-- note: Superscript images which appear at the end of paragraph titles are links to Section Directories within the QLG WebSite which contain listings of pages relevant to that paragraph's topic.
-- Preparation of this Overview was based primarily on a "case study" presentation by Pat & George Terhune, Members of the QLG Steering Committee, at the workshop, "Engaging, Empowering, and Negotiating Community: Strategies for Conservation and Development", held in West Virginia on Oct. 8-10, 1998, and sponsored by The Conservation and Development Forum, West Virginia University, and the Center for Economic Options.
Locale. In 1993 the Quincy Library Group (QLG) proposed a five-year management program for the Lassen and Plumas National Forests, and the Sierraville Ranger District of the Tahoe National Forest, in northeastern California. These national forest areas total about 2.5 million acres, and include some mixed conifer-oak woodlands facing the Sacramento valley to the west; large areas of mixed-conifer/fir and mixed-conifer/pine in the mid-elevation mountains; true fir and lodgepole pine at high elevations; eastside pine on mountains and plateaus to the east; and a transition to high desert near the Nevada border. Most of the QLG area is drained by the Feather River, with the northern half of the Lassen NF in the Pit River drainage, and small areas on the south and east draining toward Nevada in the Truckee and Susan rivers.
This "QLG area" includes parts of eight counties, mostly involving Lassen and Plumas counties, but including significant parts of Shasta, Tehama, and Sierra Counties. Quincy, the Plumas County seat, is located at the approximate geographical center of the area. The total population of the QLG area is less than 50 thousand, including Susanville, the Lassen County seat and the largest town in the area, located just outside the Lassen National Forest at its south-east corner. Historically the area's economy has depended on timber, mining, ranching, recreational fishing, and a major trans-Sierra railroad. In recent years an influx of retired people has been a significant part of a transition to an economy that is increasingly based on recreation, retail sales and services; Forest Service and local government; and, in Susanville, a state prison complex housing 8,000 prisoners. Water and hydroelectric power are the largest economic values derived from the area, though they contribute virtually nothing toward local economies, nor toward the cost of maintaining upper watershed health.
Origin of the Timber Wars. Timber production from QLG area national forests peaked from the 1960's through the 1980's, and then fell 60 percent in just a few years, continuing to decline to a current projection for FY 99 of barely 10 percent of the 1980's level. Because the Forest Service dominates timberland ownership in the QLG area, and privately owned timber could not fill the gap, there was also a sharp decline in timber-related economic activity and employment, including the closure of several local mills that depended largely or entirely on Forest Service timber. Reductions in Forest Service timber harvest have been due to short term fluctuations in market demand for lumber, a shift in Forest Service priorities away from timber production toward other management priorities, increased restrictions on timber operations in roadless and other sensitive areas, and, particularly, the agency's entanglement in the California Spotted Owl issue.
Whatever the reasons for each step in the harvest decline, the Forest Service found itself in a dilemma. On the one hand, each forest had only recently adopted a Land and Resource Management Plan (LRMP) that called for high timber production from even-age management based on clear cuts, and "timber people" felt they were entitled to the production levels described in those plans. On the other hand, there was mounting public dissatisfaction with clear cutting and herbicide use, and "environmentalists" demanded immediate action to protect spotted owls and other species reported to be at risk, and to preserve large old trees and roadless areas. These contrary views expressed themselves, during a two to three year period, in a sequence of charges and counter-charges involving sabotage and tree-spiking, demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, and even direct threats of injury or death. Underlying these alarming developments in the "timber wars" were genuine concerns in the broader community that (1) road and school budgets would be permanently affected by the reductions in payments to the counties from Forest Service timber reserve funds and by the threat of significant decline in the economic base for long term tax revenues, and (2) that even if solutions were eventually found for the spotted owl and other rapidly accumulating forest health problems, there might no longer be a local forest management infrastructure in place capable of implementing the solutions.
