Should the Board SFAC

Should the Sierra County Board of Supervisors have Supported the Sustainable Forest Action Coalition?

At what point should local government stop supporting industry?

A Prospect Editorial

A coalition of groups, mostly economic development interests, has loosely coalesced to create what some call the "Sustainable Forest Action Coalition". The group has come forward to ask the Sierra County Board of Supervisors to sign on, as well, and Director of Coalitions Tim Beals has encouraged the board to sign on. So they did.

But, should they have?

What it is: The group is a coalition of chambers of commerce, supported by timber professionals. There are also several counties on board. The purpose of the group is to lobby for stricter controls of "environmental groups" and to facilitate the transfer of public trees and biomass to private control, with the hope of creating jobs. The group is focused on three ends: full enactment of the Healthy Forest Restoration Act; encouragement of Forest Stewardship contracts, and "loser pays" outcomes for law suits.


  • The Healthy Forest Restoration Act is a George W. Bush creation. Bush was and remains a world class ignoramus and hopeless toady of neo-capitalism. The Healthy Forest Restoration Act, also known as "no tree left behind" sought to make it easier than ever for corporations to take public trees. It tends to rely on selling trees cheap to get the over growth out of the forest; unfortunately the slash, unless it is specifically contracted for, is burned in smokey piles. HFRA had broad bi-partisan support in congress, which used to give one comfort, but now is more of an interesting oddity, like when all the drunks in the bar sing the same song. Using HFRA as a model of good forestry is a problematic idea.
  • It leans heavily on the Quincy Library Group, which has failed to meet its expected goals and shows no hope of doing so without heavy handed government intervention. This is because it is founded on the same "get everyone at the table" idea that has brought us an honorable end to the war in Vietnam and lasting peace in the Middle East.
  • The Forest Stewardship idea is basically this: The U.S. Government can’t take care of its own land, so they’re putting some of it in foster care. The foster parents might be a kindly old conservation organization, or it might be a dark and sinister corporation. Who do you want your forest to be in foster care with?
  • "Loser Pays" lawsuit. Like most simplistic ideas, this sounds great at first, until you remember that on one side is a bunch of volunteers working for a non-profit, and on the other side is the freaking U.S. Government, one of the biggest landowners in the world.
  • Finally, the people who support it are, on the one hand, organizations for whom commerce is an over riding factor, and on the other, county supervisors who somehow feel responsible for job creation. These people are generally not motivated to actually care for the environment.

But, wait, aren’t there foresters and professional forest groups behind the Coalition for Having Your Forest and Taking It Too; don’t they know what’s best for the forest?

They are, but they don’t necessarily know. Being a professional forester might mean you mostly know about turning trees into money. Let’s not forget, it was professional foresters what got us where we are. Smokey Bear is a professional forester, and it’s because of Smokey that we’re in the state we’re in. When trees took on a dollar value they became too value to allow to burn, and that eighty years of fire suppression and clearing of the forest has put us in the understory and brush heavy situation we’re in. Typically, they are educated in schools where resource extraction is the goal, and such schools often work cheek by jowl with timber companies. A professional forester might, or might not, know much about how the woods really work, and their definition of "sustainable" might or might not produce a working forest.

What about jobs! We need jobs! Sure, we do, but if that’s all there is to any decisions, the most attractive of us would all be prostitutes; after all, it’s a job. Jobs are important, but job creation is not the only or even the best way of judging a public policy.


  • We’re all going to die horribly! Something has to be done to get the understory out of the woods. The Forest Service is tied up in bureaucratic red tape, some of its own making, but some a result of environmental and cultural concerns. Something has to be done to streamline the actual removal and use of excess biomass.
  • We’re all going to slowly starve to death or go to debtor’s prison! With the fall of the housing market, the general economic depression, the demand for lumber and wood products is in the dumper. The mostly cow-counties that have signed on to the Coalition are dying as a result of loss of timber and Williamson Act revenues. Children of the forests and fields are fleeing rural areas for jobs in the city at an alarming rate, taking the future of our rural culture with them. When only beavers and rich folks can afford to build a house, the county as we love it is doomed. Biomass is all we have; people might not need lumber, but they still need electricity. If we can’t put people to work turning hazard fuel into green fuel, we have no hope of economic independence. God help us, we’ve even become aligned with Sierra Pacific Industries again, which shows how hard things are.
  • Some of these so called "environmentalists" are dipshits trying to make a living off saving something that doesn’t need their help. There are others, some who come on board when they’re invited to work with timber harvest planners, and some who will lose their urban nut case support base if they do. They are necessary, or the resource exploitation approach would turn the mountains into Iraq, but there has to be a point of reason. They shouldn’t be allowed to drag good projects down.


But, doesn’t the current system provide sufficient input to such groups? No, if there were, people wouldn’t be suing over 4 inches in tree diameter, or a few miles of road. What’s missing isn’t more government intervention, it’s more community intervention. It isn’t quite accurate to say "the environmentalists held up the timber harvest" when in truth it was timber industry pressure on the Forest Service that prevented the compromise that could have prevented a law suit. If local communities got together, not to insist on more government or more law, but to insist on having a voice, that would help. A group of counties who could say to enviro groups and the Forest Service, "to hell with the last two inches of diameter, if the timber company doesn’t want the harvest, they don’t have to take it, wring out a working compromise and do it this week or we’ll go on Facebook and rat you both out."

I’d be on board with a county movement of that sort.

Finally, visit the Coalition’s website HERE. Wait! There’s no link! How can we trust an organization that doesn’t have a website?

A movement to call for yet more government intervention in the cow counties? Maybe we should have waited on that.

Why didn’t we say something before they approved it? Frankly, we dropped the ball on that. Sorry! We can’t say "we told you so" and are disappointed about that.

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