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Fishers of Gap, Inc., Log Depleted Redwood Forests

by Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2000 at 5:43 PM

Fishers of Gap, Inc., Purchase Timber-friendly "Green Label" for Logging Depleted Redwood Forests - Local environmental groups cry "Foul!" - - Green Builders say "It's a scam." - - Gap Boycott escalates protests against unsustainable, phony "green label" logging -

Environmental groups in Mendocino have never had an easy job, trying to

save the Mendocino coast redwood forest and its critically endangered

wildlife and fish. Permitting corporate loggers to liquidate their forests

and destroy public trust resources has long been California state

government policy. The Forest Stewardship Council-which provides private

wood products certification in a secret process paid for by the logging

company-has now weighed in, with a phony "green stamp" for more depletion

logging by the Fishers of the Gap, who have been logging the dregs of the

forest, left behind by former owner Louisiana Pacific, for two years.

The timber-friendly FSC permits clearcutting, toxic herbicide use, and

logging of the last old growth trees, on the mere promise that the logging

company will phase out these damaging practices at some time in the future.

Mary Pjerrou, of the Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance, a group that has

been monitoring logging in Mendocino County for eleven years, said, "I've

got to hand it to the Fishers. It's a brilliant P.R. gimmick. Just give

it a 'green label' and maybe people won't notice that the endangered

species in these forests are being wiped off of planet earth."

Pjerrou cited a typical example of the Fishers' "green label" logging. "In

1995, industry surveys found only 10 Coho salmon in Elk Creek, a once

abundant fishery. This year, the Fishers filed their twelfth logging plan

in Elk Creek, which contained a list of species found this year. The Coho

salmon is absent from the list."

"Ten Coho salmon in 1995. Seventeen logging plans later (12 of them

belonging to the Fishers), no Coho salmon. The Forest Stewardship Council

has a lot to answer for, giving a 'green label' to species extinction,"

Pjerrou said.

Linda Perkins, of the Albion River Watershed Protection Association, said,

"What I've seen in the Albion is appalling-Fisher foresters chasing

endangered Northern Spotted Owls from one place to another, and cutting

down their last bits of habitat. They pretend to be an environmentally

sensitive company, but what this shows me is greed and indifference."

Industry studies, compiled by the local watershed groups, reveal that only

3% of the average timber stands in Fisher forests contain the bigger trees

needed by wildlife. Perkins accused the Fishers of focusing their logging

on that last 3%.

"The Fishers are taking 25% of their annual cut out of the Albion River

watershed, which comprises only 7% of their ownership," Perkins said. "The

reason: The Albion has a relatively high percent of the few big trees

left--due to years of community activism, that slowed down the previous

liquidator, L-P. Is this 'green label' work-taking the last big trees from

depleted forests? I don't think so.".

Green Builder and general contractor Mark Hilovsky agreed. "I think

certified lumber is a scam, because liquidation loggers, like the Gap

Fishers, are being certified, and the Public is being charged more money

for the wood," Hilovsky said.

Hilovsky, who was a key organizer of the campaign to protect old growth

trees, warned the public about phoney "green labels."

"We have long suspected that the Forest Stewardship Council certification

process cannot be trusted as a guarantee of sustainably logged wood. Their

'green label' for the Fishers is the final blow to their credibility,"

Hilovsky said.

Gap Boycott Heats up Campaign for Wildlife Refuge

Mary Bull, of the Save the Redwoods-Boycott the Gap Campaign, said that Gap

logging protests will escalate this Holiday season, from now through

January.

"We have protest actions planned at Gap stores all over North America--in

Winnipeg, Canada, Houston, Texas, Lawrence, Kansas, Boston, Mass., Denver,

Colorado, Seattle, Washington, Santa Barbara, San Francisco--home of the

Gap--and many other places," Bull said.

"The theme is 'Give the Gift of Life this Holiday Season.' We want the

Fishers to stop logging and create a critically needed fish and wildlife

refuge in Mendocino. They can take the tax advantage, and still provide

well-paying jobs for woods workers, restoring the forest."