Blames & Concerns. By 1992, each of the three major parties involved in the timber wars saw the other two as causing their problems. Some environmentalists saw an unholy alliance between timber interests and a too-accommodating Forest Service. Some timber interests felt the Forest Service was responding only to reckless interference by environmentalist lawyers. And the Forest Service at times appeared to blame both of the other parties for the agency's own inability to address major aspects of its multiple forest management obligations. The Forest Service simply could not say how it intended to reduce the growing hazard of large, high intensity wildfires, or to restore unhealthy stand structures that had resulted from fire suppression and previous management practices, or to reverse trends toward watershed and riparian area degradation, or to provide habitat conditions that would remove the threat of extinction from certain local and regional wildlife populations.
Within this atmosphere, some people in each camp began to recognize, but not yet clearly articulate, that our forests, our communities and the Forest Service had an unbreakable relationship of mutual inter-dependence. We could not have stable and healthy communities if we did not assure long term health of the surrounding forests, as demanded by environmentalists. We could not restore long term health to our forests without the large scale participation of an industrial infrastructure largely dependent on a profitable timber-base. And neither goal could be achieved unless greatly improved forest management could be implemented by the Forest Service. These concerns could be summed up in two questions:
1. How could our community plan to achieve both forest health and community stability?
2. How could our community enable and require the Forest Service to implement good plans when they became available?
A Breakthrough. A breakthrough came in the winter of 1992-93 when Tom Nelson, a California registered forester and Director of Timberlands for Sierra Pacific Industries, realized that an environmentalist document might hold the key. This so-called "amenities" or "environmentalist" alternative had been analyzed and considered by the Plumas National Forest during the process of adopting its Land and Resource Management Plan in the late 1980's. That alternative had been rejected, and then appealed but still not adopted. However, Nelson saw that the silvicultural methods it called for were acceptable to the industry (indeed, they were already being employed and promoted by some parts of the industry), and that the timber harvests it would allow, while somewhat lower than the harvest levels permitted by the adopted LRMP, were still much greater than harvests actually being achieved or within prospect during the timber wars. Accompanied by Bill Coates, a Plumas County Supervisor strongly identified with promoting the local economy, Nelson approached Michael Jackson, a local attorney strongly identified with environmental issues. Meeting at first in secret, because each person had allies who opposed any dealings with the enemy, Nelson, Coates, and Jackson found more common ground than they had expected, and decided to try to build at least a truce, maybe even a full peace treaty, based upon that common ground. Secrecy in a small town being impossible, other people began to join the discussions, and the seed of QLG was planted. By July 1994 a Quincy Library Group "Community Stability Proposal" had been agreed to, and the nascent QLG sponsored a public meeting at the local movie theater in order to explain the group and its proposal, and to invite wider public participation in QLG meetings.
Early Negotiations. As might be expected of truce negotiations in a wartime atmosphere, early meetings had some very tense moments, and some participants were extremely uncomfortable at times. A variety of circumstances and decisions no doubt contributed to QLG's success in progressing from a gathering of uncomfortable individuals and contentious factions to the easy-going and cohesive group it has become. It isn't possible to say which circumstances and decisions were absolutely necessary, and which not, but any QLG member's list of key elements would probably include:
1. A shared sense of desperation at the beginning. It was generally felt that if this effort failed, all parties would suffer great losses, and the remnants of that feeling still provide strong motivation within the group.
2. A willingness to tolerate intemperate statements about the issues, but not about each other.
3. A requirement for true consensus, i.e., unanimous consent, on all decisions. This narrowed the range of specific agreements that were possible, but it assured a very strong mutual commitment to whatever decisions were actually made.
4. An early decision not to accept several offers of help by professional facilitators. It took a long time and many meetings for everybody to say everything they wanted to say, sometimes over and over again, but it was a necessary investment that we do not think would have been possible or successful in a more structured environment.
