$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
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
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
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
values of the land have suffered from destructive historic logging.
Pampas grass, alders and other brush have seized ground that once
deteriorated, contributing to the sediment load sliding into
seriously contaminated by erosion from past logging on the property.
The improvement to
state loan to The Conservation Fund.
The new purchase includes 11,600 acres along
east (upstream) of the current state park, which was purchased just
three years ago. The
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
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
resource has been among the most compromised in all
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
fact that logging roads, a primary cause of erosion, were left in the
hands of the logging company by the state and the
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
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
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
include Perkins, Bill Heil, Tom Wodetzki, Sharon Hansen, Warren
DeSchmidt, Larry Miller and Bernie MacDonald.
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
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
On Friday, Nov. 17 at , 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
"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
estuary portion of the
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
watershed and elsewhere in
Trust will be launching an initiative next year with Proposition 50
funding to reach out to landowners in the
Three organizations have now conserved significant portions of the
including and around
and The Conservation Fund in the middle reaches, Bernard said.
Note: The 24,000 acres of forest in southern
previously purchased by The Conservation Fund are in the
watershed, just north of the