California's Failed Forest Policy:
State Biologists Speak Out

California Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility
Summer 2000

For the sake of brevity, this paper makes use of a number of acronyms, which can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the world of California resource agencies. We hope that the following glossary will be useful as a quick reference.

CEQA: California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA establishes basic standards for all
environmental activities in the state.
CDF: California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. CDF is responsible for monitoring logging on private lands, and coordinates the THP process.
DFG: Department of Fish and Game. DFG is responsible for managing California's wildlife resources.
EPIC: Environmental Protection Information Center. EPIC is a non-profit organization that acts as a forest-practice watchdog.
HCP: Habitat Conservation Plan. HCPs are a legally binding agreement between landowners and the federal government. They are supposed to mitigate harm to threatened and endangered species on private land.
NMFS: National Marine Fisheries Service. NMFS oversees state implementation of the Endangered Species Act for anadromous fish species.
PALCO: Pacific Lumber Company. PALCO owns much of California's Headwaters Forest.
PCFFA: Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Association. PCFFA is a non-profit organization that advocates on behalf of fishermen.
RPF: Registered Professional Forester. An RPF writes THPs for landowners.
SRP: Science Review Panel. SRPs may act as advisors on forestry practices to the state government.
SPI: Sierra Pacific Industry. SPI is a timber company that owns millions of acres in the Sierra Nevada.
THP: Timber Harvest Plan. THPs are logging plans submitted by private timberland owners. In California, these are considered the "functional equivalent" of an Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act.


Resource professionals at the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) say good economic times have provided more money for state agencies charged with resource protection, but also say they are still unable to review the vast majority of the state's Timber Harvest Plans. They cite serious deficiencies in the State's Forest Practice Rules, and claim that staff in the Governor's office is obstructing the Department's ability to carry out their Public Trust duties of protecting fish and wildlife, by intervening on behalf of the timber industry.

When Governor Gray Davis came to office nearly two years ago, DFG employees anticipated sweeping policy and leadership changes. This has not been the case, although employees cite some positive changes: substantial and long-overdue pay increases have boosted morale, as has the appropriation of the largest budget in DFG history - a 30 % increase over 1999/2000 funding. Still, biologists say the state's important biological resources are still being denied the political protections desperately needed to stem their declines.

Employees call DFG Director Robert C. Hight a "nice guy," but believe the scientific advisors on whom he relies are politically motivated, often to the detriment of sound science. Initial support for Hight also appears to be waning as employees increasingly see him as a "good soldier" for a Davis administration pro-timber industry position.

DFG's 2000-2001 budget increased by $71 million, primarily for administrative support and CEQA and Timber Harvest Plan (THP) review. The bad news is that Governor Davis vetoed an additional $34 million proposed by the legislature, which would have increased DFG staff by 243 people. These positions would have included 60 new wardens and 76 persons to conduct monitoring of habitat losses and wildlife populations.

Davis also vetoed 16 of 20 proposed DFG positions to manage state-owned land. In addition, 109 of the approved positions are "redirected," meaning DFG must identify 109 presently existing but vacant positions and fill those. According to one DFG manager, the department will be hard pressed to identify the 109 vacancies. The department will still be able to review only a fraction of the projects proposed every year that impact fish, plants or wildlife.

DFG employees say the Davis administration is more receptive to Fish and Game critics than his predecessor. Certainly this administration's methods of dealing with the conflicts between fish, plant and wildlife protection and the many projects that impact resources differ dramatically from the Wilson administration, which denied DFG the funds necessary to protect fish, plants and wildlife, but otherwise essentially ignored the department. While the Wilson administration's policies were industry-friendly, it didn't generally intervene on specific projects. One DFG manager says it is "unusual" for governors to get involved at the level at which this administration does.

The Davis administration has a definite "hands on" management style; standard practice for this administration is to try get all parties to an issue into a room and make them resolve their differences. While this approach has the advantage of forcing agencies with opposite goals to compromise, DFG biologists say the results are not in the best interests of fish and wildlife, as methods for solving political conflict have inherent problems when applied to biological issues.

This consensus-based approach is contrary to assurances made by Bob Hight soon after his appointment. In the October 1999 issue of "Fish and Game Today," Hight told DFG employees "No matter what science-based task we undertake here at DFG, it should be founded on the highest of technical standards and follow the best repeatable, documented and peer-reviewed procedures we have available to us."

