The good news:

In December 2003 Forests Forever asked newly elected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to initiate legislation requiring the state to charge landowners a reasonable fee– consistent with the current practice for obtaining building permits– for filing and review of Timber Harvesting Plans (THPs).

In the new governor’s budget for May 2004 there is just such a proposal.

In 2003 the state reduced the California Department of Forestry (CDF) budget by $10 million, assuming that the shortfall would be made up by timber harvest plan fees. These fees were never implemented.

The new budget proposed by Schwarzenegger would assess a fee for review of timber harvest plans. The revenue from this fee is intended to make up the $10 million shortfall in the CDF budget.

California’s forestry rules help mitigate the environmental effects of logging on our water, air and wildlife. Private landowners should pay their share to support the CDF’s enforcement of these rules; otherwise the burden falls solely on the taxpayer.

The not-so-good news:

To offset the impact of these new fees on the timber industry, the administration also is proposing to "streamline" California’s timber harvest regulations.

Currently timber harvest plans can sometimes run to a hundred pages or more. They are prepared by Registered Professional Foresters (hired by the landowners), and sometimes reviewed by one or more governmental agencies, including the Department of Conservation, the Department of Fish and Game, and the State Water Resources Control Board.

Just what "streamlining" the regulations would consist of has not yet been made public. The budget plan does mention three areas in which changes will be made:

1) an extension of the effective period covered by a THP;
2) allowing plans to cover entire watersheds; and
3) reducing paperwork for landowners.

Although the administration protests that these changes will not weaken environmental protections for forests, it is difficult to see how extending the range and lifespan of THPs while at the same time reducing the "paperwork" involved will allow the level of review that currently exists. Some environmentalists think that the review process is already ineffective in ensuring forest protection.

"These ‘streamlining’ changes are torn straight from the timber industry’s long-standing wish list," said Forests Forever Executive Director Paul Hughes. "We need to regulate logging better, not less, and shift the rightful costs to the businesses and individuals who profit from these impacts to our environment."

Write to Schwarzenegger and thank him for proposing the THP fee. But also let him know that making environmental compliance simpler for the timber industry must not come at the expense of California’s watersheds and wildlife. Tell him to be sure that the regulatory changes he is proposing do not lessen the level of scientific review and public oversight that THPs must undergo before being approved.

Write Schwarzenegger at:
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-2841 (phone)
(916) 445-4633 (fax)
Download a PDF of the Forests Forever newsletter at our website: www.forestsforever.org/archives_resources/newsletters



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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places