5. The goal was to agree on specific methods, not just general principles. Specific suggestions for land use and ecosystem management were discussed, agreed to, written down and carefully mapped. Then, an agreement was signed by all members to seek implementation of the accepted suggestions by National Forests in the area.
6. Choice of a name, "The Quincy Library Group," that was meaningless in terms of the matters under consideration. If a name had been chosen that made specific reference to the environment, or to the economy, or to any particular component of the forest ecosystem, "interpretation" of that name's meaning could have placed an intolerable burden on the whole effort.
7. Refusal to seek or accept "official" status under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). QLG has no charter or by-laws, no board of directors or officers (except two corresponding secretaries), and no bank account. In the words of one local critic, "They don't even have anybody you can sue!"
8. And finally, whatever success has been achieved may simply be due to having the right sized community, or even just the luck of having the right people show up. Decisions are made by a steering committee that started with the 27 people who signed the initial agreement. In five years and for various reasons, about 10 people have dropped out and about 14 have been added, so that the steering committee has continuously averaged about 30 active members. By comparison, if an equivalent percentage of a typical metropolitan area's population were to become involved in a major local issue, the steering committee of that group would include several thousand members.
The QLG Community Stability Proposal. The QLG Community Stability Proposal, adopted in July 1993, is the fundamental QLG agreement. It attempts to reflect the fact that a healthy forest and a stable community are interdependent; we cannot have one without the other. The Proposal includes the recommendation "...to create a forest that will more closely mimic the historic natural landscapes of the Sierra," and in order to do so, "...three ecosystem management strategies must be implemented simultaneously." These are: (1) a management system using group selection and/or individual tree selection, in order to maintain an adequate timber supply and a relatively continuous forest cover; (2) the fire and fuels management recommendations in the California Spotted Owl Technical Assessment (the CASPO report); and, (3) the establishment of a network of riparian habitat and watershed restoration programs.
The QLG Landbase Map. The QLG Proposal is accompanied by a map which details certain sensitive areas, such as roadless areas, scenic river corridors, and riparian areas that should not be scheduled for timber harvest. Within the QLG area, there are already approximately 101 thousand acres of designated wilderness area, plus 125 thousand acres of protected California Spotted Owl habitat. The QLG Proposal designates some 350 thousand additional acres as "off base" areas, and an additional 150 thousand acres as "deferred" areas. This leaves approximately 1.6 million acres, a little over two thirds of the entire area, designated as "available for group selection and individual tree timber management." The QLG proposal was intended to be implemented over the course of five years, while the Forest Service developed long term plans to deal with a number of major issues, including those raised by QLG.
"Out of the Courtrooms and into the Meeting Rooms." QLG believed our Proposal was a direct and appropriate response to President Clinton's call, during the Forest Summit at Portland, Oregon, in April of 1993, to settle national forest problems by getting "out of the courtrooms and into the meeting rooms." The QLG Proposal was first offered in the form of suggestions to the local national forests, expecting that they would be glad to have people start cooperating on solutions, instead of one side or the other trying to tie up the Forest Service with conflicting demands, followed by appeals and, finally, lawsuits. Individually, some Forest Service employees responded positively to QLG efforts; but others openly resented the "outside interference." The "official" Forest Service response was variable and ambiguous. For example, the Forest Service claimed to be moving toward a more "open" decision-making process, in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). But, in practice, the Forest Service implemented NEPA as a narrowly defined formal process that did not involve the public in the early stages of planning -- Forest Service staff alone decided which actions to propose, which potential elements of a decision should go forward, and which should be left in the back room. The NEPA process, as defined by the Forest Service, was obviously not ready to handle either the scope or the scale of the input QLG was prepared to make.
