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Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL Announcement :: Environment & Food

Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Public comment to CDF is needed immediately to stop more logging along the Skyline-to-Sea Trail near Big Basin Park.
Hike the trail, hear the trees fall... 2-16-05 Mark Levy 831 338 7283

You're hiking through the beautiful redwoods along the Skyline-to-Sea Trail to Big Basin Park, taking in the filtered sun, ferns, and hawk calls when suddenly out of nowhere... buzz/crash!

That can't be a chainsaw so close.... can't be a big tree falling so I feel it fibrate my entire frame! Oh, yes it could... and will be again, if Redwood Empire has their latest plan approved.

It's THP 01-04-165, a 350 acre cut on the south side of Hwy 236, just east of China Grade and right along the Skyline-to-Sea Trail. The land was logged about 13 years ago by S H Cowell Foundation, who then sold it to Redwood Empire. It was also logged in 1979. The parcel is in section 34, bounded by Big Basin on two sides and the trail on a third. RE logged the section north of 236 a couple years back, now they're going back for the South Cowell, as it's called.

So? They own it, don't they? Why can't they log? Well, they can, that's the sad part, but only within limits. Those limits can be imposed by the California Dept. of Forestry, Fish and Game (DFG), Water Quality Control Board, and the Santa Cruz County Planning Dept. They were all out there last fall and put out what's called a Pre-harvest Inspection Report (PHI) which found some interest things: the cut is bounded on two sides by old growth redwoods just across the line, the natural nesting places for the endangered Marbled Murrelet. Boulder Creek runs right through the cut, and previous logging has severely undermined banks and tributaries to this major water supply. Downstream, steelhead and salmon spawn, or try to as debris piles up creating blockage.

These and other geological and environmental concerns caused DFG to recommend measures to mitigate the potential damage to the sensitive ecosystem: seasonal hands-off limits during nesting, no-cut buffer zones along creeks, no-cut buffers adjacent to old growth. These are only recommendations at this point, and may or may not be included as conditions of final approval.

Final approval could come in a matter of weeks, unless enough people make the effort to comment to CDF-- enough people to pressure that the rules be followed strictly, enough people who might not like the idea in the first place...

Are you one of those people? Send public comment by email to: California Dept. of Forestry: santarosapubliccomment (at) Be sure to cc SC County Planning: donna.bradford (at) , and Dept. of Fish and Game: rfitzgerald (at) . These folks have the job of seeing to it that our natural resources and recreation areas are protected. They want to hear from us about proposed timber harvests.

At very least, you'll be gratified to know you had your say, and your next walk through the woods may be a little quieter, and a lot more beautiful.

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Meet Sean Burch

Redwood Empire is not some faceless anonymous corporation. It is Sean Burch and his family. Redwood Empire is a locally-owned, family-operated company..

.. and they too have something to say about logging and the environment:

"Due to our continuing commitment to the environment, Redwood Empire has been certified by SmartWood under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to handle certified and non-certified wood products.

The FSC Logo identifies products which contain wood from well managed forests independently certified in accordance with the rules of the Forest Stewardship Council A.C.
SW-COC-483 "

If you people would stop indulging in these knee-jerk panic reactions and do some research, you might stop crying wolf every other day and find a constructive outlet for your misdirected angst.

Many Native Americans cut trees to build log cabins as well; they did not dwell exclusively in the deer-hide teepees of your racist Hollywood myths.

Woody debris is actually beneficial to streams, which even the Timber Harvest Plan (if you had bothered to read it!) will tell you. It helps strengthen the river banks and bed by reducing water speed, and it CREATES pools that give salmon, frogs, and other wildlife the calmer waters they require.

You people know nothing of forest stewardship. Oily hair, a dirty face, ragged clothes, and a pop-culture hatred of white men does not grant you expertise in biological science.

Instead of pursuing your ill-informed, sensationalist, reactionary politics why don't you come down to your local California Dept of Forestry office here in Felton and ASK US about this THP and its environmental impact? We're happy to help the community understand our validation and verification process.

And you might discover that we don't spend $75k and 6 years in college for nothing.

Re: Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Your comments are rude and ill-informed. Obviously you know nothing about me or others in your audience.

It is precisely your bigotted presumption that convinces me that you are indeed what you claim you *aren't*: a money-grubbing capitalist willing to sacrifice our environmental heritage and hope for salvation for a petty little rubberstamp from the Forest Stewardship Council. Though *some* trees may be able to be grown back, they won't do us any good in the next twenty years when we need to be fighting global warming with all our might. Though I think wood is the most beautiful material available in nature and an integral part of our cultural material heritage, we need to create a new paradigm to deal with the global warming crisis that is already upon us. Cutting down old growth trees now (even if new trees are replanted) will not help enough in this time of crisis. (As an alternative, I would suggest people use bamboo or hemp.)

Yes, I try to support local businesses, but that doesn't mean that because you're a locally-owned business you are beyond scrutiny. An honest living is hard to find nowadays, but that doesn't mean it isn't possible. It just makes it a lot harded for you to pay off your 75k Stanford bill. Boo-hoo. Here's a big hint: if you study biology, don't expect to get rich off of it. Even doctors in this county aren't "rich." What makes you think you deserve to be?

