PG&E decides to suspend timber harvesting in Humbug Valley
Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has decided to suspend further timber harvesting in Humbug Valley, pending a land transfer recommendation from the Stewardship Council.
In 2004, the Stewardship Council was formed as part of the utility company’s bankruptcy settlement agreement. The agreement allows for the council to make recommendations for title transfer of more than 140,000 acres of PG&E-owned land.
The Maidu Summit Consortium is currently seeking a recommendation to be awarded PG&E’s 1,200-acre land parcel in Humbug Valley.
If recommended as a land donee, the Mountain Maidu will use traditional ecological knowledge to restore the fire damaged forest.
“We want to have a more organic approach to restoration. Maidu people would remove biomass through manpower and distribute it in ways that would benefit the forest. We feel this would be the best way of restoring the area,” said Kenneth Holbrook, a delegate for the Maidu Summit.
Last week the council members indicated they will be completing recommendations this year. Until a decision has been made, PG&E has promised the Maidu that no new timber harvesting will occur on the land.
The decision was made in part due to allegations made by the Maidu claiming that PG&E caused damage to cultural artifacts and protected sites during its 2012 emergency logging operations.
If a recommendation is made to donate the Humbug Valley land, PG&E external communications representative Paul Moreno said, “PG&E will work with the donee to develop a long-term plan to complete the forest restoration activities.”
PG&E contacted the Maidu leaders May 30 to let them know that the suspension will continue through the point when the council makes a recommendation.
This does not mean, however, that PG&E will cease all work in the valley. The terms of the emergency logging permit obtained last year requires the company to complete work in areas already logged.
The permit was obtained after the Chips Fire burned through 368 acres of the Humbug Valley land. Of that 368 acres, only 218 were logged.
Due to an early winter last year, logging operations were suspended, including post-tree-felling efforts. At that time, PG&E had promised to work with the Maidu before resuming any work.
“There are still down trees in landing areas and branches and tree tops that need (to be) chipped,” said Moreno.
He said cleanup will continue and the Maidu will be notified of all activity. “This cleanup activity is important to complete for both forest health and fire protection,” said Moreno.
He said there will be no new tree cutting. PG&E will chip the wood piles in the landings, collect tree tops and branches and, if feasible, send the chips to a biomass plant.
If a recommendation is not made, Moreno said PG&E will assess its options and continue to consult with the tribe on timber harvest. “Essentially the tribe will still be involved in all harvest operations,” said Moreno.
“Even though we would prefer to complete the work as planned, we do not believe a suspension will pose a risk to the forest. PG&E will continue to monitor the site for any changes, such as infestation or disease, that would require action to prevent further damage to the remaining forest,” said Moreno.