Interview with SFL

Second Interview with Sierra Forest Legacy

Everyone from county supervisors to truck drivers had big hopes for the Quincy Library Group, now called the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group in memorial to the still living senators who fund and protect QLG. The idea was to bring "environmentalists" and timber buyers, the US Forest Service, local pols, in other words, "stakeholders," to the table.

It was an idea that seemed sound, and if the world were limited to players, it might have worked as designed, but several things happened that makes that difficult.

First, not all the stakeholders were brought to the table, and some who weren’t invited or didn’t like their share, brought law suit against some of the plans. This reporter has heard several times "one hundred and five lawsuits and appeals", though that number hasn’t been verified.

One organization well represented in those lawsuits is Sierra Forest Legacy. The Prospect has already done one interview with SFL without their participation, which was great fun, and set a new standard for how we like to do interviews.

Craig Thomas, the Executive Director, was again contacted, told of the first interview and was invited to a second interview. Mr. Thomas is an "executive director" which means a big part of the job is to schmooze, a word from the Yiddish which means to "talk persuasively" or "bullshit." For this reason, Mr. Thomas was unable to reply to the invitation by saying "no, you’re too small to trouble with" or "no, we’ve read your work and you seem kind of problematic" or whatever, he simply hasn’t gotten back to actually schedule the interview.

We told him we were going to do a second interview with or without him, and here it is without him. This time, we’re taking the answers to our questions from the group’s website, which we’ll quote.

Prospect: How was sfl formed?

SFL Website: Formed in 1996, as the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, the Campaign's member groups, including The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Friends of the River, and the Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, have worked independently on Sierra Nevada issues since the 1980s. The Campaign was formed with the primary goal of protecting and restoring Sierra Nevada national forests and to coordinate and focus the efforts of its member groups and maximize their effectiveness. The Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign became a part of the California Wild Heritage Campaign in 1999, but in 2002 was reestablished as an independent coalition focused exclusively on Sierra Nevada national forest issues. In 2007 the Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign changed its name to Sierra Forest Legacy to better reflect its expanded mission and vision of protecting Sierra Nevada forests and communities

Prospect: What is your expanded mission?

SFL Website: The mission of Sierra Forest Legacy is to engage citizens, communities, and coalition members in the healthy management of Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems to protect and restore the region's unparalleled beauty and natural values. We apply the best practices of science, advocacy and grassroots organizing to safeguard forest lands throughout the Sierra Nevada.

The mission of Sierra Forest Legacy is to engage citizens, communities, and coalition members in the healthy management of Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems to protect and restore the region's unparalleled beauty and natural values. We apply the best practices of science, advocacy and grassroots organizing to safeguard forest lands throughout the Sierra Nevada.


Prospect: In the past, the Prospect has spoken in your stead, due your lack of participation, and made the case that the SFL group wants to prevent logging because of the commodification, or replacing all intrinsic values with the dollar value, of trees and forests. That’s why the forests were over-protected from natural fire cycles and that’s why the industry thinks standing or rotting burned trees are "wasted". Is that accurate?

SFL Website: (No clear answer)


Prospect: Why do you bring so freakin’ many lawsuits against QLG?

SFL Website: The Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery Act of 1998 (QLG Act) was labeled as an effort to establish local control of over 1.5 million acres of public national forest lands in the northern Sierra Nevada (the Plumas National Forest, Lassen National Forest and the Sierraville District of the Tahoe National Forest), when in fact it was organized and primarily benefited the logging company Sierra Pacific Industries. While the QLG Act passed 429-1 in 1998( with its most fervent support from notorious anti-environmental members as Don Young R-AK, Helen Chenoweth R-ID, Richard Pombo R-CA, and its sponsor Wally Herger R-CA), it only did so based on language inserted by Congressman George Miller (R-CA) requiring that the QLG Act comply with all applicable Federal laws.

The QLG Act logging program was established in the latter years of the Clinton Administration and re-authorized by Senator Dianne Feinstein in 2003, for 5 years, to sunset in 2009. Presented as an attempt to resolve forest management conflicts on Federal land, it has instead led to increased conflicts, appeals and litigation

Congressmen Wally Herger, Tom McClintock, Dan Lungren and George Radanovich - have been pushing the idea of applying the Quincy Library Group model across the entire West. In truth, the QLG is a model for corruption, not collaboration. The QLG's two self described "environmentalists" received over $470,000 in payments primarily from Sierra Pacific Industries and the county governments that benefit from the logging...funds that were used to fight the conservation movement in the Sierra.



Prospect: What do you have against salvage logging?

SFL Website: Salvage logging, or post-fire logging, is a long practiced yet scientifically unsupported method of forest management. Often cited as a necessary management tool for aiding in forest restoration following a wildfire, salvage logging can actually accomplish the opposite result by increasing the fire hazard, degrading water quality, and impairing the habitat and ecological function of the forest.

The Forest Service and private timber companies often advocate on behalf of "salvaging" dead and dying standing trees for their commodity value following a wildfire event. Post-fire logging extracts these merchantable burned trees and leaves behind the smallest trees which happen to have little commercial value and increase the fire danger. Salvage logging increases the fire risk by adding materials such as tree tops, limbs, needles, and other by-products of these massive logging operations to the forest floor, thus increasing the available fuel for ignition by the next fire.


Prospect: What are we who actually live in the woods, and not Sacramento, supposed to do about the growing risk of fire in the woods?