Thank you Mark Levy for letting the greater public know about what is going on at Big Basin.

Re: Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Reply to Sean Burch:

Sean, I do appreciate your reply to my post and would like to respond.

1)We realize logging is your family's business, but there are still restrictions written into law on what any landowner can do on his/her property. Appealing to those government agencies charged with enforcing same to reconsider your harvest proposal is a public right and duty if health, safety and environment are to be protected. Doing so is not meant as a personal attack in any way or a threat to your livelihood.

2) We are not "crying wolf" so much as speaking up for the wildlife and ecology of a sensitive area of our county and state. Logging, no matter how tenderly you slice it, has a direct impact on endangered species and water quality, and the immediate community has a right to say our piece.

3) The Ohlone tribes that inhabited this area did not cut down the redwoods. They considered them sacred, and used their shade to camp en route to and from the San Francisco and Monterey Bays, leaving burials and other ritual sites which is why CCR 929.1(a)is written into the Forest Practice rulebook.

Clearcutting began in the 19th century, though some parts of the forest were rescued by photographers and naturalists such as Andrew Hill in this case, who was responsible for having Big Basin declared the first state redwood park (1902). I'm sure you know this history.

4) There is plenty of woody debris falling naturally into creeks, providing the habitat you speak of. Besides, the issue here is logging in steep areas and along banks that will fail, erode and dump massive amounts of silt into the watercourses when winter rains come. Given this, residents downstream along Boulder Creek have legitimate concerns.

5) I think you will find people here from all walks of life and all ages who want to preserve the forests for future generations. This particular land has been logged at least three times in my lifetime, and would better serve the community as an addition to Big Basin Park. I suggest if you are truly interested in responsible forestry and not just the money from these trees, you consider offering the land in Section 34 to State conservancy, not as a donation, but for a fair price.

6) We's like to take you up on the idea of coming down to CDF in Felton for a public hearing on this THP. Thanks for offering, as we know there has already been one that was poorly attended when no one knew about your plan, and welcome the opportunity to make suggestions to you and CDF on how best to manage the property without further negative consequences to the environment. We will notify the proper agencies of your willingness to meet.

Re: Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Gee Sean. perhaps you'd like to clarify for folks that the FSC Certification you speak of for Redwood Empire has nothing to do with the logging activities of Redwood Empire itself. Rather, it is a chain-of-command certification that allows Redwood Empire to sell certified lumber produced by other companies.

If Redwood Empire is so committed to the environment, maybe you could consider altering the logging practices of your company so that they would qualify for certification. Then you, too, could actually produce 'certified' lumber. Of course, the certification process itself does not prohibit logging of old growth redwoods.

Currently the practices of Redwood Empire are found by many to leave much to be desired. The original Gamecock plan was a disaster, with over 1500' of stream reach nearly clear-cut. And RE procrastinated for years doing the re-planting required by CDF and the Department of Fish and Game. The United Farm Workers are not happy with how your Cloverdate mill workers are treated. The County has filed a non-concurrence on the latest Ramsey Creek THP and there's no legal access for the most recent Gamecock Canyon Plan.

You talk about the value of large woody debris in streams. Yet, RE constantly tries to harvest the largest trees along the streambanks of their lands, requiring additional agency consultation and dispute over and over again. These are the very trees that would provide the best large woody debris, the best sediment traps, the best habitat and the greatest value to the stream system.

Ranting about oily haired, dirty faced people will not win you any brownie points. Such divisiveness leads only to more enimity and does nothing to further the discourse about the need for improved forest practices.

Remember nearly all of the streams in Santa Cruz County are 303(d) listed as impaired for sediment and our coho and steelhead are either listed as threatened or endangered. They can't fix the miserable mess their habitat is in. It's up to us humans to learn to share this planet with the rest of the species who call this place home.

coho salmon go home - you're not a native species!

Coho Salmon
Oncorhynchus kisutch

The Coho was listed threatened on October 31,1996. The current estimated population is less than 6,000. The species trend is unknown. In the 1940s, estimated abundance of naturally spawning adult Coho Salmons in the central California coast ranged from 50,000 to 125,000. Today, the estimation of naturally reproducing Coho Salmon is less than 6,000 and most of them are of non-native origin (from hatcheries).

But going further back, what were Coho salmon populations in Santa Cruz County like in, say, 1912?


That is because the Coho Salmon is non-native to Santa Cruz County, was not present anywhere south of San Francisco, and thrives only up north towards Washington and British Columbia.

Early scientific fish surveys in the Central Coast prior to heavy hatchery stocking beginning a century ago report no coho salmon south of San Francisco. Stanford Scientist, David Starr Jordan, in 1898, states that coho are found from San Francisco north. A second scientific study in 1912 confirms the absence of coho from Santa Cruz Mountains streams at that time. No credible scientific or historic evidence other than occasional, isolated anecdotal stories refutes this record.