Forest Service Not Ready. Neither was the Forest Service ready to handle the rise of QLG as an organization. One early symptom of this was a notice to QLG that a "legal opinion" said the Forest Service could not respond to suggestions in the Proposal, and perhaps not even meet with QLG people, unless QLG applied for and was accepted as a Federal Advisory Committee. QLG had no intention of either jumping through those hoops or running the risk of being corrupted or co-opted by "official" status, and instead (unofficially, of course) took the First Amendment as its charter: "Congress shall make no law...abridging...the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." In any case, the legal opinion went nowhere, and almost every QLG meeting is attended by Forest Service officials who make valuable contributions to the discussion; but they are not members, and they do not participate in QLG decisions.
First Trip to Washington, D.C. By late 1993, QLG concluded that attempts to persuade local Forest Service units to implement the QLG Proposal would not be sufficiently productive, so a "get acquainted" trip to Washington, DC, was organized for February, 1994. Some 40 people, representing county governments, local public schools and other QLG participants, spent a week in Washington, generally divided into delegations of three people who visited every Senator and Representative in the California delegation, plus any other members of Congress who had committee assignments connected with natural resource management or the Forest Service budget. Other delegations met with key officials in the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, and the White House. These meetings brought high level attention to the issues raised, and QLG members believed they heard promises of immediate and effective action. But, local Forest Service officials who attended some of the same meetings apparently heard differently, and, after returning home, QLG continued to be frustrated as orders from Forest Service headquarters seemed to undergo change and dilution by the time they worked their way down to local staff levels.
Limited Success. Nevertheless, some changes had been initiated as a result of the Washington trip and follow-up contacts with key Administration officials:
Growing Frustrations. These actions were of course welcomed by QLG, both for the money allotted to local National Forests that would immediately help forest health and local economies, and for the indication of increasing attention to the long term issues raised by QLG. At the same time, there was growing frustration with the regional and local Forest Services' inability to accept and implement the overall QLG strategy. Some examples of events that fueled this frustration include:
Too Little, Too Late: Business as Usual. By late 1996, QLG had seen a few encouraging examples of small scale implementation of our Proposal. But we increasingly realized that "business as usual" with the Forest Service, whether at the national, regional, or local level, was not capable of implementing the QLG Proposal at an appropriate scale and within a reasonable time. For some members representing small and middle-size timber-related businesses, time was running out; the process had to produce results more quickly or they were out of business. With great reluctance, QLG began to discuss the pros and cons of drafting a QLG Bill for submission direct to Congress. Such a bill could require the Forest Service to immediately initiate a full scale test of the QLG Proposal, but there was significant risk that QLG's program would not retain its local character and strategic focus if subjected so directly to national politics. In the end, no other option seemed viable, so QLG asked the District's Congressman, Wally Herger, to introduce a bill in Congress.
H.R. 858 -- "The QLG Bill". The "Quincy Library Group Forest Recovery and Economic Stability Act of 1997" (introduced as H.R. 858) was intended to implement the main provisions of the QLG Proposal. As amended slightly to become the companion Senate bill, S. 1028, the "QLG Bill" would require the Forest Service to conduct a five year Pilot Project that would: construct fuelbreaks on 40 to 60 thousand acres per year (a pace that would reduce fuel on the whole "available" landbase in about 30 years); conduct group selection harvests on 0.57 percent of the landbase designated for that purpose (equivalent to an average 175 year regeneration cycle); implement a program of riparian area protection and restoration; and, submit a yearly report to Congress on project implementation, plus a final, science-based report at the end of the project on whether the project's ecological and community stability goals were achieved. Included as an integral part of the bill is the QLG map of "off base," "deferred," and "available for group selection" designations. The bill would require the Forest Service to publish an EIS on the Pilot Project before starting to implement it, to follow existing and prospective guidelines for California Spotted Owl protection, including strict limits on the maximum size of trees that can be harvested or removed for fire protection, and to obey all other environmental laws and regulations while implementing the bill.
