In Mendocino County a small, heavily logged watershed, home to spotted owls and other old growth-dependent species, is in imminent danger of further degradation.

Big Salmon Creek is a small coastal stream that flows through redwood forests directly into the Pacific just south of the town of Albion. The Salmon Creek watershed is home to Northern spotted owls, tailed frogs, red tree voles, and other species that depend on mature forest habitat. The creek itself, not to belie its name, hosts a run of coho salmon, also a listed species.

Now, in violation of promises made by both owners and public agencies, an intensive and accelerated harvest is set to begin soon. Activists and Albion residents are up in arms.

In 1999, the Hawthorne/Campbell Group purchased about 200,000 acres of forestland in Mendocino County from Georgia Pacific. This included 4,500 acres in the Salmon Creek watershed. Over the 20 years of industrial ownership about a third of the Salmon Creek holdings have been clearcut.

Now Hawthorne/Campbell has announced its intention to log 317 acres on Salmon Creek. According to its harvest plan, 177 acres will be clearcut; 163 acres will be "tractor-yarded," a practice in which the felled trees are dragged to a loading area using heavy equipment.

Local groups in the Albion community had sued Georgia Pacific in 1992 over its forestry practices, and in 1993 got the company to agree to "do a better job" of logging on Salmon Creek. Specifically, GP promised to do only selective cuts in lands they had not yet entered.

In 1993 the California Department of Forestry (CDF), the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and other agencies agreed to GP’s selective logging plan for the watershed, provided the company waited 15 years to log the area again.

"Georgia Pacific said it would not be back in for 15 years. Then [6 years later] in 1999 they were back," says Albion resident Linda Perkins.

When Hawthorne bought the land on Salmon Creek from GP, they inherited the 1999 timber harvest plan. Then they announced their intention to clearcut part of the parcel.

"We feel promises were made to us– by the agencies, and by the owner– that were not kept," says Perkins. "We would like, for the sake of the watershed, that some promises be kept."

Salmon Creek is a high-quality site with mature forest for wildlife that is old growth-dependent. (Three Northern spotted owl pairs are nesting in the area, according to Perkins.)

The creek itself is important for its runs of steelhead and coho salmon. In a site inspection report issued in 1999, GP fisheries biologist Jon Ambrose said that Salmon Creek is "the best habitat for coho in our ownership."

The creek is not (yet) temperature-impaired, but does contain sediment from runoff caused by unrocked logging roads and tractor-disturbed soil. The tractor yarding and clearcutting proposed by Hawthorne would only increase these impacts.

Alerted by the community, U.S. Fish and Wildlife found that Hawthorne had incorrectly mapped Northern spotted owl habitat.

"They erroneously showed areas that had been clearcut as nesting/roosting habitat rather than non-habitat, for example," Perkins pointed out.

Before the saws go into the Salmon Creek watershed again, the site needs to be properly inspected and threatened and endangered species identified.

"The agencies should go out there and make an accurate determination of the species
present," said Forests Forever executive director Paul Hughes. "Instead they are sitting on their hands."


Call or fax DFG Director Ryan Broddrick at (916) 653-6897, Fax: (916) 653-7387, and tell him to make Salmon Creek a high priority for a site visit, so that the agency can identify the wildlife there and ensure that risks to threatened species are minimized.

Call CDF Director Andrea Tuttle at (916) 653-7772 and tell her to actively encourage the DFG to visit the Salmon Creek site.

Finally, call or fax Duncan Campbell, chairman of the board of Campbell Timber Management Company (which is handling the harvest for Hawthorne) at (503) 275-9675, Fax: (503) 275-9667, and tell him not to clearcut in the Salmon Creek watershed.

The public comment period on the Timber Harvest Plan (cite THP number 1-04-061 MEN) begins June 3 and will be open until at least June 21. Logging could begin soon after.

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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places