Massive numbers of hatchery coho have been continuously planted in Santa Cruz Mountains streams since the early 1900s making subsequent population reports meaningless and contributing to the myth of large, native populations. The laymen's difficulty in distinguishing between steelhead and coho also probably contributed to misinformation.

Geomorphologists, climatologists, and hydrologists believe that Santa Cruz Mountains streams are very hostile to permanent colonies of coho salmon. Due to their rigid life cycle (unlike steelhead and other salmonids), coho cannot interbreed between generations. This, and the lack of other adaptive options make the survival of each generation an important element for permanent populations. Droughts, floods, sand bar opening failure and other natural events will frequently extirpate a generation and makes permanent colonies of coho, with their very limited survival options, improbable.

The plight of coho salmon in Santa Cruz County is a manufactured plight. They were brought here by a government program from Washington state, hatched and released into the wild, and have been competing with the native steelhead salmon for food and spawning grounds ever since, kept barely alive as a species here only thanks to human-operated fish hatcheries for 100 years.

Didn't know that, did you.

Read the complete scientific study yourself:


Re: Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Sorry Jen, but coho ARE native south of San Francisco. A recent report by Kenneth Gobalet et al, states, "there is no question that coho salmon were native to San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties," contradicting claims to the contrary by Big Creek Lumber and the Central Coast Forest Association.

The report cites samples of coho remains dating from 1895 that were collected by Cloudsley Rutter in streams south of San Francisco which are in the collection of the California Academy of Sciences.

In addition, this new report says that it takes examining around 7,500 diagnostic elements to find one coho remain. In the Central Coast only 1,100 elements have been reviewed to date.

The report copyrighted by The American Fisheries Society also recognizes that the coho and steelhead bones may not preserve as well as other species because of different mineralization bone density. The authors do not discuss the idea that indigenous peoples may have found coho bones more digestible and therefore consumed them, also leaving the middens poor in coho bones.

Big Creek Lumber and the Central Coast Forest Association both filed petitions with NOAA to delist coho salmon south of San Francisco on the grounds that they do not believe the fish are native to our streams. (Copies of their petitions and supporting arguments can be viewed at:

To further their argument, Big Creek Lumber hired Kenneth Gobalet from CSU Bakersfield to examine middens in the Central Coast region. Gobalet’s team was unable to identify any coho remains, but did state that "absence of evidence should not be construed as evidence of absence".

However, Gobalet’s latest report concludes that coho are native to the Central Coast, in part because specimens dating from 1895 (prior to introduction of any hatchery fish), that were collected by Cloudsley Rutter in streams south of San Francisco, are in the collection of the California Academy of Sciences. In reference to the small sampling size reviewed to date, the latest Gobalet report states, "Because of this paucity of materials, far more sampling is required to use the archaeological record as definitive evidence for the absence of coho salmon from this section of coast. This is particularly important to acknowledge, because there is no question that coho salmon were native to San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties (Behnke 2002; P.B. Moyle, personal communication)."

Re: Public Comment Needed on Big Basin Logging

Will the person who claimed to be writing for Sean Burch as Redwood Empire please identify him/herself. Apparently, it wasn't Sean himself who wrote the above diatribe.

Sean Burch

I appreciate the open forum that you have regarding our harvest plan in the Big Basin area. However the comments that are said to be from me are in fact not. Nor are these comments from a representative of Redwood Empire. Whomever is in charge of this website please remove my name from all postings said to be from me prior to this one.

Thank you,

Sean Burch

What's your house made out of anyway?

When I read all the comments on both sides of this issue it seems as though people are polarized. Let's face it most of use live in wood framed houses and use wood products every day. So can we all at least agree there is a need to utilize the resource? CA consumes billions of board feet of lumber products a year. Most of it is imported from other states and Canada. We do this because we do not have the ability to produce enough to fill our needs. It's not wise to import so much of this wood, and export all the jobs out of state. Not to mention the extra miles the thousands of trucks and railcars have to travel to bring the lumber to CA. This in turn creates more pollution and congests our roads. We use and need the products, that's a given. The question is how are we going to get it? CA has the most complex forestry rules in the world and we do have the capacity to produce more of our own lumber products. We also have the best foresters in the world. I think it would be a more worthwhile to discuss how we can sustainably harvest more trees in order to meet the demands for wood products in CA.

Not Wood! Have you ever thought of.....

Just because "that's the way it has been," doesn't mean we should automatically accept that reasoning and keep on doing it, to the detriment of the planet.

People throughout time and history have been using earth-friendly materials to build their shelters. Have you ever seen those cute thatched-roofed cottages from Britain and Ireland? Guess what? They are made from Cob - an amalgalm of clay, straw, sand and earth. They are incredibly strong, good for you (breatheable) and good for the planet.

Check this stuff out!! It is amazing!!!!

Note: many of the servers for these sites are off-the-grid, so sometimes it is a little slow. Be patient because it is really worth it. Also, these are not ads. This is informational, not commercial.


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