When a county supervisor, an environmental attorney and a professional forester came together 20 years ago, they couldn’t have foreseen what lay ahead.
They had a mission: Treat the forests to keep them healthy and fire resistant, harvest timber to fund the county’s roads and schools, and do it all in a manner that would satisfy environmental concerns and stave off lawsuits.
It is one thing to have a vision; it’s another to implement it. It took an act of Congress — literally. During a recent trip to Quincy, Congressman Wally Herger said that the phrase “an act of Congress” refers to something that is nearly impossible to accomplish, but that’s exactly what the QLG did. It took hundreds of meetings, dozens of trips to the nation’s Capitol and five years, but the Herger-Feinstein Quincy Library Group Recovery Act was passed and implemented.
The five-year pilot program, which turned into a 15-year odyssey, didn’t achieve the numbers it wanted in terms of acres treated, board feet harvested or money earned, but its methodology, when implemented on the ground, succeeded. The QLG’s strategy of building defensible fuel profile zones has proven effective in protecting not only the forests, but also the communities that they surround from fire.
Now the QLG hopes to roll out what it has learned throughout the West. It won’t be easy. If it took an act of Congress to effect change on a small corner of Northern California, what will it take to change the landscape of multiple states? It looks like the QLG is ready to find out.
During its last meeting, the group asked member George Terhune to formalize his concept, which would make treating the forests self-funding. Money earned by harvesting timber during the thinning process would be returned to a special fund within the Forest Service for future work, not to the federal government’s general fund.
Then would begin the process that QLG members are all too familiar with — building support, making the rounds in Washington, and fighting the legal challenges that are sure to follow. The QLG, which originally boasted 30 die-hard members, has seen that number dwindle and those who remain are a little older and more battle weary than they were in 1992. But if they can muster both the enthusiasm and the energy to tackle this challenge, they could change the landscape throughout the West and beyond.