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Prioritize cultural resources before logging

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Matt Dias of the California Forestry Association, happily nicknamed “Calforests,” paints a rosy picture of Cal Fire’s management of the Jackson Demonstration State Forest (“A success story in forest management,” Close to Home, Sunday). If I was the head of the biggest lumber lobbying organization in the state, I’d be pretty happy too. California operates the Jackson State Demonstration Forest as industrial forest lands, centering land management decisions on timber benefits. The rest of us have to live with Cal Fire logging on our public lands. Let’s look at the facts.

The Jackson Forest is the ancestral home of the Pomo and Coast Yuki peoples. Tribal people have lived and cared for these lands since time immemorial. The forest was also a refuge, a literal hiding place, of white settlers determined to exterminate the local tribes. The forest is full of tribal artifacts and resources. Logging has already damaged these sacred sites and will continue to do so unless the state makes changes.

Don’t take my word for it – that’s the conclusion of the 1999 Betts report, which found that logging operations routinely damage cultural artifacts. This state-sponsored archaeological report recommended that no logging or road building activity be carried out in the areas of the sacred sites until their boundaries can be properly surveyed and a road maintenance plan be developed for their protection.

Yet the destruction continues to this day. Cal Fire continues to recklessly threaten tribal culture by building roads in areas known to contain sacred sites. New roads not only threaten sacred sites, they also cause sedimentation of salmon streams. Cal Fire also continues to use herbicides in hardwood stands that tribal peoples cultivated to support greater densities of conifers for the timber industry. (There’s no money in tanoaks.) Killed hardwoods as well as residue left over from logging operations are turning Jackson into a pile of kindling, endangering nearby communities. These are just a few examples of the unpleasant realities of managing our state lands as an industrial forest.

There is an alternative: the Save Jackson Coalition has called for a public rethink of forest management goals. Instead of managing primarily for timber production, the state could manage these lands with local tribal governments to protect cultural resources and artifacts, sequester and store carbon safely, provide habitat for fish and wildlife , defend homes from wildfires and support recreational economies for local communities. .

Tom Wheeler is executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center at Arcata.

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