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Forest Protection Campaign

April 23, 2005

Planning Commissioner's Hearing on Timberland Conversion Ordinance
Outcome of Planning Commission Meeting (April 21)

Thanks to all those who contacted their Supervisors and Planning Commissioners in support of maximal forest protection. Thanks especially to the many groups and individuals who attended Thursday's hearing; the hearing room was crowded. Your support for forest protection, (and your 1000 postcards), couldn't be ignored by the commissioners. Thursday's hearing was an eye-opener in many respects.

We had anticipated that supporters of the 1900-acre Preservation Ranch conversion project would support Option 5. (This is the proposal that would allow conversion of one acre of forest in exchange for a commitment to restore or preserve two additional acres of forest.) In fact, our "worst case scenario" was that the Planning Commission would recommend Option 5 on the spot, and that it would be a loophole that Preservation Ranch could exploit. Our best case scenario was that the Planning Commission would recommend Option 3 or Option 7 on the spot.

What did happen was much different. Principals of the Preservation Ranch project turned out, (including their lawyer, their planner, and their forester). Supporters of Preservation Ranch argued that the timber conversion issue needed more time, and they offered to work with County Staff to craft an ordinance more to their liking. They also questioned the propriety of putting the forest conversion issue on a different schedule than the rest of the General Plan update. In general, the Preservation Ranch developers acknowledge that their land is badly battered, and they argue that destruction of some forests by conversion is necessary in order to fund restoration.

The Planning commission did not reach any decision. They requested much more information about forest practices and the condition of Sonom County forests from County Staff, and they will address the forest conversion issue again on May 12. That meeting will not take public comment.

The good news is that we avoided our worst case outcome. The bad news is that the prospect of getting forest protections into the General Plan has been pushed back, and we have no county-level protections in place in the meantime. In addition, the Planning Commissioners now recognize that this abstract discussion about the General Plan has direct implications one way or another for the Preservation Ranch project.

This dynamic issue has evolved in the past, and promises to continue to evolve in the future. We have called on you in the past to deliver a number of different messages to the CAC, the Planning Commission, and the Supervisors. Thankfully, you have done so. On this Earth Day, the most helpful thing you can do as environmentalists is to stand ready to respond again the next time we ask you to deliver a message to the Planning Commission or Supervisors. We will call upon you again. This battle to protect forests from conversions will be protracted, but we can prevail with your continued support.

Thanks again.
Redwood Chapter Sierra Club's Forest Protection Campaign ========================
Jay Halcomb
Sonoma Group ExCom
Sierra Club
Sonoma Group Homepage

Redwood Forest
Courtesy of National Park Service