Just for perspective, the size of California is approximately 105 million acres, and 33 million acres are forests. Slightly more than half (59%) of the forested area is owned and managed by the federal government as national parks and national forests, and Bureau of Land Management lands. Clearcutting is usually only allowed on California federal lands after a fire, when all trees in a burned area, living and dead, are removed and a plantation installed, a practice akin to clearcutting. This process is called salvage logging, and it destroys the natural recovery that would otherwise occur.
The remaining 12 million acres are state parks or privately owned forests. Timber harvesting on these lands is governed by the Forest Practices Act, originally passed in 1973 and modified many times afterwards through legislation. The law currently prohibits clearcutting in five counties: Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Mateo, San Francisco, and Marin Counties.
This law is translated into detailed Forest Practices Rules by the Board of Forestry. As new forestry laws are passed, the Board decides how the general laws will be implemented in specific rules.
Timber companies who want to log, must submit a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) or exemption to CalFire. CalFire reviews THP’s to ensure they adhere to the Forest Practices Rules. Exemptions for thinning, salvage logging and more are tracked by CalFire but not reviewed.
A THP is equivalent to an environmental impact report (EIR) required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A THP outlines what timber will be harvested, how it will be harvested, and the steps that will be taken to prevent environmental damage. It is prepared by a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) and submitted to CalFire.
Addressing issues with any given THP results from the active participation of state agencies, public interest groups, individual citizens. Public awareness, pressure, and advocacy is responsible for many of the improvements in forestry practices that have been made over the years. A reviewer submits comments to CalFire. If the reviewer’s comments are denied the only recourse is to sue CalFire. See more THP resources here.
Lastly, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) awards offset credits to timber companies who modify the way an area is managed to sequester and store more carbon than what would have happened otherwise. This opportunity has enabled non-profits and community forests to make money by not logging or by reducing the level of logging on previously logged land. It has also enabled private landowners to make money on clearcutting projects where rotation cycles are lengthened - by increasing the number of years a plantation grows before it is harvested.
Citizen comments and actions at all levels of government help improve processes outcomes and help avoid missteps.
That’s where you come in! Find out what you can do to stop clearcutting here.
How the Campaign Plans to Stop Clearcutting
Any successful path to stopping clearcutting will need the support of the public against the powerful California timber industry. No government official will oppose the industry without pressure from the public. Many people mistakenly believe that the 1997 Headwaters Agreement, enacted following Redwood Summer protests, ended clearcutting in California. In fact, clearcutting is still widely practiced across the state, and we need public pressure to end this destructive practice.
The campaign plans to win this fight and stop clearcutting by:
Educating the public and Sierra Club members about the negative impacts of clearcutting, especially on the climate and the wildfire crisis, and building support for an end to clearcutting.
Educating public officials about clearcutting and its negative impacts on the state’s resources and residents.
Supporting administrative efforts to oppose THPs that include even-aged management such as clearcutting.
Oppose individual timber harvest plans through comments, organizing and lawsuits.
Building a coalition of people who would like to see an end to clearcutting.
The campaign has made great strides educating the public using social media and letters to the editor. We have also begun opposing Timber Harvest Plans that propose using clearcutting.
Educating the Public and Sierra Club Members
The campaign has a robust social media team with 10 members who post on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In the last two years, the team has posted on these platforms.
Facebook - over 5000 followers, reached over a million people
Instagram - over 600 followers, reached over 30,000 people
Twitter - over 300 followers, over 200,000 impressions
Letters to the Editor
The campaign currently has about one dozen volunteers who submit letters to the editor of California newspapers. Since 2012 , volunteers have submitted 246 letters and published 120. Our letters have been published in the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, and many other publications.
The campaign has also published op-eds in the San Jose Mercury News, San Francisco Chronicle, Mt. Shasta Herald, and Siskiyou Daily News.
Timber Harvest Plans (THPs)
The campaign works with our allies and local community members to provide support opposing individual THPs that include even-aged management methods like clearcutting.
We’ve recently had a great success: on October 20, 2020, the Pawn THP near Dunsmuir was withdrawn. Working with locals who alerted us to the situation, we encouraged campaign volunteers to send comments to CalFire pointing out the danger of installing fire-prone plantations near a town. A press packet was sent to reporters from the Sacramento Bee, San Jose Mercury News, and San Francisco Chronicle suggesting that they report on this situation.
The Soda Springs THP, also near Dunsmuir, was finally approved by CalFire after much attention. Fifty public comments were submitted. Usually, none are submitted. We published our op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Mt. Shasta Herald, and Siskiyou Daily News.
More THPs by Dunsmuir have been submitted. More action is in the works.