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Bill Coates, then a county supervisor, and Michael Jackson, an environmental attorney, were tired of fighting about timber harvests and decided to focus on what they could agree upon. They, along with Tom Nelson, who represented the timber industry, began talking. The year was 1993.
They had no idea that those initial conversations would lead to historic legislation, an article in The Smithsonian, a page in a social studies textbook and an approach to forest management that would be accepted as a new standard.
“I’m nostalgic,” Jackson said, “but I see the effects of the Quincy Library Group everywhere I go. They’ve permeated everything.”
Since the beginning, the group has heralded the benefits of strategically thinning forests, maintaining that it would render the forests more fire resistant, protect wildlife habitat, provide for the local economy through jobs, provide timber receipts to support roads and schools, and improve the watershed to provide a better quantity and quality of water for downstream users.
Jackson, an attorney who specializes in water issues and has many clients in the Bay Area and Southern California, said, “When I’m working on water, most of the people I talk to can talk about the link between water and thinning the forest.”
He said that in the south in particular, “Everybody understands the fire, flood and mud cycle.”
Jackson said that awareness has reached the state and federal levels of government. Gov. Jerry Brown addressed forest thinning in his just-released Water Action Plan.
But closer to home, Jackson points to Sierra Pacific Industries’ continued presence in the county as one result of the Quincy Library Group.
“SPI is still the largest employer in Quincy,” Jackson said. “They are bringing work here instead of Anderson.”
Jackson said SPI’s commitment to the area is obvious with the investment in the small-log mill and now the new large-log mill.
“It’s due to the critical support of this community,” he said.
Coates said that one contribution to the community that is often overlooked is the amount of money that flowed into the local Forest Service budgets. Not only did it keep people employed at the agency, but it also opened up jobs in the woods and pumped money into the economy.
“That even helped property values,” Coates said.
The QLG formed in 1993 and saw the passage of its legislation, The Herger-Feinstein Forest Recovery Act, in 1997.
The ensuing years were spent working to see that legislation implemented in the forests.
Now the legislation, which initially called for a three-year pilot program, which was subsequently extended, has concluded.
The federal government is no longer willing to pump large amounts of money into a limited geographical area.
With its original mission completed, the QLG has been at a crossroads. Jackson said he hasn’t been at a meeting for a year, Coates attends sporadically and Nelson moved away years ago.
Those who still meet on a regular basis, including longtime members George and Pat Terhune, John Sheehan and Mike Yost, favor continuing the work, but changing the name of the group.
One name under consideration is the Feather River Communities and Forest Collaborative.
Jackson said he understands the reasons for a change, but he’s “sorry to see the need for them to rebrand themselves.” Jackson sees value in the name recognition.
Coates said he has many memories from the past two decades and “these will always be special to me.”
Coates is proud of what the Quincy Library Group has accomplished and will continue to be involved, albeit in a more limited role than he originally had.
“I’m forever wedded to the idea that we can make the forests better,” he said. “It’s difficult to get that out of your blood.”
The rebranded QLG is scheduled to meet Thursday, Feb. 27, at 9 a.m. in the community meeting room of the Quincy library. The meeting is open to the public.
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