Rick Coates, Forest Unlimited Executive Director
Yes, Forest Unlimited fights bad logging practices. Yes, Forest Unlimited plants trees. But, no less important, Forest Unlimited is also an educational organization.
The Forest Communique’ is part of our educational program. We hope that you learn something important from every issue. We try to keep you up to date on forestry law changes and current logging plans. We try to correct the misinformation spread by the corporate timber industry and developers. And we inform you of ways you can help protect your watershed.
Talks by experts at events
Those of you who attended our recent Dinner Under the Redwoods at Camp Meeker know that we alway try to include a talk by an expert on important forestry topics.
This year’s talk was on Forest Fire and Public Policy by Brian Nowicki. Brian presented evidence that fires were made catastrophic not by forests, but rather by flammable houses built too close together in the urban-wildland interface. He showed photos of whole groups of houses burned to the ground yet surrounded by still green or barely singed conifers some with no sign of crown or underbrush fire. He noted that chaparral, not timberland, is a greater danger, yet the legislature has no program for chaparral management and is instead spending large amounts of money on “thinning” areas that will never burn.
Although Brian did not say so, I could add that the timber industry and their handmaiden, the Department of Forestry, saw the recent catastrophic fire crisis as an opportunity to justify more logging and stampede the legislature into unwise legislation.
The fire problem can’t be solved by unrestricted thinning of forests dubbed “fuel reduction” by CalFire. This is especially true when CalFire so rarely enforces its rules.
It is the homes, the real “fuel”, that need to be fire-hardened. This is expensive and many homeowners cannot afford the expenditure. But the legislature that claims to be concerned has provided no funds to help.
The very real danger of overhead power lines remains unaddressed by the legislature thanks to intense lobbying and campaign donations by PG&E. Since the Tubbs fire, PG&E lines have started two more (thankfully small) fires in Sonoma County.
Another factor making fires catastrophic is, of course, global warming and the terrific winds powered by the earth’s increasing heat. Forests soak up the carbon dioxide, the major cause of global warming. Planting forests is one of the most cost-effective ways to deal with climate change. But the state has no serious program to plant trees or even protect existing forests.
Presentations for the general public
I have been making presentations at the Sonoma Public Library branches on “Protecting our Forests” that also dealt with the fire danger and the history of logging in the North Bay.
Did you know that logging in the Oakland hills in the 1840’s and 1850’s lead the way for hillside homes, narrow streets (former logging roads) and dry conditions that culminated in the 1991 Tunnel fire in Oakland?
That fire destroyed more than three thousand homes and killed 25 people! The lesson was not learned as we saw when fire incinerated Fountain Grove in Santa Rosa. Logging corporations (in reality, development corporations) follow the same practice as they did in the 1800’s: Buy forestland, log the hell out of it, then sell it for homes and ranchettes. This places housing directly in wildlands.
Forest Protection Workshops
Forest Unlimited also has a program of Forest Protection Workshops specifically designed for watershed groups and neighborhood associations that are confronted with a proposed logging plan. It is difficult for groups to know just how to effectively deal with nearby logging. By the time they figure out the system, CalFire has approved the logging plan and trees are beginning to fall. So we provide them with a head start by explaining forestry law and regulations, identifying the governmental agencies responsible for making and enforcing those regulations and suggesting ways to intervene in the review process to alter and sometimes stop logging plans. Without citizen oversight, CalFire will simply not follow the law as we have repeatedly proved in court.
Project Based Learning
Finally, we educate citizens about the importance of active participation in policy decisions made by our legislature, our Supervisors and public servants.
For example, Forest Unlimited supporters recently attended a Supervisors Meeting to ask them to place revision of the Tree Ordinance on their staff’s work plan which they did. In the process, those who attended learned more about the county legislative process. We will be asking for your participation again when it returns to the Board of Supervisors.
Convinced that the best education is hands on learning by doing, we use our tree planting as an opportunity to teach about redwood ecology, proper methods of planting and the importance of forests to combating climate change. Incidentally, if you want to be notified of our next tree planting, email our Reforestation Manager Harlie Rankin firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have additional ideas for our educational outreach, please contact us at email@example.com .