California's new U.S. Senator learns forestry at Collins Pine

By Debra Moore
Feather River Bulletin
Staff Writer
Wednesday, Sept. 8, 1993

It was an inspiring morning and one which could prove critical to the future economy of Plumas and Lassen Counties.

A United States Senator was in Chester to view firsthand the award winning forestry practices of Collins Pine and to hear the plan forwarded by the Quincy Library Group to manage the Plumas, Lassen and a portion of the Tahoe National Forest.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer spent Saturday, Sept. 4 actually walking through the woods and seeing for herself how a forest can be managed. Plumas County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Coates, Collins Pine President Jim Quinn and Larry Potts, General Manager for Collins Pine led the tour.

A trio of vehicles also carrying Lassen County Supervisor Claud Neely, Collins Pine Foresters Frank Stewart and Bill Howe, Plumas County Supervisor Paul Simpson, and members of Boxer's staff Katie Merrill and John Collins. The first stop was a 40 acre parcel located a few miles from Chester, called Park 40.

The tour began at Park 40 so Boxer could get a glimpse of what an unmanaged forest looked like. Rules for this timber stand allowed only trees that were falling down to be harvested and measures could be taken to fight any fire which threatened the trees, but no action could be taken to prevent fire.

Potts and Coates explained to Boxer the resulting overgrown forest. Tall pines stood out above the large population of fir trees. Sunlight was scarce and the soil was poor. She quickly grasped the fire danger this forest represented because of the dense underbrush and the unhealthy effects the lack of sun and poor soil had on the desired trees.

The next stop was a managed portion of the forest where "single tree selection" was practiced. Potts explained their philosophy was to "manage the forest with a light touch."

In single tree selection, trees are taken out individually to maintain forest health. Unhealthy trees, or trees that are blocking sunlight are removed to improve the chances of surrounding ones. Potts explained at one end of the spectrum was clear cutting and the other was single tree selection. Somewhere in the middle was group selection, where a number of trees could be removed.

Boxer asked how it was decided how many trees should be removed.

"We never think in terms of the sawmill, always what we are leaving for the future," Potts said.

Boxer returned to the issue of clear cutting and was concerned with what would warrant it. Potts explained the only circumstance under which that technique would be employed is when something unhealthy needed to be destroyed.

Deeper in the forest Boxer's forestry lesson continued. She saw seedlings, and was amazed a tiny tree three inches tall was actually two or three-years-old. She was shown a bush called white thorn, something deer are especially fond of eating. Potts explained deer herds could be lost if this plant were not allowed to grow, and sunlight provided by group selection was responsible.

Stewart told Boxer, "Collins Pine tries to mimic nature," in its approach to forestry.

Boxer nodded in understanding and said, "I need to come to grips with how to build in flexibility (into a forest plan), without leaving giant loopholes."

Besides forest health, the health of local economies was discussed. Potts said "Many rural communities have the sawmill as the economic base." He explained tourism was a four month industry and local merchants and the economy "could not survive on tourism alone."

Boxer agreed and told the group, "We have to say something about this crisis. I think this area is way out in front and I'm very impressed."

The forest tour was very important, Barbara told the group because she could visualize what she had often heard discussed. She thanked everyone for answering all of her questions and giving her a good education and basis for discussions when she returns to Washington.

After a relaxing lunch, Boxer returned to Collins Pine for a presentation by the Quincy Library Group. (See related story.)


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