Second Washington Trip. A second large QLG delegation visited Washington, DC, in March 1997, to explain the bill and line up support for it among House and Senate members and their staffs, and within the Administration and the Forest Service. During these and follow-up conversations, there was considerable agreement on the substance of the bill -- the need for fuel reduction, improved silviculture, riparian restoration, and protection of sensitive areas -- but the Forest Service was understandably reluctant to admit that these objectives could not be met through normal processes, without a special bill, and some Members of Congress were suspicious of an agreement to thin the forest by any means that included the removal of any trees large enough to be called logs. Objections were also raised by several national "environmental" organizations, who felt that a dangerous precedent would be established if QLG's local issues were addressed by national legislation.
Administrative Solution? In late spring, 1997, Secretary Lyons conducted several meetings in California attended by Forest Service officials, Congressional staff members, QLG members, and representatives from several environmental organizations. The purpose was to determine whether it was possible to agree to an "administrative" solution to the issues raised by QLG that would not require a Congressional bill. A few of the representatives from environmental organizations offered to support an immediate joint effort to obtain annual appropriations for the Pilot Project on National Forests in the QLG area, if only QLG would agree to withdraw the bill. Unfortunately, the environmentalist representatives would not agree to support reintroduction of the bill in case the effort to secure appropriations failed, nor could they commit their organizations to the plan they had offered. Also, QLG believed that a five-year authorization bill was much superior to individual year-by-year authorizations via annual appropriations bills. Faced with a "heads they win, tails we lose" situation, QLG felt we had no viable option except to continue with the bill.
In spite of these potential roadblocks, the QLG Bill went forward, and after vigorous floor debate and a few amendments, but without serious compromise of its original intent, passed the House by a vote of 429 to 1 in July 1997.
S. 1028; Additional Safeguards. California Senators Feinstein and Boxer cosponsored a companion bill in the Senate, S. 1028. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted a hearing on the bill, and reported it, as amended, with a unanimous "do pass" recommendation (Report 105-138). The Senate amendments did not change the list of Forest Service management activities required by H.R. 858, but they did write into the bill a protection against undue adverse effects on livestock grazing permitees, and several environmental and procedural safeguards that had only been implied by standard legislative practice and general principles of law in the original bill. For example, in the original bill "obey the law" was assumed to be the rule, absent any exception, but the Senate amendments added specific language that the California Spotted Owl Guidelines had to be followed, and that all other environmental laws had to be obeyed while implementing the QLG Pilot Project. Furthermore, in its report the Senate Committee made clear that it expected the Forest Service to protect all "late successional old growth" stands, not just those that lay within designated wilderness areas and the QLG off-base and deferred areas.
Opposition Mounts. In spite of the additional safeguards, added specifically to acknowledge their concerns and to ease their fears, environmental organizations decided to continue their strong opposition. Early in their campaign they published two full page ads in the national edition of the New York Times, one with a cartoon showing Senators Feinstein and Boxer helping Vice President Gore push a wooden horse labeled "QLG" up the steps of the Capitol, and the other with a cartoon implying an exchange of money between timber company executives and Senator Feinstein. But it was clear from the appeals made to their membership for money, and a letter-writing campaign, that these environmental organizations saw that as their only hope to convince Senator Boxer to switch from cosponsoring the QLG Bill to being an active opponent.
Sen. Boxer Withdraws Support. S. 1028 failed to pass by the end of the 1997 session, because Senators Bumpers and Leahy held it hostage in complicated negotiations involving other bills. But it was thought to have a clear track for the start of the 1998 session. Then, early in 1998, without any notice to QLG of her intentions, Senator Boxer announced her withdrawal of support for the QLG Bill in a letter to the editor of the Bay Guardian, a weekly newspaper in San Francisco. When asked for further explanation, Senator Boxer told QLG that she would vote against the bill, but not otherwise oppose it. Nevertheless, she placed a "hold" on the bill, which effectively prevented it from even coming to a vote. When asked why she switched, Senator Boxer said that she trusted her environmentalist supporters and their claims that the QLG Bill would "double the logging" and "fail to protect old growth