By George Terhune and Michael De Lasaux
September 1997

Executive Summary

In late 1992 a timber industry forester, a county supervisor, and an environmental attorney began private discussions, recognizing that the "timber wars" damaged everybody and served nobody's true interest. These discussions led to the development of the Quincy Library Group, which stabilized at about 30 members on the steering committee.

The three-county area, that is the focus of the QLG efforts (Lassen, Plumas and Sierra Counties in northeastern California) is larger than Austria and, since it is primarily federally owned coniferous forests, is heavily dependent upon the logging industry. The waters of the Feather River that rise in the mountainous area also provide the vast majority of drinking water for the State Water Project, serving ten million users in Southern California via an aqueduct. Developed hydroelectric facilities provide power equivalent to a nuclear power facility. The area is also home to the last spring runs of chinook salmon in the northern Sierra and the California Spotted Owl. Recreation is also a growing industry. There are 50,000 residents in the area.

In August 1993, QLG adopted its Community Stability Proposal, which recommended improvements for management of the Lassen N.F., the Plumas N.F., and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe N.F. The proposal included: the Desired Condition to be an all-age, multistory, fire-resistant forest; deferral of certain sensitive areas from scheduled harvest; timber management based on group selection and single tree selection; implementation of CASPO fire and fuels management objectives; riparian habitat protection and watershed restoration; continuation of SBA/SSTA set-asides; expanded stewardship contracting; and a northern Sierra working circle.

This five-year program was intended to bridge the gap while the Cal Owl EIS was prepared, decided, appealed and litigated. Now, four years later, the Cal Owl EIS is still being prepared, so QLG has adjusted its sights. Implementation is sought through "the QLG Bill" (HR 858), which would direct National Forests in the QLG area to do 40 to 60 thousand acres per year of strategic fuel reduction in defensible fuelbreaks for five years, to implement group selection silviculture on an area-wide basis, to implement the Scientific Advisory Team (SAT) guidelines for riparian area protection, and monitor the results, with yearly reports to Congress. Equally important, the QLG bill would require the Forest Service to initiate revision and/or amendment of its Land and Resource Management Plans in the area, providing opportunity for QLG (and others) to argue for long term inclusion of key proposals.


The Quincy Library Group (QLG) has two goals: Community Stability and Forest Health. These are not seen as opposite ends of the spectrum, or as concepts that must be balanced against each other. In the QLG's view, each is the central issue; they are two sides of the same coin. On one side, long-term economic and social stability in our communities can be assured only if the National Forests that dominate our landscape are made and kept healthy. On the other side, sustained forest health in our area can be achieved only if the community requires greatly improved Forest Service management, and local people, industry, and institutions remain in place to do a large part of the work.

The QLG program for achieving Community Stability and Forest Health is embodied in two founding documents:

In addition, various letters, comments, and committee reports have been ratified by QLG since adoption of the CSP and its land base. These represent an evolution in QLG's knowledge and understanding of fundamental issues, and they aim to implement the Community Stability Proposal, not change it.

This paper is intended to explain the Community Stability Proposal and QLG's strategy for implementing it. We present this information in four sections:

  1. Detailed explanation of the Community Stability Proposal.
  2. Context of other QLG documents.
  3. Current situation and strategy.
  4. Appendix containing excerpts from source documents.

The November 1993 booklet Quincy Library Group Community Stability Proposal contains the CSP text and list of signers, and includes information on the origins of the QLG and the composition of its Steering Committee [Web Page Editor's Note: This information is also contained within this web site.]  Since then, a few members of the original Committee have resigned and several others have been added, sustaining a core membership of about 30 persons. Meetings have averaged about once a month, and are open to the public.

Community Stability Proposal Overview

A summary of the CSP's major points is followed by an explanation of each specific agreement and any special terminoloy in the Proposal. The four major points are:

1. Lassen, Plumas, and Sierra Counties rely on the forest products industry, and the six named communities within are highly dependent on the industry. QLG has documented this dependency in its application of March 3, 1994, to the Department of Agriculture for establishment of a Feather River Area Sustained Yield Unit.

2. Three ecosystem strategies must be implemented immediately:

  1. Forest vegetation management based on group selection and/or individual tree selection.
  2. Fire and fuels management based on recommended objectives in the California Spotted Owl (CASPO) General Technical Report .
  3. Riparian habitat and watershed restoration.

    These strategies to be developed on the broadest possible landscape, with certain specified sensitive areas not scheduled for timber harvest during the 5 year life of the agreement.

3. Implementation of the three strategies will expand the landbase available for timber management while reducing the environmental effects of that management. The intent is to create a forest that will more closely mimic the historic natural landscape.

4. Protective mechanisms such as Small Business Association/Special Salvage Timber Sale (SBA/SSTS) set-asides should be continued, stewardship contracts expanded, and a Sustained Yield Unit ("working circle") established.

Explanation of quotations from the Community Stability Proposal:

"to maintain a relatively continuous forest cover, a management system using group selection and/or individual tree selection must be implemented immediately." "(area control to reach regulation)."

