A Proposal to Create Jackson State Restoration Forest
The State of California has an opportunity to turn a 50,000-acre redwood forest into an ecological, recreational and educational treasure at no cost to taxpayers. What an incredible bargain for present and future inhabitants of California, the United States and the world. California and the United States governments are paying over $500 million dollars for the 2,000-acre Headlands redwood grove. Of course, the Headlands is a virgin, unlogged stand of redwoods. But by creating the Jackson State Restoration Forest, we will begin restoration of a public redwood forest of unparalleled size whose beauty and value will continually increase. Our children and grandchildren will thank us for our foresight.
The proposed Jackson State Restoration Forest is the existing Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Located in Mendocino County, Jackson Forest runs from near the coastline between Mendocino and Fort Bragg eastward almost to Highway 101, near Willits. Jackson State Forest has been in existence since the 1940s. Although it has been logged to varying degrees in various parts, it still contains many beautiful stands of redwoods, some of which are over 100 years old.
Quick action is needed to change the status of Jackson State Forest, because although it is now publicly owned, the forest is being operated by the California Department of Forestry as a demonstration of commercial logging operations. The longer the delay in establishing the restoration forest, the greater the destruction of the intrinsic values of the forest and the longer will be the time required for restoration.
The benefits of allowing the forest to heal itself will come soon. Redwoods grow to awesome size quickly. Remarkably soon the forest canopy will become restored. Underbrush will be shaded out and the ground become carpeted with needles. Groves will develop to cathedral size, inspiring visitors with awe. Over time, the forest will become more and more beautiful, more and more valuable for solitude, species preservation, salmon spawning, ecological research, education, and recreation.
The California Department of Forestry, which under current law manages the Forest, has the policy of cutting each year as much timber as grows in the forest. Although this may sound like a preservation-oriented policy, it is no such thing. When the California Department of Forestry took over management of the forest in the late 1940s, magnificent virgin redwoods constituted the majority of the timber in the forest. By 1980, the California Department of Forestry had cut almost every old-growth tree in the forest. Current policy gives the highest priority to cutting the largest trees, many of which are over 100 years of age. Thus, although the volume of timber in the forest has remained constant, or perhaps even increased since the California Department of Forestry took over, the current forest is a shadow of its former self. And, it is getting worse year by year. Every year, more and more older trees are cut, lowering the age of the trees and making Jackson Forest look more and more like a tree plantation.
The case restoring rather than logging Jackson Forest is compelling:
|The need for a public,
undisturbed redwood forest has increased enormously since the time that
Jackson State Forest was acquired. In 1950, the population of California was
10 million. Today it is 30 million. Population has tripled in less than 50
years, and the desire of the population to have places for nourishing
themselves with solitude and nature has increased more than proportionally.
At the same time, the expanding population has spread out and consumed more
and more of the open spaces formerly accessible to urban people.
Just as the recreational values of a large redwood forest have grown enormously since 1950, so has the need for establishing a ecological sanctuary for species dependent on late seral-stage redwoods. Whereas there was vast acreage of virgin redwoods in 1950, there remain in Sonoma County only two small stands in public hands. In the large commercial land holding, not only have almost all old-growth stands been cut, but so have all of the large second-growth stands. There does not now exist in Mendocino County or anywhere south, any large acreage of mature redwood forest.
As we look to the future, the ecological, recreational, and educational values of a restored redwood forest in Mendocino County will grow enormously. Population and development are rapidly pushing up from the Bay area into Sonoma County and beyond. There is no doubt that within another fifty years, Northern Sonoma County will be essentially one large urban area, and Cloverdale, Ukiah, and Willits will be significant cities. Meanwhile, the population of the Bay area will probably double, adding to the pressures for access to nature by the closer populations.
The State of California was a wise and far-sighted when it acquired Jackson State Forest from the Caspar Lumber Company for $1.5 million in 1947. It also made good sense at that time to demonstrate that the Forest could be profitably managed for the long term. But, the circumstances in which Jackson State Forest exists have changed enormously. What made sense then is completely out of touch with current realities. What makes sense now is to move quickly to establish the Jackson State Restoration Forest.