Mattole Defense
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Information About Maxxam
THP 1-99-475HUM and Why It is Being Challenged in Court

Maxxam/Pacific Lumber (PL) has initiated an onslaught of Timber Harvest Plans (THP) in the most sensitive region of its holdings: the Mattole River. These THPs are clearcuts exclusively in old-growth Douglas-fir forests and are planned in drainages which have extreme seismic activity (1992 saw 7.1, 6.9 and 7.2 earthquakes in a 24-hour period), intense rainfall (up to 200 inches per year), and easily erodible soils on steep mountainous terrain (slopes from 50% to 90%).

Two years ago, Maxxam tried to slip by with two ill-conceived clearcuts and they were defeated by the Mattole community with help from forest defenders both in Humboldt County and throughout the state. The lawsuits filed on those plans were successful and the California Department of Forestry (CDF) was chastised for hastily approving clearcutting on such terrain.

This time around, Maxxam, flush with the Headwaters cash, is throwing its political weight around the Governor's Office. His Chief of Staff has ordered CDF and Fish and Game (DFG) to approve Maxxam/PL plans as quickly as possible.

There are four pending THP's encompassing approximately 180 acres, all within a short distance of each other. The issues are similar:

1. There is no assessment of the impact to old-growth forests and old-growth dependent species. In fact, the Director of CDF has "waived" this requirement, accepting PL's logic that the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)/ Sustained Yield Plan (SYP) covers this (while it specifically states that it does not) and accepting PL's Late Seral Forest definition (as early as 40 years old) as the equivalent of old growth.

2. This area is one of the last remaining refuges for Northern Goshawks and American Peregrine Falcons. When PL surveyed for these listed birds, they didn't find any. When DFG made a site tour, the biologist found a Goshawk feather at his feet.

3. There is no credible cumulative impacts analysis, as required by the Forest Practice Rules and the California Environmental Quality Act. As a substitute for doing this analysis, PL provides an unproven and discredited "Disturbance Index" (DI). Water Quality has filed a letter opposing the substitution of a DI for true analysis.

Obviously, Maxxam/PL does not want to do an analysis of the significantly impacted watersheds. It would show that their clearcuts were creating mass wasting, debris flows, and sediment that are damaging to the last wild runs of Mattole salmon. And rather than require what the law states, CDF is going along with the company.

A Brief Run-Down on THP 1-99-475 HUM

The plan is roughly 40 acres of old-growth clearcut carved around watercourse protection zones on steep slopes above Allwardt Creek (tributary to the East Branch North Fork Mattole River). This forest consists of over 3000 acres of old-growth Douglas-fir forest that runs along Rainbow Ridge, Long Ridge, and Taylor Peak. It is one of the wildest places on the northcoast, very inaccessible to human traffic. It is home to Northern Goshawks, American Peregrine Falcon, occasional bald and golden eagles, red tree voles, lots of Northern Spotted Owls, and others. Also streams with resident and anadromous salmonids.

Main Issues with this THP

1. PL requested and CDF granted a waiver of Forest Practice Rules Section 919.16 which requires the plan submitter to analyze the impacts of the loss of old growth from the THP. PL claims its HCP is sufficient to substitute for this analysis; but the HCP specifically states that it is not meant as an analysis of old growth. The HCP contains specie-specific protection measures (with some analysis on their effectiveness) and does not discuss the impacts to an existing old-growth forest. In addition, PL misconstrues its "late seral" forest designation (they claim they can create late seral forest conditions in as little as 40 years) as a substitute for "late successional" forest (which is old growth, with tall canopy, multi-story structure, developed soil drainage patterns and deep duff layer, etc.) DFG does not seem to concur with this waiver. But DFG was emasculated by PL by getting Gov. Davis' Deputy Chief of Staff, Susan Kennedy, to tell DFG to not stand in the way of approval of these plans.

2. The THP does not discuss or analyze the "whole project" which is to fragment or destroy this irreplaceable forest. Instead, CDF is allowing PL to piece-meal the plans separately. There are now six THPs in the hopper with five of them ready for approval this month. So while CDF goes along with this piece-meal program, Water Quality (WQ), Fish and Game, and National Marine Fisheries Service have all submitted comments treating the plans as if they are one project. "Piece-mealing" is specifically not allowed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). If PL did the analysis of the whole project, it would reveal that they would be putting the stability of an entire watershed at risk as well as the biological diversity of this area.

3. Cumulative Impacts. When will they ever do a real cumulative impacts analysis?

PL merely refers to its HCP/SYP instead of analyzing the past logging in the basin. That is, they don't recognize all the landslides they have caused in the past fifteen years. They don't recognize that the basin is significantly damaged and that any small impact is an impact too great for the basin to suffer. They don't want to reveal any foreseeable future projects since that would tip off the public that they intend to clearcut as much of the old-growth forest that they can. Of course, the SYP maps show this intent. They just haven't put it down in writing and so CDF seems willing to look the other way and not read the maps. Neither of them want to think about what this basin would look like in fifteen years after they clearcut all these steep slopes.

The North Fork area contains some of the steepest slopes in the Mattole, some of the most seismically active (one of the April '92 quakes had its epicenter here), and most erosive. It also receives around 100 inches of rain, on average, with a lot more half the time. These qualities were apparent to NMFS, WQ and DFG reviewers. However, these agencies have been told by their superiors not to file non-concurrences. Their representatives did include scientific reports critical of the plans. They just aren't coming out and saying, "Don't do them."

To find out more, contact someone on this page.

Mattole Defense
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