Continuous forest cover describes a condition where the forest canopy is perceived as continuous with occasional openings, not as a mosaic of openings separated by forest (Group Selection). It is not compatible with large clear cuts.

Group selection will harvest and regenerate all the trees in a small area (usually defined as and area that is as wide as 2 x's the height of the potential dominant tree; approximately 2 to 2.5 acres). Area control to reach regulation requires that groups be selected so that the total area harvested in any period (e.g. year or decade) must be representative of the whole forest under management, and when the rotation is fully established each group would be adjacent to groups of differing ages, representing the full range of ages.

"individual tree selection such as the system used by Collins Pine."

The Collins Pine Company ...

"...the Fire and Fuels management objectives recommended in CASPO must be carried out over the entire landbase."

CASPO refers to a Forest Service Technical Report (PSW-GTR-133) The California Spotted Owl: A Technical Assessment of its Current Status. Regarding fire and fuels management, the basic CASPO recommendation is to "Treat surface and ladder fuels as necessary to create a mosaic of fuel profiles that will minimize the probability of extensive, stand-destroying wildfires." (CASPO, page 22). The specific recommendations for forested areas other than Protected Activity Centers (PACs, which are 300 acre areas set aside around known California Spotted Owl nesting or roosting sites) are: (1) Retain live trees 30 inches diameter or greater, and minimum 30 to 40 square feet of basal area per acre (depending on the class of timber strata) of the largest healthy trees; (2) Canopy cover at or above 40 percent; (3) Retain the largest snags to a total of 20 square feet of basal area, or 8 snags per acre, whichver comes first; and (4) Retain large downed wood to average of at least 10-15 tons per acre. (CASPO, page 21).

"In order to protect fisheries and watershed healty a network of riparian habitats..." "... implementation of the Scientific Analysis Teams (SAT) guidelines..."

The SAT Guidelines ...

"... a watershed restoration program must be established..."

CRM program description. Also relate to water-user participation in watershed maintenance, FERC.

"...improvement in range management and road maintenance..." "Grazing allotment renewal plans will include financing and provisions for restoration and protection of these riparian networks."

[Need explanatory text]

"The intent of these strategies is to create a forest that will more closely mimic the historic natural landscape." "The Desired Condition is an all-age, multi-story, fire-resistant forest approximating pre-settlement conditions."

QLG understands "the historic natural landscape" and "pre-settlemnet condtions" to mean thestate of these forsts prior to the wase of settlement initiated in about 1850. The key words here are "closely mimic" nad "approximating". We are not attempting to turn bakc the clock, but we do belive it is bothwise and necessary to correct two major distortions that have been introduced into the historic natural processes of the forest since 1850: (1) mistaken policies of timber management, and (2) mistaken reliance on fire suppression for fire protectoin.

Any "timber management" practiced by human inhabitants prior to 1850 was insignificant in its effects. The dominant natural disturbance was fire. Based on tree ring and fire scar studies, the effect of fire on the pre-1850 landscape has been described in several places, among with are these excerpts from the CASPO report (pp 247, 248).

"Frequent fires in the mixed-conifer type maintained surface fuels at fairly low levels, and kept understories relatively free of trees and other vegetation that could form fuel ladders to carry surface fires into the main canopy. ... Because fuel accumulation was limited, most fires were of low to moderate intensity. ... High severity crown fires usually could not be sustained over large areas. ... On the other hand, crown fires that affected small areas (ranging in size from a single tree, to groups of trees, to perhaps several acres) probably were relatively common and an important influence on stand structure. These patches of high severity fire, interspersed within a "matrix" of low-severity fires, occurred in areas with heavy fuel concentrations, sometimes reinforced by steep slopes or extreme weather conditions. This comple fire regime, along with other agents of disturbance (for example, group kills of trees by bark beetles), produced a variale, irregular patchwork of even-aged groups, most from less than an acre to several acres in size." ...

"Openings creted by fires and other disurbances provided conditions favorable for regeneration and growth of shade-intolerant and relatively fire-resistant trees and other plants."

"The more shade-tolerant and fire sensitve species (white fir and incense cedar) regenerated beneath overstory trees as well as in openings. Periodic fires, hwoever, kept their numbers relatively low, especially in the understory."

We have quoted extensively from this section of the CASPO report, because the "historic natural" interaction of fire, mosaic forest structure, and preference for regeneration of fire-resistant and fire tolerant vegetation is what QLG seeks to mimic. An "adaptively managed" forest of this type should include fire protection based on intensive fuel management, not just suppression; silviculture based on individual tree and group-selection; and protection of other ecological values based on riparian and watershed restoration. An additional advantage of re-introducing these natural structures and processes in to the landscape is that the trees those favored are the very species (mostly pine that have the highest commodity value, and thus can support a larger share of the costs of managing National Forest by this methods

Literature Cited

Group Selection

California Spotted Owl Technical Report


Basal Area - the cross sectional area of a tree measured at 4.5 feet above the ground. Basal area per acre is determined by summing the basal area of all trees on a given parcel of land.

Regulation -