SFL Website: Fire regimes in the Sierra Nevada have been significantly altered due to a well intentioned but misguided campaign by the U.S. Forest Service to suppress fires within our national forests. We can remember the "Smokey the Bear" messages which called on all of us to prevent forest fires. This policy of suppression effectively eliminated fire from our forests and changed the fire regime. Plant communities once dependent on a frequent low-to-moderate-intensity fire, such as ponderosa pine-dominated mixed conifer forests, were now no longer being exposed to these essential fire events. Wildfire is such an influential ecological element that the regeneration of some plant communities and the survival of many plant species require fire. Well coupled with the selective logging of large trees, intense grazing operations, and road building activities, fire suppression over the past century has completely reshaped forest structure and altered ecological systems throughout the Sierra Nevada.

In the Sierra Nevada the threat of wildfire harming communities is growing as the population increases in the mountains and foothills. By using the Firewise Communities / USA program, using a Conservation Community Wildfire Protection Planning model, and continuing our involvement in several Fire Safe Councils we are working to increase the overall protection and involvement of Sierra Nevada communities. Research, such as that conducted by USFS researcher Jack Cohen shows us that it is the little things that threaten communities. Our Community Protection program aims to address those little things as well as other protection and conservation needs of communities.

In 2007 and 2008, Sierra Forest Legacy helped lead six new communities to national Firewise Communities USA recognition. These are Grizzly Flats, Volcanoville, Lake Wildwood, Alpine Meadows, Nashville Sandridge, and Walden Woods. These communities are using proactive methods to help reduce the threat of fire to their homes and property.

To learn more about this important and exciting program and how you can help your community work toward becoming more Firewise contact Karina Silvas at Sierra Forest Legacy.

Prospect: How do you view the forest ecology, including the place of humans in that ecology?

SFL Website: Before this active fire suppression program, forests in the Sierra Nevada were often represented by a landscape of large, well-spaced trees, with well maintained levels of brush and ladder fuels. Today, many of our forests are over-grown with species that would have otherwise been regulated by fire. In such an environment, a single lightning strike can lead to a catastrophic wildfire as it consumes the excess fuel which has accumulated over the years. Fire ecologists generally agree that in order to restore native plant communities, fire needs to be returned to forests at intervals consistent with historical fire regimes. Unfortunately, a century of fire suppression has led to a sharp rise in the volume of fuel in our forests and in order to reestablish the historical fire regime, much of the affected acreage must be managed in some way.

The question is, how can we better manage wildland fire so that people and communities are safe, while ecosystems are allowed to benefit from the annual seasons of flame? Most important, the only way fire will ever be successfully reintroduced is for the rural communities on the front lines to feel safe.


Prospect: If we can’t sell logs, how are we supposed to live?

The West has, and continues to, evolve. The era of economic dependency on resource extraction has long since passed. The logging industry has been a fraction of the economy of the Sierra’s rural counties for decades. Even in the counties where significant logging industry infrastructure remains and where the economies are the least diversified, timber employment is a small player.

Forests in the United States contain a significant amount of small-diameter and underutilized material. Not only do these overstocked stands increase the risk of insect, disease, fire, and drought damage, but they are costly to manage. Finding economical and marketable uses for this material would alleviate these problems while providing opportunities for local communities to benefit and helping to offset forest management costs. A number of institutions are involved in The Evolving West. A few stand out for their keen focus on developing tools to help analyze and understand the dynamics in the west- the economic, environmental and social forces at play in shaping this spectacular place. The Sierra Business Council has undertaken the task of tracking the health and well being of our region.


Prospect: Do you consider yourself responsive to the rural people your policies often impact?

As part of our ongoing effort to extend our reach beyond our traditional base of support to increase our effectiveness, our Community Forestry Coordinator, Warren Alford, is actively involved with the Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition (RVCC).

The RVCC is comprised of western rural and local, regional, and national organizations that have joined together to promote balanced conservation-based approaches to the ecological and economic problems facing the West. Learn more about the RVCC by visiting their website here.

Prospect: Yeah, well, that seems a little impersonal. How do we, who endure your care and concern, contact you personally? We’ve sought an interview with Craig Thomas many times, and he’s neither confirmed nor denied an interview. Don’t you think that’s unresponsive?

SFL Website:

Prospect: Well, I’d like to thank Craig for not participating in this interview, since it’s no doubt better the way it worked out.

Our first non participatory interview is below:

An Interview with Sierra Forest Legacy

Our first non participatory interview is below:An Interview with Sierra Forest Legacy

The Prospect requested an interview with Sierra Forest Legacy, but it wasn’t possible to work out. Here is the interview as we’d have run it, if they had responded.

Prospect: We’ve been told that SFL is run by spawn of the devil. Is that true?


Prospect: I see. What is that sulpher smell?


Prospect:  I see.  Well, yes, a vegetarian diet will do that.  Is it true that SFL wants the woods to fill up with understory and burn, destroying our little towns, killing our jobs and driving us from the woods?


Prospect: Can you substantiate that?


Prospect: Yes, I’ve seen your website, and I see how that creates a job for you, but what about us?  Have you actually crunched any brush?


Prospect: I see. What do you plan to do to bring the woods back to a more functional state?


Prospect: And how will that work over all the public land in the state?  You know, there's quite a bit.


Prospect: Your website has stated that you want no public trees to go to the mill. Why is that?


Prospect: Where should the trees go? To restore a functional ecosystem a hell of a lot of little 28 inch trees have to be cut down. What should happen to them?


Prospect: Do rural people, the people most effected by your policies, have any real reason to support you, and if so, what is it, and if not, why shouldn't we contact your funders and tell them what a lousy job you're doing?


Prospect: OK, well, let’s see how that all works out. Thanks very much for your time, I appreciate it.

From the Website:

The mission of Sierra Forest Legacy is to engage citizens, communities, and coalition members in the healthy management of Sierra Nevada forest ecosystems to protect and restore the region's unparalleled beauty and natural values. We apply the best practices of science, advocacy and grassroots organizing to safeguard forest lands throughout the Sierra Nevada.
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