Mendocino Redwood says it didn't expect certification just yet

By Glen Martin, Chronicle Staff Writer
San Francisco Chronicle
August 6, 1999

A Mendocino County company that hopes to pioneer large-scale "sustainable'' timber harvesting has failed to receive approval from a firm that certifies ecologically sound forestry practices.

In a statement issued this week, Scientific Certification Systems --an Oakland firm that analyzes timber harvest practices -- said its evaluation team was "genuinely impressed'' with Mendocino Redwood Co.'s forest management, but that additional work was needed before a sustainable forestry certification could be awarded.

Such a certification is highly esteemed in the timber industry, because products that it can be sold for top dollar.

Robert Hrubes, the senior forestry consultant for Scientific Certification Systems, said Mendocino Redwood "has made progress in some areas, but needs to make more progress in others.''

Hrubes said he could not talk about the company's specific shortcomings.

"We have to proceed with some confidentiality, because this is a nongovernmental, private sector, voluntary process,'' he said. "Detailed public statements would be a disincentive for companies to participate.''

Executives from Mendocino Redwood downplayed the development, saying they did not necessarily expect certification yet because they have been in business for one year.

"This will give us the road map that we need to move ahead,'' said Mike Jani, the chief forester for Mendocino Redwood. "My gut feeling is that they wanted evidence of a track record -- evidence that we could do this over time. And given some time, we'll provide that track record.'' Jani said the company is reducing its harvest, reducing the size of its cutting units, restricting harvesting near streambeds and decommissioning or weatherproofing roads to protect forest health.

Mendocino Redwood is owned by the Fisher family of San Francisco, which also owns The Gap Inc.

The Fishers have been embroiled in controversy since they formed Mendocino Redwood and purchased 235,000 acres of forestland from Louisiana Pacific a year ago.

Though the company announced its intention to conduct eco-friendly logging, environmental activists said the proposals were "greenwash,'' inadequate for protecting endangered species such as the coho salmon and marbled murrelet.

"This isn't sustainable logging,'' said Mary Pjerrou, the president of the Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance, which has lawsuits pending against the company to halt logging under some of its timber harvest plans.

"We'd like to see more public (input),'' said Pjerrou. "Mendocino Redwood owns about one-fifth of the forestland in the county. It's difficult to see how they (can obtain certification) when they still use herbicides, clear-cut and target the last old-growth on their land.''

Copyright 1999 San Francisco Chronicle