building staff and the planning commission, the board did so Tuesday.

The decision is not the final word, however. Because of state regulations and the location of the parcels, the board's actions regarding two of the parcels will need to be approved by the state Coastal Commission and the California Board of Forestry, while two others will require only board of forestry approval. If those bodies render the necessary approvals, the four separate actions will come back to county supervisors for final approval.

If that happens, the 104 acres near the Albion River will be permanently preserved.

The lands in question include 25 acres of forest called Raven's Call, 10 acres of forest along Deadman Gulch Creek, and Enchanted Meadows themselves70 acres of wetlands, meadows and trees straddling both sides of the river. The entire linkage of conserved lands is about four miles from the coast and about a half-mile from residential areas connected to Albion.

Some board members seemed reluctant to take the land out of timber production, until Mike Jani, lead forester with MRC explained the lands weren't really very productive forestland anyway.

"This is tidal grassland," Jani said. "It is not capable of growing trees. Plus the surrounding timberlands are not really capable of being harvested because of coho protections. In my heart, I believe seeking resolution of this matter would be in the best interest of the community, and would put to rest something that has bothered people for a long, long time."

Cattalini became emotional, reminding supervisors it was contemplating putting the capstone on a campaign that had personally occupied her for the past 15 years. "This is about people who have vision, who see beauty, who see poetry in nature, who see life in nature," she said.

In a separate conversation, Bosk explained how she got involved. "We were a solid people," she said, choosing her words carefully. "LP was trying to flay the bio-regionalist movement. I went to cover the protest and I was sued. Now this was not somebody's bedroom or bathroom this was corporate land."

Bosk said the preserved lands are essential to regenerate the surrounding forest. "This is a pretty good island at exactly the place where you need an island." She also confirmed that, should the board of forestry and coastal commission approve supervisors' actions, the preserved lands will have only limited public access.

"Once you make it easy for people to go there with their wrappers and their plastic, you have lost it," she said. "You will cannibalize that land."