August 27, 2014

Bohemian Club settlement provides protection

Redwood tree. Copyright Sharon Williams, courtesy Sierra Club Library.

Redwood tree. Copyright Sharon Williams, courtesy Sierra Club Library.

The settlement reached by the Sierra Club, the Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club (BRRC), and the Bohemian Club regarding the Bohemian Club’s revised Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) includes a number of significant changes to the original long-term logging plan. “We are pleased that the Bohemian Club has made significant changes to its long-term forest management plan which will result in improved long-term protection and restoration of the majestic Bohemian Grove,” said Jay Halcomb, Sierra Club’s Redwood Chapter Chair.

The Bohemian Club has agreed to protect a greater number of large trees in the healthiest parts of the forest (technically called the RD4D strata) so that tree volume metrics are kept very similar to those in one of the finest old-growth stands on the property—the Upper Bull Barn old-growth reference stand.

The revised plan will include a stated objective that, at the end of 100 years, the RD4D strata that include the oldest and highest-quality trees will average 200 square feet of conifers per acre. Based on our calculations, this will include at least 46 square feet basal area per acre of the largest trees (those over 40 inches or more in diameter); and an additional 76 square feet basal area per acre of trees between 32 and 40 inches in diameter. This condition represents a significant change over the initially approved plan, which contemplated that these areas would contain 150 square feet of conifers per acre, including 30 square feet basal area per acre of trees 32 to 39 inches and 20 square feet basal area per acre of trees 40 inches and greater. The settlement ensures that more big trees will be growing 100 years from now and that the property will more quickly achieve its goal of old growth restoration.

The revised plan also provides that redwood-stand conditions in the RD4D strata will be achieved predominantly by ‘thinning from below’, a light-harvest technique that encourages old-growth conditions by limiting cutting to smaller and suppressed trees.

The revised plan also provides that conifer-harvest entries will not be more frequent than once every 20 years, absent unusual circumstances, such as fire danger.

In addition, although not reflected in the revised NTMP, the parties agreed that old growth stands and trees 40 inches in diameter at breast height or greater will be marked and permanently protected across the property with verification by an independent forester before and after each logging entry; that areas of highest fire danger will be identified and targeted for early treatment; and that vehicular uses of a road passing through the largest hillside old-growth stand on the property—the Bull Barn Stand—will be limited to firefighting.

Background

In March 2011 the Sierra Club and BRRC won a lawsuit (Sierra Club versus California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection ) in Sonoma County Superior Court, which required Cal-Fire to rescind an NTMP it had previously issued to the Bohemian Club to log its Bohemian Grove property outside Monte Rio on the Russian River. The Court’s ruling was based largely on the fact that the NTMP had not considered a range of feasible, less-damaging alternatives, a central requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act. A resubmitted NTMP, revised to reflect the terms of the settlement agreement, has recently been released for public comment by Cal-Fire. The Sierra Club, Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club, and John Hooper personally have written Cal-Fire expressing their support for the revised NTMP.

In May 2011 the Bohemian Club approached the environmental petitioners to inquire if a mediated settlement could be tried. The Sierra Club and BRRC accepted the idea and mediation went on for nearly a year. “This settlement process was not without a few bumps in the road along the way, but all parties realized that working together would produce superior results than being adversarial,” stated John Hooper, a lifetime Sierra Club member and former Bohemian Club member, who resigned from the Bohemian Club over its logging practices in 2004, and is now the treasurer of BRRC.

The court decision in Sierra Club v Cal-Fire has put the agency on notice that it can no longer approve logging plans until it has considered a range of feasible, less-damaging alternatives. “A proper consideration of alternatives should improve environmental review and better protect our forests,” said Paul V. Carroll, the attorney who represented the Sierra Club and the BRRC through the legal proceedings and mediation.

The settlement includes substantial improvements to the Bohemian Club’s original long-term logging plan, which was rejected by the court.

from Redwood Needles, newsletter of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter

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