Bull added, "And we are also targeting the Forest Stewardship Council. The

FSC needs to be exposed for what it is-a big money outfit, selling

worthless 'green labels' to big timber interests. Half of FSC's members

represent the timber industry, which has prevented higher standards. A

'green label' that permits clearcutting and herbicide use is a joke," Bull

said.

How could the FSC "certify" continued high-impact logging in severely

depleted forests? Pjerrou, Perkins, Hilovsky and Bull said, "Follow the

money." The Fishers are big contributors to the Natural Resources Defense

Council. Logging investor Robert Fisher, former Gap president, sits on the

NRDC Board. The NRDC was instrumental in creating the FSC--the group that

certified Fisher's logging company-and has a rep on the FSC Board.

"Money is driving these decisions, not ecology," Pjerrou said. "A 'green

label' costs money. A 'green label' makes money. The land itself is worth

a lot of money as real estate after the last merchantable timber is

removed."



BACKGROUND

Promises, promises! (The myth of "sustainable" logging...)

In analyzing the FSC certification documents, the Redwood Coast Watersheds

Alliance found that, on every issue, the certification was granted on the

mere promise by the logging company that it would change damaging forest

practices some time in the future.

Herbicides

A good example can be found on page 29 of the certification documents. The

certifiers told the Fishers' logging company to write a 'statement' of

their 'commitment' to phase out toxic herbicide use by 60% over a four year

period--and the other 40% 'over the long run.' That is ridiculous. What is

the worth of a 'green label' that permits poisoning of the environment as

long as the company writes a statement about not doing it?

Garlon is known to be toxic to salmon. The Fishers are using Garlon

extensively in their clearcutting areas. They've got 10 Coho salmon

falling to zero Coho salmon in one creek. L-P fish surveys revealed that

the Coho has already disappeared from 90% of the streams in this ownership.

And they're going to be poisoning these streams for four more years? And

poisoning 40% of them for an indefinite period after that? And this has a

'green label'?

"Sustained Yield" (i.e., "Sustained yield of what?")

The certifiers permit the Fishers to proceed with their 40+ million board

feet per year cut, on the promise that they will produce timber inventory

figures to justify the cut 12 months from now. (Page 25, "Public Summary of

Certification Report On the Evaluation of Mendocino Redwood Company,"

SCS-FM/COC-00026N, Oct. '00). They will have cut 40+ million board feet

per year for three years by the time they have inventory figures to justify

it. These forests don't have much merchantable timber left in them. When

those inventory figures come out-if they ever do-they will simply lower the

standard again. They will say, 'Well, these forests don't contain

endangered species any more. Let's just consider them tree farms. Or,

time to grow some grapes!"

The Fishers' logging company abandoned the public "Sustained Yield Plan"

process of the California Forest Practice Rules in January 2000. SYPs are

comprehensive long term forest management documents that regulate the

logging cut over time, and provide for protection of wildlife, fish and

other public trust resources, in each forest area, in a process of public

review.

In the mid-1990s, the California Board of Forestry promised Mendocino

County that all corporate loggers in the county would have SYPs by the late

1990s-the answer to liquidation logging. L-P submitted its SYP for public

review in November 1997. By the following spring, L-P was gone.

Enter the Fishers. The Fishers continued to use the loophole "Option C"

rules for filing individual logging plans, like other corporate loggers.

Then, when the extended deadline finally came for having an approved SYP,

they switched to the other loophole, "Option A." An "Option A" is a very

abbreviated document that basically just states the company's financial

goal, in the Fishers' case: cutting 40+ million board feet per year. The

Fishers' Option A contains zero information on individual forests, and was

not even publicly noticed.

The FSC certifiers added insult to injury by requiring that the Fishers

come up with an SYP (or its "equivalent") 2.5 years from now-another

ludicrous "condition," given the history of liquidation logging in

Mendocino.

