Sustainable Forestry begins on Mendocino Coast


On November 1st the Conservation Fund closed escrow on 4,000 acres of Salmon Creek and 12,000 acres of Big River (see below).  The land was purchased with the expressed intent to practice sustainable forestry in order to pay for the restoration of these damaged forests and return them to near pristine condition The Conservation Fund also has 24,000 acres on the Garcia River that they are discovering how to make this radically new forestry paradigm work. 


Please notice that I used the word "intent" as this exercise is a high-risk venture to stop the destruction of our forests in a world where other alternates are not forthcoming.  It will be successful; but will require caring communities to attend to the forest's physical, social and fiscal needs.  The good news is that this situation offers us an opportunity to reach beyond our normal limits and to accomplish some very necessary tasks for the planet and for our community evolution.


Stay tuned in and turned on... this is a grand opportunity to create real progress in forestry practice and community spirit; your ideas are solicited.  It’s time to truly work together for the health of the planet.


Please join us at or the listserve Community Sustainable Forestry: or and this page is available at or through  ~Bernie Macdonald

$48.5 million purchase of Big River lands
By FRANK HARTZELL Of The Beacon --
Article Last Updated:11/09/2006 11:08:01 AM PST

Loggers and environmentalists have more than joined hands on the 
purchase of 25 square miles of the Big River and Salmon Creek 
watersheds — they are one and the same.

The Conservation Fund, of
Arlington, Va., working closely with locals 
including environmental activists, closed escrow Wednesday, Nov. 1, 
on a $48.5 million purchase of 16,000 acres owned by the Campbell-
Hawthorne Timber Company.

The Fund, which borrowed $25 million from the State Water Board to 
make the purchase and got most of the rest of the money from a 
plethora of conservation groups, won't be selling the land for a park 
or declaring it off limits to logging.

The Conservation Fund already operates as a logging company in the 
south county, using revenues produced by the chainsaw to boost the 
local economy and pay to fix erosion caused by clear-cutting. Net 
annual logging revenues on the new property were estimated at $3.6 
million in an appraisal submitted to the State Water Board.

While the purchase does not create a nature sanctuary or public park 
it does protect the forest from the monoculture of vineyards and from 
roads and other problems created by private homes, said Chris Kelly, 
who has spearheaded the efforts for The Conservation Fund.

The Conservation Fund last year purchased 24,000 acres of
forest land in the Gualala [Garcia, not Gualala] area, where 
logging is under way. The new purchase makes The Conservation Fund 
one of the most significant logging operations in the county, with 
40,000 acres of holdings. Kelly said logs from the
Big River property 
will be milled in Ukiah or

"We will hire local foresters, loggers, equipment operators and the 
like. We will be opening a local office and be very involved in 
overseeing the management of the property," Kelly said.

Originally, State Water Board documents said the purchase could cut 
the amount of logging by 40 percent. Kelly said final figures haven't 
been decided but that harvest levels would probably decline. He said 
ways the public could access some of the property will be studied.

Fish and some wildlife populations of
Big River — along with economic 
values of the land — have suffered from destructive historic logging. 
Pampas grass, alders and other brush have seized ground that once 
sprouted massive
Douglas Firs and redwood trees. Logging roads have 
deteriorated, contributing to the sediment load sliding into
. Water Board studies show Big River water quality listed as 
seriously contaminated by erosion from past logging on the property. 
The improvement to
Big River water quality was a prime reason for the 
state loan to The Conservation Fund.

The new purchase includes 11,600 acres along
Big River, north and 
east (upstream) of the current state park, which was purchased just 
three years ago. The
Big River purchase runs north to Highway 20 near 
mile marker 13.0.

Salmon Creek purchase

Also included in the purchase are 4,345 acres of Salmon Creek. Salmon 
Creek is not listed as crippled by erosion, and the trees are bigger 
and better quality than on
Big River lands. Salmon Creek flows into 
the ocean under the first bridge south of Albion on Highway 1

"Salmon Creek is one of the best Coho salmon-producing streams, on 
what was formerly Campbell Hawthorne properties," said Albion forest 
activist Linda Perkins. "The population is small but a healthy, 
stable and native population critical to salmon recovery in

Studies show that
Mendocino County's once incomparable logging 
resource has been among the most compromised in all
California by a 
century of logging. The decline in the earning capacity of local 
forest lands has also helped hasten the decline of the salmon fishery.

Some activists who challenged past purchases made for environmental 
protection are supporting the current effort — that includes logging.

Perkins spearheaded an effort to challenge State Parks in court over 
the purchase of
Big River State Park. Her group was critical of the 
fact that logging roads, a primary cause of erosion, were left in the 
hands of the logging company by the state and the
Mendocino Land Trust.

Asked for her reaction to the new purchase, Perkins said "How about 

"We are thrilled to have the new neighbor," she said. She praised the 
efforts by Kelly and said the Conservation Fund had made a real 
effort to work with local people and conditions.

Perkins explained that existing plans for clear cutting will be set 
aside in favor of selecting trees for harvest by the Conservation Fund.

