For Immediate Release, September 21, 2011
|| Justin Augustine, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682 x302
Michael Endicott, Sierra Club Calif., (415) 971-1652
California State Logging Program Called Out for Violation of Fish and Wildlife Protection Laws
SACRAMENTO, Calif.— A coalition of conservation and sportsmen’s groups formally notified the state of California today that the state’s management program for timber harvest is out of compliance with laws designed to protect the state’s fish and wildlife. Recent changes in program funding have largely eliminated California Department of Fish and Game review of decisions by the California Department of Forestry (Cal Fire), the state agency that oversees logging in the state. Both Fish and Game and Cal Fire are housed in the state’s Resources Agency.
In October 2010, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Fish and Game funding for the majority of staff positions that review timber harvest; the funding has yet to be reinstated. As a result, Cal Fire no longer regularly consults with Fish and Game over the environmental impacts of logging, as is required by state law. In the Sierra Nevada, for example, Fish and Game involvement has been completely eliminated despite the fact that widespread clearcutting continues to occur.
“Logging can cause severe harm to California’s wildlife, including species such as coho salmon and steelhead trout,” said Justin Augustine with the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s why state law requires Cal Fire to consult with the Department of Fish and Game: to make sure that our fish and wildlife receive the protections they need and deserve.”
Cal Fire’s timber-harvest review program is currently exempted from certain provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act because the program is considered “functionally equivalent” to the normal “environmental impact report” process that most projects go through. But in order to maintain its “functionally equivalent” status, Cal Fire is required to consult with Fish and Game regarding the impacts of logging plans on fish, wildlife and rare plants.
“We have tried hard to maintain a fig leaf of funding for consultation on THPs by the Department of Fish and Game,” said Michael Endicott with the Sierra Club. “But even legislative budget proposals that would provide interim funding without taking any money from the General Fund have been removed by the past two governors. It is time for the governor and the agencies to come up with proposals that will assure full participation in THP reviews.”
“The state cannot slash funding for DFG’s review of timber harvest plans on one hand and then pretend that DFG is meaningfully participating in timber harvest reviews and protecting fisheries on the other,” said California Sportsfishing Protection Alliance Executive Director Bill Jennings.
In a letter to California Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club California, Forests Forever, California Sportfishing Protection Alliance, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Protection Information Center, Ebbetts Pass Forestwatch, Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center, Central Coast Forest Watch, Battle Creek Alliance, and the Northern California Council, Federation of Fly Fishers called for either a restoration of Fish and Game oversight of Cal Fire’s timber harvest review or a cancellation of Cal Fire’s functional equivalency status under the California Environmental Quality Act.