Published Friday, February 2, 2001
SACRAMENTO -- In the latest sign of tension between Gray and the greens, environmentalists are blasting Gov. Gray Davis' appointments this week to a board that regulates timber harvests on private land.
Critics say the governor's appointments give advocates of increased logging a 5-3 majority on the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, all but ensuring that clear-cutting will continue in the Sierra and North Coast.
"With these appointments, it is pretty clear the governor doesn't consider the state's forestry crisis to be significant," said Alex Rate of the Sierra Club.
A spokesman for the governor, however, took issue with the idea that the newly configured board will necessarily side with timber interests.
"We don't look at things in those stark terms," said Davis spokesman Roger Salazar. "We look at whether these folks will have a balanced perspective and can weigh economic interests while still considering the environmental impacts ... The governor feels comfortable with these appointments."
Davis this week added two new members to the forestry board, while also reappointing Tharon O'Dell -- a manager for Simpson Timber Co. -- to one of three slots reserved for the forest products industry.
One of the new members is Norman Waters, a Plymouth rancher and former state assemblyman who now fills a slot reserved for a rangeland representative.
The other is Paula Ross, an employee of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, who previously represented a woodworkers union in Washington state.
Sierra Club activists say they are troubled by the selection of Waters, who voted in 1989 to weaken a proposed ban on clear-cutting of old redwoods. But they are more incensed by Davis' decision to fill one of four "public slots" with someone affiliated with the woodworkers union, which often sides with the timber industry on logging issues.
Contacted at her office in Folsom, Ross declined to comment on her policy stances but rejected the suggestion she might vote in lock step with the timber industry.
"In all my years, I feel I have argued with management more than I have agreed with them," said Ross, who lives in Citrus Heights.
The appointments come as the Davis administration faces increasing pressure to restrict clear-cutting on private land, particularly land owned by Sierra Pacific Industries, a company that has raised funds for Davis' campaign coffers.
SPI has announced plans to clear-cut 1.5 million acres of its Sierra land holdings, and activists are also trying to stop timber companies from cutting old growth redwoods along the North Coast.
Davis still has the option to fill a final open slot on the nine-member board, but Rate said it probably wouldn't matter. Five votes are needed to change forestry regulations under the board's rules, and the industry now has those five votes, he said.
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