"Careful logging can be OK. I think we have no choice in terms of the 
economics of this county," Perkins said.

Conservation and logging

A proposed development with a parcel split on Albion Ridge by 
Midstream Partners alarmed local activists and helped lead to the 
proposed grading ordinance being considered by county supervisors. 
Kelly said a prime threat to the county's forest resource comes from 
the sale of big land parcels to private parties. There are currently 
10 such Mendocino Coast parcels for sale through local real estate 
agents, including those that have had homes for many years. No new 
divisions of large parcels have been proposed on the coast recently. 
The land has timber production (TPZ) zoning, which means very low 
taxes, which would be lost if converted to any other use. Kelly 
points out there are many parcels where old subdivision maps allow 
for division without amendments to zoning.

Perkins also sees as real the threat posed by development that would 
break big parcels into smaller pieces.

The Gualala [Garcia, not Gualala] purchase by The Conservation Fund 
brought a
San Francisco Chronicle story this summer that got national 
play as the possible beginning of a trend toward sustainable logging 
by owners thinking of long-term land values, rather than immediate 

That news story was headlined, "Conservation and loggers, old 
enemies, try working together," a statement that plays off popular 
stereotypes of loggers being against all regulations and 
environmentalists being against all logging. Neither of those notions 
has been true locally. When big corporations have engaged in logging 
that injured the future earning capacity of their own lands, local 
logging families have been among their most vocal critics. Those same 
local loggers have practiced more sustainable logging on some of 
their own lands. Local environmentalists, who pushed for total 
government protection of forests from corporate bulldozer clear-cut 
logging, have long been willing to support more sustainable logging 

In Mendocino County timber companies owned such huge tracts of land 
and so many of them that the entire ecology and economy was 
determined by two or three big corporations, whose names changed over 
the decades, but between whom the big parcels were passed.

Kelly said many such parcels are too big and too expensive to be 
purchased for parks. The Conservation Fund wants to keep the forest 
parcels from being broken up into multiple uses for the benefit of 
both local ecology and the local economy.

"We have refocused our efforts in
California to preserving timber 
land in the coastal area. We are trying to protect particularly large 
productive, biologically rich forest lands ... to continue to manage 
with them in a way that will contribute to the local economy," Kelly 
said. He said no other local purchases are currently on the board for 
The Conservation Fund.

Those who have been involved in the
Big River purchase process 
include Perkins, Bill Heil, Tom Wodetzki, Sharon Hansen, Warren 
DeSchmidt, Larry Miller and Bernie MacDonald.

"A dozen
Albion locals organized public meetings to educate the 
community about this opportunity to purchase 4,000-plus acres of our 
Salmon Creek watershed as a community asset, and also held several 
fund-raising events that raised several thousand dollars for this 
purchase and research," said Wodetzki, who also hopes sustainable 
logging will take off locally.

Art Harwood of
Harwood Forest Products has also been a leader in the 
sustainable logging efforts and those of The Conservation Fund.

Craig Blencowe and Darcie Mahoney are providing forestry consulting, 
Kelly said. "We expect to involve others as we build our local 
management team."

On Friday, Nov. 17 at
11 a.m., the State Water Board will present a 
symbolic check for $25 million to The Conservation Fund in a grove of 
redwoods near the state capitol. Other donors include the Coastal 
Conservancy, which chipped in $7.25 million, the Wildlife 
Conservation Board, which contributed $7.25 million, while the 
Conservation Fund spent $9.5 million.

Of the $9.5 million contributed by The Conservation Fund, $5.5 
million was borrowed on a line of credit which the group hopes to 
repay with continued fund- raising over the next year or so, Kelly said.

The acquisition drew the support of the
Mendocino Land Trust.

"The acquisition protects the investment we made in 2002 on behalf of 
the Mendocino community in that it is immediately adjacent to the 
7,334 acres of what is now
Big River State Park. Protecting the 
estuary portion of the
Big River watershed was really significant," 
said James Bernard, executive director of the Land Trust.

"We are pleased to see a national conservation organization partner 
with a local organization, the Redwood Forest Foundation, Inc., to 
demonstrate that timber production can continue on these lands in a 
sustainable manner that will reduce sedimentation and consequent 
impact on the downstream owners [State Parks]."

Bernard said the Land Trust does not undertake sustainable timber 
management activities. "We do want to work with landowners who wish 
to pursue sustainable practices on their lands and permanently 
conserve their properties' working forest values in the
Big River 
watershed and elsewhere in
Mendocino County. To that end, the Land 
Trust will be launching an initiative next year with Proposition 50 
funding to reach out to landowners in the
Big River and Noyo River 

Three organizations have now conserved significant portions of the 
Big River watershed: Save-the-Redwoods League in the headwaters 
including and around
Montgomery Woods; the Land Trust in the estuary; 
and The Conservation Fund in the middle reaches, Bernard said.


Note: The 24,000 acres of forest in southern
Mendocino County 
previously purchased by The Conservation Fund are in the
Garcia River 
watershed, just north of the
Gualala River watershed. - Dave Jordan