"Transparency" in their Timber Harvest Plans

"Condition 2000.13 (C2): Upon award of certification, MRC must continue to

develop and implement new modes for interacting credibly and effectively

with the public. This entails such elements as: (1) making THPs' and

other management planning documents transparent and credible..." [emphasis

added] (Page 29, "Public Summary of Certification Report On the Evaluation

of Mendocino Redwood Company," SCS-FM/COC-00026N, Oct. '00)

Here is a typical example of "transparency" in Fisher Timber Harvest Plans:

MRC foresters have mounted a campaign, in their logging plans, to 'prove'

that there are no Coho salmon in Greenwood Creek. They cite 'evidence'

like a one day stream survey, 34 years ago, in which the surveyor didn't

happen to see Coho, while failing to disclose more recent, more

compelling, positive evidence of Coho in their own unpublished fish surveys

and in their own defunct SYP. The purpose of this dishonesty is to

downgrade the creek, so they can log it to infinity. Fisher THPs are

already very 'transparent.' The FSC didn't really have to include that

'condition.'

The FSC certification is about as non-transparent as it gets. The public

has no right to information and no right to participate in the FSC process.



The logging company's "openness"

The certifiers praise the logging company's "openness," yet the Fishers'

logging company has been worse than L-P as to providing real information to

the public. L-P provided thousands of pages of studies, maps and

individual watershed plans in the SYP. The Fishers have failed to submit

their long term plans for public review. They have further failed to

provide the public with critically important environmental review

information in their individual logging plans, such as Northern Spotted Owl

survey data-all in defiance of recent court rulings against them. The FSC

certifiers do not mention these court rulings (Mendocino Superior Court

case nos. CV 78423 and CV 81923).

In their tenth logging plan in Greenwood Creek, the Fishers propose

altering a watershed group's fish habitat restoration project, actions that

threaten to destroy the restoration work. The Timber Harvest Plan fails to

mention the restoration project, and fails to assess the risks to the

restoration project and to the endangered fish. This is not "openness."

Watershed groups have found numerous examples in Fisher logging plans of

failure to disclose information and failure to assess risks to endangered

species and other resources. If the certifiers were sincere about "new

modes" of transparency, they would have required the Fishers to amend all

of their current 200+ logging plans to include complete and accurate

information (as per California Forest Practice Rule 898.2(c)).

Logging the last old growth

The certifiers merely required the Fishers' logging company to write a

policy. It didn't matter to them that the policy has a big fat loophole

that permits the foresters to cut down every last old growth tree scattered

throughout this ownership, if they determine that the tree has no

"importance" to wildlife.

The Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance compiled the tree size data in the

defunct Sustained Yield Plan. The data revealed that 97% of the average

forest stands were in 1 to 21 inch diameter trees (very small trees), and

only 3% contained the bigger trees (24+inch diameter) needed by endangered

wildlife such as the Marbled Murrelet and the Spotted Owl. In short, there

is almost no old growth left in these forests. Every remaining old growth

tree is vital to endangered birds. MRC foresters are notorious for

evaluating public trust resources as having no importance to anything. The

certifiers were satisfied with the illusion of a protective policy.

Adding up the numbers

The Fishers's first public relations move in Mendocino was to get rid of

the word "clearcutting." They began calling what they were doing "variable

retention" (a 90% clearcut). That seemed slightly on the benign side.

However, the Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance, which reads Timber Harvest

Plans-the actual documents that permit logging (of which hundreds are filed

every year)--added up the numbers in Fisher Timber Harvest Plans.

In sum: the Fishers have increased the area of forest that is being entered

and logged by a whopping 75% over L-P levels. This will more than make up

for their 10% clearcut retention, as to profits. The net gain for the

forest is zilch-or even worse impacts from the increased area of

disturbance.

The stats: In 1997, L-P filed a total of 3,741 acres of logging. In 1998,

L-P and MRC (combined about equally) filed 4,161 acres of logging. In

1999, MRC alone filed 7,334 acres of logging. In the year 2000, keeping

pace with 1999, MRC filed 6,505 acres of logging as of September.

