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In a devastating but still little-publicized move, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently exercised his line-item veto power to completely eliminate the state Dept. of Fish and Game’s (DFG’s) budget for inspecting logging in vast timber-producing regions of California.

The governor’s action came at the close of the long and wearying battle over the state’s 2010-2011 budget.

The cut represents fully two thirds of DFG’s timber harvest inspection budget for the entire state and affects primarily the Sierra Nevada and northern interior California, where by far the most clearcutting is taking place.

As one outraged citizen wrote in a letter to the editor of Santa Rosa’s Press Democrat soon after the veto, “It only took a single stroke of a pen for the Terminator to ax the Department of Fish and Game's Timber Harvest Plan (THP) review program from the state budget… How will the remaining three or four employees be able to review plans as required by law?”
On-the-ground timber harvest inspections are one of the ways the state protects the natural resources of its public and private forests.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the state’s largest clearcutter, as well as a major campaign contributor to Schwarzenegger, Sierra Pacific Industries will be the budget cut's biggest beneficiary. Timber Harvest Plan Inspection. Photo courtesy Calif. Dept. of  Fish & Game. While another agency, the California Department of Forestry (CDF), is charged with conducting the final review and approval of all THPs, as Forests Forever has often pointed out, the CDF’s chief role is firefighting, not resource management.

The various stakeholders must look to DFG for science-based recommendations on mitigating or preventing harm from logging projects to protected species and threatened habitats.

The DFG’s reviews have taken place before and during logging activities on California’s private and state-owned forestlands. DFG is authorized to conduct these reviews under the state's Forest Practice Rules and under the California Environmental Quality Act.

We strongly support DFG’s authority and qualifications to conduct THP reviews as mandated by state law. We will fight to restore the DFG’s THP review funding because we know that without such reviews, the state’s wildlife, water supplies, forest-area local economies, and strong tourism and recreation industries will suffer.

We need your support in this cause and we ask you to donate generously so we can continue to fight on the forests’ behalf.

“Of the agencies charged with reviewing timber operations’ compliance with water and wildlife protection codes, DFG has been the standout in recent years, looking out for sensitive and endangered species,” said Forests Forever Executive Director Paul Hughes. “They make sure, for example, that nesting trees to be spared from cutting are properly identified and marked; in evaluating stream crossings being built for heavy equipment; in protecting rare plants; and much more.”

As a result of Schwarzenegger’s budget cut, Hughes added, “DFG will be left with a paltry budget to look after anadromous fish species on the North Coast, and little else.”

In recent years DFG has been the only environmentally responsible agency to maintain a reliable presence in pre-harvest inspections, providing vital information to agencies, environmental advocates, the concerned public and the timber operators themselves. With DFG out of the picture, and with citizens not allowed on pre-harvest inspections unless by invitation of the CDF or the timberland owners, there will not be a watchdog in the forest.

With more than 7.6 million acres of private and industrial forestland within California to safeguard, the DFG’s review function is vital in maintaining water quality, biological diversity, and other environmental values. The governor’s funding cuts jeopardize all those values, not just in the short term, but for generations to come.

In the coming year, we intend to lobby vigorously to restore funding for the DFG’s THP review program. With the budget seriously stretched, we know it’s an uphill battle. But with your generous donation we are ready to meet that challenge and win.

Thank you for contributing to the cause!


Forests Forever:
Their Ecology, Restoration, and Protection
John J. Berger

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places