Katherine K. Evatt, president of the Foothill Conservancy, an environmental group, is responding to the June 17 editorial, "Timber reform plan needs a tweak." The editorial stated: "We agree that private landowners shouldn't be given relief from damages that are not extended to public land agencies. If lawmakers decide to advance this legislation and limit double damages from wildfires, they should apply the limitation equally to public and private landowners."
The Bee missed the forest for the trees in its editorial on Gov. Jerry Brown's timber "reform" plan. The governor's plan doesn't need a "tweak." It needs to be rewritten.
While small timberland owners may indeed need some regulatory relief, the governor's proposal will primarily benefit the largest industrial timberland owner in the state, Sierra Pacific Industries. SPI is destroying the diverse forests of the Sierra Nevada with extensive clear-cuts, then "replacing" those forests with highly flammable plantations.
Those of us who live in the Sierra see the resulting habitat destruction every day. It's clear that the pace and scale of the clear-cutting go far beyond the timber harvest needed to provide California with wood products.
State regulation and related costs are not slowing SPI's logging in the Sierra, either. For example, in one small section of the Mokelumne River watershed, SPI recently filed three timber harvest plans that would clear-cut more than 800 acres.
The governor's proposal to reduce SPI's liability for fire is also hard to fathom. Year after year, SPI's pile burns cause wildland fires that threaten Sierra communities and damage national forests. Why? Because SPI barely manages its post-logging fires. No wonder the U.S. attorney and Forest Service are up in arms.
It's also distressing to see Brown moving to impose a new fee to pay for state review of timber harvest plans, even though we do need the Department of Fish and Game to review them in the Sierra again. SPI and other industrial landowners, not the California consumer, should foot the bill.
The respected Legislative Analyst's Office agreed in a September 2011 report, saying, "As the primary beneficiaries of timber harvesting, the timber industry should be held responsible for ecological impacts caused by timber harvesting, and thus should pay for the state's THP activities which prevent or lessen these impacts."
There is also no reason to lengthen the shelf-life of a timber harvest plan, another feature of the governor's proposal. California's forests are dynamic: Wildlife move around, conditions change, fires burn. A timber harvest plan's environmental analysis could easily be out of date after seven years.
Real timber reform in California would focus on small landowner relief while creating fire and climate change-resilient watersheds. But the governor's proposal is just another giveaway to the influential billionaire who is systematically liquidating one of California's most precious assets.