This acreage is cumulative. MRC now owns all of these plans. The total is

over 200 logging plans (104 of them purchased from L-P).

The Alliance also added up the number of plans that contain clearcutting in

whatever form-"traditional," 100% clearcut, "variable retention," a 90%

clearcut, "seed tree removal," a 2 -stage clearcut, "shelterwood removal,"

a 3-stage clearcut, "group selection" clearcuts, and so on.

80% of the Fisher logging plans contain some form of clearcutting. This is

called "even-age management," which produces a forest of small, same-age

trees that cannot support wildlife and fish. The Fishers claim to be "in

transition" to "uneven-age forestry" (variety of tree ages and habitat

types), but are making merely token gestures toward that end (for instance,

10% retention in clearcut areas). If "even-age" forestry is bad for the

forest, why not stop doing it right now?

Time is running out for endangered species

In the ancient Mendocino redwood forest, trees grew up to 20 feet in

diameter, 300 feet tall, and 2,000 years of age. The woods were dark,

thick, moist and cool. These are the conditions that redwood and all their

associated species prefer. The forests in question have been reduced to a

landscape of "pecker poles" (97% in 1 to 21 inch diameter trees)-with only

a few places left that are supporting Marbled Murrelet, Coho salmon and

other endangered species.

Time is quickly running out for these species. There are only four Marbled

Murrelets left in the whole of Mendocino County, for instance. Mamu

require dense old growth habitat for nesting. Their habitat has been

decimated by logging.

The forest's ability to recover has also been damaged, by soil loss, loss

of nutrients (salmon carcasses, for instance), and loss of shade and

moisture-from repeated clearcutting and road construction. Every major

river in this ownership has been federally listed as sediment-impaired--too

much mud in the streams. Coho salmon cannot survive in these muddy

conditions.

In 1973, these forests contained 60,000 board feet per acre of standing

timber, according to CDF studies. An ancient forest contains up to 400,000

bf/ac. Today, these forests contain only 10,000 bf/ac, at best. Where are

the inventory figures to justify the Fishers' cut? The FSC certifiers said

wait and see-twelve months from now.

Argument for a fish and wildlife refuge

Do we want to have Coho salmon, Steelhead trout, Marbled Murrlet, and

Northern Spotted Owl in these forests in the future? It's as simple as

that. Keep logging and they will be gone forever.

The tax advantage of a conservation land trust can enable the Fishers to

provide good-paying jobs to displaced timber and fishing workers, for

forest restoration. 175 mill workers were recently laid off at the Georgia

Pacific mill in Fort Bragg-the rumor is, this time it's permanent. Timber

jobs have been in steep decline for years. As former CDF Director Richard

Wilson recently said, "It's over" for these large corporate timber

ownerships in Mendocino. "The game's over." (Ukiah Daily Journal

7/12/00).

The Mendocino redwood forest is logged out. Time to save the forest.

The Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance

The certification documents describe a "vocal minority" of Fisher logging

critics (Page 20, "Public Summary," SCS-FM/COC-00026N, Oct. '00),

presumably as opposed to Big Enviro groups like the World Wildlife Fund,

Greenpeace and Trout Unlimited, who endorsed more logging of Mendocino's

overlogged forests. The Redwood Coast Watersheds Alliance is a California

non-profit, public benefit corporation consisting of 13 community watershed

groups and projects in Mendocino County, founded in 1989. RCWA members

have been monitoring logging activity in Mendocino County for 11 years, and

have prosecuted dozens of public interest lawsuits, in efforts to stop

illegal logging plans and reform California Forest Practice Rules.

RCWA members-all of whom are volunteers--have conducted extensive research

on Mendocino logging issues, and are far more familiar with Mendocino

forests, logging policy in Mendocino, and the condition of public trust

reources in these forests, than are big, out of county groups which have

endorsed Fisher logging as "green" without so much as a phone call to

knowledgeable local groups.

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