Used by Permission of the Sacramento Bee

Quincy alliance spawns forest bill
Published on 09/19/1996, Page B1, 574 words.


By Jane Braxton Little Bee Correspondent (Published Sept 19, 1996)

Federal legislation introduced Wednesday aims to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in northern Sierra Nevada forests by using management innovations developed by the Quincy Library Group.

The measure would establish a five-year pilot project on three national forests to test a "common-sense plan" by the alliance of environmentalists, timber industry and local officials, said Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville.

In addition to protecting local communities from fire, the measure would benefit local economies by generating logs for processing in sawmills, said Herger, who introduced the legislation.

"It's a win-win proposition for our forests and our forest-dependent communities," he said.

Members of the Quincy Library Group, so named because it was the only neutral meeting place members of the alliance could agree on in 1993, said the bill grew out of frustration with current land management practices on 2.5 million acres of federal land on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests in northeastern California.

Under the plan, some parts of the forests would be harvested heavily while others were left untouched, said Tom Nelson, a Sierra Pacific Industries forester who helped bring former enemies together on the coalition.

The legislation would require the Forest Service to reduce forest fuels on 50,000 acres a year. Even at that rate, it could take 34 years to treat the entire area, said Bill Coates, a Plumas County supervisor and co-founder of the coalition.

"Anything slower and we start losing communities to fire. Right now, we're on a 900-year pace," said Coates.

By logging the smaller, crowded trees and leaving the larger more fire-resistant trees in the forest, the bill aims to decrease the risk of catastrophic wildfire. It prohibits timber harvests on environmentally sensitive land except in emergency situations when the lack of action could create greater damage than logging.

Thinning prescribed in the bill would provide enough material to keep Sierra Pacific and other local sawmills in operation, said Herger, who praised the community alliance for providing a model for forest management adapted to the needs of a specific area.

"If we have learned anything in the past few years about forest management in California, it is that one size does not fit all and that the best ideas most often come from the people who live and work in the forest," Herger said.

The plan is designed to return the three national forests to a more natural state, protecting watershed and wildlife habitat while still providing for logging.

The bill is an invitation to other communities to develop their own proposals for local forest management, Herger said.

Last November, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman pledged $4.7 million to the U.S. Forest Service for fuel reduction, watershed restoration and other projects consistent with the Quincy Library Group's approach.

Since then, however, Forest Service workers have accomplished very little work on the ground, said Linda Blum, an environmentalist and coalition member. The legislation would make such projects mandatory.

"This is to get them off the dime -- to do this work and do it right," said Blum.

Forest Service officials declined to comment on the legislation as a matter of agency policy. They have supported Quincy Library Group efforts in the past and share many common goals, said Matt Mathes, a Forest Service spokesman in San Francisco.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer is studying the coalition's proposal for possible legislation in the Senate, said spokesman David Sangretti. She is scheduled to meet with coalition members today.