Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz county
by Jodi Frediani
1. SDSF Advisory Committee holds First Meeting
On August 29, the Advisory Committee for the Soquel Demonstration State Forest held its first meeting since being re-configured and re-constituted this year. The Committee was established by AB1965, the enabling legislation for SDSF, authored in 1987 by Assemblymember Sam Farr. One of the committee's current key tasks is to review the update to the General Forest Management Plan (Plan). The Plan is required to be revised every 5 years with the latest revision due in 2010. The revision has fallen behind schedule as a result of a number of factors.
Over the past 12 months a revisions, including significant changes, have been made to the Plan by CAL FIRE and discussed at Board of Forestry committee meetings. While attending one those meetings, I noted that the Advisory Committee was required by law to participate in the revision process. As a result of my comments, the Board sought and received confirmation from legal counsel. The process of appointing new members to fill vacant slots was then undertaken, including a lengthy wait for confirmation of new members by the Governor.
The Chair of the Advisory Committee is Steve Staub, RPF. Other members include Donna Bradford - Santa Cruz County Environmental Health, Terris Kastner - DFG, Larry Serpa - The Nature Conservancy, Steve Butler, RPF, Tim Hyland - State Parks, Patty Ciesla - Stewards of Soquel Forest (mountain bikers), Patricia Marland - neighbor. A representative of the RCD is also supposed to be on the committee, but was not present.
In addition to the committee members noted above, the following Cal Fire representatives were in attendance: John Ferreira, Rich Sampson, Helge Eng, Jill Butler, and several other Cal Fire reps. Tom Sutfin, retired SDSF head, attended and Angela Peterson and John Martinez, Cal Fire. showed up later in the day for a portion of the field trip. Eric Huff, staff to the Board of Forestry, was present as liason to the Board.
After a brief meeting at the Summit Community Center, the committee set out on a day-long field tour of the Forest, starting with the narrow access bridge onto Highland Way. This bridge is not on SDSF property, but is currently being used to haul logs from the Rim THP on SDSF. The flat-car bridge is so narrow that the railing continually gets busted up by passing log trucks. It is a potential hazard and SDSF, in conjunction with Redwood Empire, the bridge owner, plans to widen the bridge in the near future, over-laying planking on top of the steel flat-car.
We next visited the infamous parking 'lot' on Redwood Empire's property. This large compacted dirt area is regularly used for parking by mountain bikers frequenting the forest. It was also used as a landing by Redwood Empire for their recent Highland THP. And periodically it has been illegally used as a 'rave' site.
Drainage is problematic with sediment regularly entering Soquel Creek. Various attempts to fix the problem have come and gone. Recently, the mountain biking community hired Steve Butler, RPF and erosion control specialist, to prepare an erosion control plan for the parking lot. Hopefully, between mitigation measures required as part of the Rim THP and those recommended by Butler, the ongoing erosion problems will be remedied. Currently an important water bar at the low end of the parking area has a heap of drain rock in it which if not removed will impede the flow of water.
The committee also visited a large meadow that we were told can be used for a helicopter landing during nearby wildland fires, a portion of the Rim THP (see below), the location of a proposed stream crossing (Longridge Crossing) and large wood installation on Soquel Creek, the water tank project, as well as the bank failure site on Hihn Mill Road. We had lunch at the Badger Spring picnic area and heard a historical presentation about the Forest and adjacent Nisene Marks State Park by local historian Sandy Lydon.
Curiously, the acquisition of the forestland was part of a complex deal in which fee title has not yet been transferred to the State. A 25-year lease was developed in 1988 which stated that The Nature Conservancy (TNC) would manage the property. TNC transferred the lease to Cal Fire in 1990. The property is still held in trust by a bank in Santa Rosa and slated to be transferred permanently to the State, free and clear, in 2013.
The Draft General Forest Management Plan is available for review at: http://www.fire.ca.gov/resource_mgt/resource_mgt_stateforests_soquel.php
The SDSF Advisory Committee stopped to see a bit of the Rim THP during the field tour. A tree felling demonstration was conducted for the committee and the grand children of the faller, who were also present. We then took a detour and traveled a short way up to a landing within the Rim plan boundary. DFG and I did a very quick count of the rings on one large log showing the tree to have been at least 140 years old. SDSF is required by law to protect all old growth trees, however, the definition being used by SDSF says trees must be at least 175 years old to qualify.
Earlier in the day we were passed by a loaded log truck up on Highland Way. Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) is doing the harvest and trucking all logs less than 26" in diameter to their China Camp mill over near Sonora. 25% of the logs being cut are less than 18" in diameter. Logs 26" and greater are going to the Big Creek Mill as SPI can't accommodate logs of that size.
The 38 acre Victory THP on Branciforte Creek was re-circulated July 27 with a 30-day extension of Public Comment. However, during and after the Close of Public Comment, the RPF has continued to submit new change pages. The RPF submitted two change packets just days prior to Close of Comment, then added another packet a week and a half after the Close. Cal Fire says this is ok and does not trigger new re-circulation as all the changes are improvements, or 'further restrictions which would only improve water quality'. Hmm. If Cal Fire could be trusted to be the 'decider' from the get-go on what is and what is not an improvement, then we wouldn't need the various responsible agencies or public to comment at all. It's curious to me how there is always wiggle room allowed for RPFs, but when it comes to the public and our concerns, Cal Fire finds they must stick to the letter of the rules. DFG has not withdrawn their non-concurrence and it appears that Cal Fire is headed to approve the plan anyway.
Sponsored by the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club, Jack Ellwanger, Pelican Network, will share his power point presentation on the extensive clearcutting occurring in the Battle Creek Watershed upstream from a major salmon and steelhead restoration project.
Monday, September 19, 7:00- 9:00pm, Loma Prieta Chapter, 3921 East Bayshore Road, Palo Alto
"A unique coalition of fishermen, biologists and environmental groups are sounding the alarm that the $128 million taxpayer-funded Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project - the largest of its kind in the nation - is being jeopardized by erosion from upstream clearcutting by Sierra Pacific Industries."
Members of Pelican Network, 5000-member conservation group located in Big Sur, went to Battle Creek, a Sacramento River tributary in the Sierras to see for themselves. Jack Ellwanger will show us what they discovered -- the enormity of the clearcutting and its danger to the salmon restoration project, the Sierras, all of California, and our ability to limit global warming.
Jack Ellwanger, writer and environmental political leader, founded Pelican Network ten years ago to promote education and conservation awareness about California's natural resources."
Climate Change and SalmonidsIf you are interested in chairing/coordinating a session, field tour, or workshop, please send an email to .
"New research published today suggests that clipping off the small, fleshy fin between the dorsal fin and tail might hurt fish's ability to swim in turbulent water.
Not all fish have adipose fins, but salmon and trout do. Many biologists believe that while the fin may have been useful at some point the evolutionary history of fish, today it is vestigial -- lost its use because of evolutionary change.
Oregon clips more than 40 million adipose fins each year to help fishermen distinguish between catchable and protected fish, says Rick Swart, spokesman for Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Northwest Division.
A paper published today in the Proceedings of Royal Society B shows that the fin actually has a complex network of nervous tissue, cells and fibers which could help fish navigate in rough waters. "
"Although extensive experimental evidence indicates that such removal has less impact than removal of other fins, our results indicate substantive caution in the removal of a sensory and functional trait on individuals already subject to major demographic and environmental impact," the study reads.
- Mihir Zaveri
< back to all issues