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Forest Protection Campaign

Nowhere Near No Net Loss

With the growth of the wine industry and with other agricultural demands, there has been increasing pressure from outside our county, and even our country, to clear northern Sonoma County forests and plant industrial crops instead. Since the Sonoma County General Plan is being updated, now is the time for the public to express a desire to see these forestlands protected.

Conversion of forests to intensive agriculture causes fundamental changes in ecological and physical processes that maintain the quality of water, land, and air. These include:

  • disruption of wildlife corridors and habitat fragmentation
  • groundwater depletion
  • downstream flooding
  • pollution to fresh water sources caused by pesticides/herbicides, fertilizer, and sedimentation
  • sub-surface hydrologic flow changes
  • water diversions
  • re-contouring of slopes
  • deep soil disruptions
  • increased peak flows in streams, causing stream bank failure and mass wasting of land
  • microclimate changes affecting plants and animals
  • endangered species are harmed and their habitat depleted
  • aesthetic impacts
  • increased infrastructure needs and costs
  • the contribution of this deforestation to global warming

Language like 'no net loss' being used in an attempt to allow conversions to vineyard and other uses, and at the some time to protect resources, will not work. Such language will turn out to be unenforceable, as the time frames of gain or loss are so large and the measurements of loss or gain so vague and subjective that protection and/or rehabilitation programs will not occur in any meaningful way. Instead, such language offers a convenient loophole (and even tax relief) for applicants to a conversion process. For example, a permit may be granted to clearcut 10 acres of forest under a scheme in which 20 other acres are to be preserved as forestland, or 20 acres 'restored' to forestland, on land which has already been overlogged. It would be claimed that this is a 'no net loss' of forest, but actually it is a net loss of 10 acres (or 1/3 of existing forest). Additionally, there is no guarantee that the 20 acres being preserved or restored would in fact replace in any meaningful way replace or compensate for the ecological values and functions of the forest which is permanently being destroyed.

Much of this land has already been heavily logged, and overlogged - taken down to less than 3,500 board feet of standing merchantable timber per acre. This is almost nothing, since it is generally agreed that debilitated lands stand at about 10,000 boardfeet per acre, productive forests at 20,000 to 40,0000 board feet per acre, and historic natural forest in the area at over 100,000 board feet per acre. "No net loss" and guarantees not to log these lands for 20 years by developers are a "no net protection" for these debilitated lands. To allow for proper rehabilitation these lands should instead not be converted or logged for 40 years or more. We are trying to prevent these timberlands from being "converted" to industrial agriculture uses, mainly but not only, vineyards. Conversion of forestlands is permanent and many complex ecological processes are tragically disrupted. Once forestland is converted to agricultural or other uses, the prospect of regenerating it into a healthy forest ecosystem again is almost certainly lost forever and further development is much more likely. Maintaining healthy forests, on the other hand, has all the benefits which health offers over disease, including economic benefits.

For more information, contact the Sierra Club at 544-7651 or see:
Sierra Club Sonoma Group Homepage
Russian River Residents Against Unsafe Logging
Friends of the Gualala River
Permit Resource Management Dept

Redwood Forest
Courtesy of National Park Service