|Santa Cruz bans commercial logging in watershed | by Betsy
Decision affects 3,880 acres of forest
The Santa Cruz City Council approved unanimously on November 12 a motion to end
commercial logging on 3,880 acres of city-owned watershed lands that serve as
the source of drinking water for Santa Cruz. This is a huge victory,
said Council member Keith Sugar. We have designated the largest chunk of
forest land outside of State Parks in our county off-limits to logging,
The City Council also adopted recommendations to get rid of logging roads, to
find effective methods of fire management, and to explore ways to reduce impacts
to the city watershed from adjoining lands. About eight members of the public
spoke in support of the recommendations, and none against. The recommendations
came from the Watershed Management Technical Advisory Task Force, a group of local
experts appointed by the City Council in 1999 to re-evaluate the citys logging
policies and to complete a watershed management plan. The task force must now
decide how to implement these recommendations, and estimate the costs.
Two years ago, the task force selected a team of consultants, Swanson Hydrology,
to conduct a study of the forests around Loch Lomond, Zayante Creek, and Laguna
Creek. The consultants found that commercial logging, and especially forest roads,
conflict with the City Councils primary goal, to preserve water quality
and quantity for protection of health and safety.
The study cited logging roads as a major source of nonpoint source pollution.
Commercial logging by the water department over the past 30 years has removed
most of the old-growth trees, which play a key role in stabilizing stream banks.
The plan also found that clear-cutting of tan-oaks and madrones has increased
fire danger and invasive plant species, such as French broom.
Three cheers to the City Council, to the members of the Watershed Management Technical
Advisory Task Force, and to all the forest activists who worked doggedly to keep
the issue on track. Special thanks go to Ida Hills, longtime member of the Sierra
Club Forestry Task Force. Attending virtually every city watershed meeting, Ida
showed both the staying power and the courage to ask the right questions at the
right time. We are all in her debt.