Coalition forms to protect Jackson Demonstration State Forest

By Deb Sally
Lake Group

The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians (CVBPI), the Mendocino Trail Stewards (MTS), the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Mendocino County Youth for Climate, and other groups have formed a coalition to protect Jackson Demonstration State Forest in coastal Mendocino County from logging activities.

Jackson is the largest of the state’s nine demonstration forests, and it is managed by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention, or CalFire.

At demonstration forests statewide, including Jackson, CalFire officials create Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) that detail proposed commercial logging operations at specific sites that are then put up for sale. A sawmill might purchase a timber sale resulting from one of these THPs, or part of one, and then hire a licensed timber operator to fell the trees.

In a Feb. 19 article in the L.A. Times, Kevin Conway, CalFire‘s state forests program manager, said harvests are an important tool to improve forest health and reduce fire risk. The harvests in the nine demonstration forests also bring in about  $8.5 million a year.

The consortium of organizations opposed to the THPs is convinced that CalFire’s current activities are doing great harm. They have been holding forest walks hosted by CVBPI Chairman Michael Hunter, and led by other members of the various organizations to give the public a chance to see and feel their concerns about their ancestral homelands.

On Feb. 6, I went on one of these walks with a few other Redwood Chapter members . I felt drawn to this gathering because of my love of redwood forests and my desire to understand more about how the first people here cared for and communicated with their home places and how they and others can help protect and heal the land.

The gathering started at the Jug Handle State Preserve Parking area and began with tribal drumming and song. Michael and his mother, Priscilla Hunter, shared some of the tribe’s history in the area and their love of this land. (See photo) Then we drove a few miles to an area that had been logged a few years back. There, the Hunters spoke about the tribe’s connection to the trees, plants, and animals of this area.

MTS member Chad Swimmer  led us to see the slash pile, discarded parts of trees and other vegetation that has been left illegally, and the area that was logged. He told us  they used a technique called Variable Retention. Few trees were retained.

The next stop was at the trailhead to see Gemini Tree. There we heard stories, learned a chant, and had a bite to eat. The contrast of the lush forest that is slated for logging and the one we just saw was startling. We gathered at the base of Gemini, a beautiful redwood tree that has been the scene of sits protesting her cutting. She is an icon of what will be lost if the THP is approved and logging goes forward.

There are five active THPs that are somewhere between being considered and being executed. Active logging is happening in the RedTail THP, where big trees are being cut down. In other areas, there is tagging, herbicide use, and excavation going on. The coalition wants that stopped now. You can learn more on the MTS webiste.

Protesters have been threatened, endangered, and/or arrested as they demand a moratorium on all timber harvest activities in JDSF “until a new EIR and subsequent rewrite of the Management Plan or passage of legislation to change the decades old mandate” are completed. Other demands include:

  • Money collected for timber sold, but not yet harvested, be repaid to the mills.
  • CVBPI brought in to co-manage the forest.
  • Creation of a Redwood Coast Forest Preserve to protect the cultural resources and the forest ecosystems.

It is time that the thinking of the people running the governmental agencies that manage the forests changes radically. Managing them to make money isn’t working and is destroying them. Decreasing the carbon sequestered therein at a time when it is imperative to be working to do just the opposite is short sighted and likely even disastrous.

The outdated 2016 Management Plan states, “As a publicly owned forest dedicated to research and demonstration, JDSF provides an excellent venue for long term research” as it pertains to larger influences like climate change.

Members of the Redwood Chapter Executive Committee have spoken to State Sen. Mike McGuire and Rep. Jared Huffman to express our support of making changes to the management plan and having the CVBPI co-manage the forest.

Though the CalFire website states that “learning how to care for these treasures for the people of California is why the Demonstration State Forests exist,” the tribe believes the logging that has already been done and that which is planned does not reflect a desire to care for these treasures or their cultural interests.

Seeing the recently logged sections of the forest compared to the older, intact forest made it obvious to me that the land was being misused and that CalFire is not following its own management plan’s strategies to “address the uncertainty related to climate change." These include, “Keep the forest healthy to maximize resilience to perturbations of moisture, temperature, pests, and storm events.” The clearcutting I saw does not promote forest health.

The stories told by the tribal people, neighbors, and friends of the forest convinced me that there is a better way, and it is worth fighting for JDSF and all forests, whether it means writing government officials, signing petitions, making donations, or attending protests and rallies.

We are all connected to each other. What happens to the land, happens to her people. We need the forests to keep our spirits alive.

If you want to support the CVBPI, join the movement, or attend a rally, visit: If you want to learn about this movement to save the JDSF from unhealthy and outdated forestry practices and sign the petitions to start the moratorium and form the preserve go to: or The Coalition’s website at:




Photos by Deb Sally. Captions from top:

Michael and Priscilla Hunter speak to gathering of supporters at Jug Handle State Reserve.

Area that was logged using an alternative to total clearcutting called Variable

Chad Swimmer of MTS sitting atop an illegal slash pile left in the logged area.

Retention Banner and attendees gathered at beginning of logged area. 

A group at Gemini Tree that is in the path to be cut.