Has the Quincy Library Group been a success?
The Pinchot Institute, an independent consulting firm recognized for its expertise in forestry, will answer that question.
The group’s report is due out July 1 and its members were in town recently interviewing members of the Quincy Library Group, Forest Service personnel and other county leaders.
The Herger-Feinstein Forest Recovery Act, the federal legislation that implemented a five-year pilot program for QLG’s vision for forest management (protecting forests from wildfires by harvesting merchantable timber through thinning), requires an independent review.
The review will focus on socio-economic issues, the watershed, forest health and more.
“It’s important to review the overall effect,” QLG member George Terhune said during the group’s March 28 meeting.
QLG member Mike Yost said he told Pinchot interviewers that the “socio-economic benefit didn’t happen as we had hoped,” due to the number of appeals filed by environmental groups.
Supervisor Lori Simpson said Pinchot Institute also interviewed her.
“We’re backed into a corner. What are we supposed to do?” Simpson responded when asked about the socio-economic impacts. “If we can’t get money from Secure Rural Schools and we can’t harvest timber, what are we supposed to do?”
Secure Rural Schools is the legislation that guaranteed funding to the county’s roads and schools based on historic timber harvest levels. That legislation has sunset and attempts to renew it again have been unsuccessful to date.
Terhune said, “The socio-economic impact was supposed to be the result of proper forest management. It was to benefit not only the community, but the forest.”
Plumas Forest Supervisor Earl Ford said that the Forest Service has “learned a lot from QLG” and used its effects on fire as an example.
He said that the highest echelons of the Forest Service know that it’s imperative to “increase the pace and scale” of work to improve forest health.
Yost suggested that the Pinchot report could be used as a tool to promote that goal.
Ford said the QLG could take the tool to Congress. “You’ve got to do your lobbying,” he said.
“The question becomes, ‘What do you ask them to do?’” Terhune said.
The QLG isn’t even sure what it is going to do. Many of its members have been involved for two decades and the process has been onerous.
“It’s expensive and it’s draining particularly when the environmentalists can stop about anything,” co-founder Bill Coates said in an interview following the meeting.
During the meeting, Forest Service representatives discussed their efforts to protect their projects from lawsuits.
Forest Service representatives talked about their timber sale work, which for the most part focuses on salvage from last summer’s fires.
Forester John Forno said he had bid on sales, but was concerned about some requirements that didn’t make sense.
For example in a roadside hazard salvage project, he could cut a tree that was deemed a hazard, but couldn’t remove it until the end of summer because of a limited operating period (LOP).
LOPs are designed to protect birds during certain times of the year depending on the species. During a normal timber harvest, work is not allowed during those timeframes. Work is allowed when a tree is deemed to be a hazard and could injure someone, but the LOP still applies in that the tree cannot be removed.
“You got the rule, but it doesn’t make sense,” Forno told the Forest Service.
“The policy came from the Endangered Species Act,” Supervisor Ford told Forno.
Forno said that his frustration went beyond this one example. “It’s not just birds, it’s soil compaction, it’s fire season …” all issues that make it difficult to make it economically feasible to harvest timber.
Ford said that if a salvage timber sale weren’t viable commercially, then Forest Service personnel would cut down the hazardous trees and offer them to those cutting firewood.
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