The Schwarzenegger administration is pushing a stealth rewrite of the state’s forestry rules as part of its new budget proposal. This "trailer bill" tacked on to the state budget would, among other things, create a new category of timber harvesting plan that would allow landowners to log their lands with minimal agency supervision.

The net effect would be to virtually wipe out the state’s already bare-bones framework of environmental regulation and public oversight. This proposal, if passed, would represent an enormous step backward for California’s forests and wildlife.

As promised by the governor, a fee for the review of timber harvest plans also is part of the bill. The revenue from this fee is intended to make up the $10 million shortfall in CDF funding in the 2003 budget. While environmentalists have long advocated a reasonable fee of this sort, the proposed fee would sunset in 2007 unless extended by the legislature.

The administration also is proposing to "streamline" California’s timber harvest regulations.
There are several problems with the proposed "streamlining," but the worst feature is the creation of Certified Forest Timber Harvest Plans (CFTHPs), covering whole watersheds. Under these plans, private landowners whose forestry practices have been certified by third-party organizations would not have to file a timber harvest plan for each logging project within the CFTHP. Instead, they would merely have to inform the CDF that they intend to log. They would be exempt from further government or public review unless their certification expires or is revoked.

This replaces the current, scarcely adequate system of review with a one-time stamp of approval from third-party certifiers who may well be of questionable independence. The provisions of the bill are tantamount to timber industry self-regulation.

Two of the certifying organizations allowed by the bill, the American Tree Farm System (ATFS) and the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI), are heavily funded by timber industry trade associations. An American Lands Alliance report (http://www.Americanlands.org/sfi_reports.htm) found the SFI standards for certification to be insufficient to protect the environment. In any case, these standards were frequently not being met by companies that had been certified by SFI. The standards of the ATFS were found by the same report to be "much weaker than the SFI [standards]."

The trailer bill is going through the legislature as part of the budget process, and could be passed as soon as June 17. We must take action now!

Write to Gov. Schwarzenegger and 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 drop the CFTHP provisions from the budget trailer bill and keep the level of scientific review and public oversight that THPs must undergo at least as stringent as it is now.
Write, fax, or call Schwarzenegger at:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
(916) 445-2841 (phone)
(916) 445-4633 (fax)


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

from Forests Forever Foundation
and the Center for American Places