A bill that would plug the timber harvest approval process into the Information Age has been introduced by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica).

SB 744 would require the state Board of Forestry to make timber harvesting plans (THPs) available on the web. The bill also would levy a reasonable fee, paid by applicants for a THP, to help offset the administrative costs of posting THPs on the web.

Making THPs available on the internet will greatly improve public access, making it much easier for concerned citizens to find and comment on them. Currently THPs are processed exclusively on paper, making dissemination of this information slow and cumbersome.

"The current process is burdensome, causing delay and inconvenience for citizens who want to comment on THPs," said Paul Hughes, executive director of Forests Forever. "That serves the interests of the logging companies and landowners, not the public as a whole."

The bill also would help ease the paperwork burden on the California Department of Forestry (CDF). It is especially appropriate that a process concerned with logging should help forests by using less paper. The CDF cranks out between 800 and 1,200 timber harvest plans a year, all processed on paper.

An opponent of the bill, the California Forestry Association, worries that posting THPs on the web "would provide easy access to people around the world to file comments." They also worry that the openness of the internet would encourage people to "mischievously comment on THPs for the sole purpose of typing [sic] up the Department’s personnel and resources."

The idea that commenting on California timber harvest plans might become a kind of global fad is intriguing, but rather unlikely. "As for filing ‘mischievous’ comments, whatever those might be," Hughes said, "it’s not up to the forestry association to decide what’s mischievous, let alone to curtail citizen access."

Making public access easier increases the transparency of government processes, and benefits everyone– except those who would prefer to have their plans become reality without public scrutiny.

Said Hughes, "This is an idea that Forests Forever has long advocated."


SB 744 has cleared the state Senate and is about to go to the Assembly
floor. Write to your assemblymember and ask him or her to support Sen. Kuehl’s SB 744.

You can locate your assemblymember at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov

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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places