The Davis administration was expected to be philosophically sympathetic to resource issues, but there is a concern among DFG employees that science is kneeling before politics on high profile issues. Employees cite many examples of natural resources suffering as a result of excessive political compromise, as well as many instances in which biologists are being told by the Governor's staff to "back off" in their efforts to protect fish and wildlife.

Several DFG employees expressed concern that Gray Davis is accepting large campaign contributions from the timber industry. Following a fundraiser by Sierra Pacific Industries, Governor Davis appointed one of SPI's directors to the State Board of Forestry. And, significantly, on June 30 Governor Davis blue-penciled budget language that would have greatly helped passage of a strong "Closing the Logging Loopholes" bill.



Logging on private land is regulated by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) under the 1973 Z'Berg Nejedly Forest Practice Act. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that a company must submit an official Timber Harvest Plan (THP) before cutting timber on its own land. Other state agencies, as well as the public, may review THPs and provide comment. When resources permit, DFG biologists review the draft THPs to ensure that they protect wildlife resources. If DFG is not able to review a particular THP, the plans often do not address harm to wildlife.

With or without DFG review, the state considers a THP to be the "functional equivalent" of an Environmental Impact Report, a premise widely disputed by environmentalists, as well as DFG biologists. According to one biologist interviewed for this report:
CDF is expected to do its own THP review. DFG review is viewed as interfering with the CDF process. But when DFG isn't involved in the THP review, there is no wildlife review unless T&E [Threatened and Endangered] species are involved, and maybe not then. Using the THP as a "functional equivalent" of CEQA is imperfect, because the lead agency doesn't have a strong interest in seeing all potential impacts to wildlife are disclosed. If DFG is not involved, CDF is free to assume no wildlife concerns exist.



Under previous administrations, if a THP was approved without its recommendations, DFG exercised its right to not "concur." The non-concurrence letter would require the THP to be reviewed at a higher level, sometimes all the way up to the Director of CDF. This is the only administrative review process for THPs. Unless overturned by the courts as a result of a lawsuit by private citizens or environmental groups, CDF has the last word on THP approval.

According to DFG employees, Governor Davis has a notoriously low tolerance for controversy, and he doesn't want his agencies to fight amongst themselves or with industry. To that end, he has banned the practice of writing non-concurrences. Instead, he has instructed DFG and CDF to "work it out," and CDF is supposed to defer to DFG recommendations on THPs.

CDF has accepted many of DFG's proposed mitigations. According to one manager, "In the past, DFG would just sent a non-concurrence letter. This administration says 'go find some common ground.' In the long run this approach has been painful because we can't say we disagree.' Ultimately, we have accomplished more." Reportedly, some CDF offices are more receptive to DFG recommendations than others.

Many state biologists disagree. They contend that CDF, without the non-concurrence threat hanging over their heads, increasingly ignores Fish and Game recommendations, particularly (but not exclusively) on THPs filed by Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) and Simpson Timber Company.

With regard to PALCO and Simpson, some DFG employees, as well as employees of other state agencies, say THPs are getting worse. Biologists contend industry has been emboldened by the Davis administration's pro-timber industry stance. They say his friendly relationship with industry has been made clear; demonstrated by the January 18 Susan Kennedy meeting, the ban on non-concurrences, and the governor's appointments to the Board of Forestry, which allow industry to continue to thwart attempts to reform the state's Forest Practices Rules.
According to one biologist, "When DFG asks for more information on a THP, PALCO goes to Susan Kennedy [Governor Davis' Cabinet Secretary], who relays to DFG 'Stop holding up plans.' When Simpson Timber disagrees with DFG, rather than go to DFG to mitigate, they go to Susan Kennedy. The tire tracks on people's backs are well-formed."
According to DFG harvest plan reviewers, the "no non-concur" directive has led to delays in plan approvals as well as compromises that hurt fish and wildlife. DFG biologists are frustrated at being blamed for holding up a plan when the delays are actually a result of inaccurate or incomplete information on the THP. According to a DFG biologist, "One recent plan cited no owls, eagles, marbled murrelets or ospreys, yet all these ESA [Endangered Species Act]-listed species were present." Biologists decry the "no non-concurrence" policy; says one: "The resource loses, not DFG. We don't have any hammer; industry knows if they hold out long enough, they will win."

Despite the governor's directive, frustrated Fish and Game THP reviewers did write 2 non-concurrence letters recently. On one, CDF met DFG'S concerns; the other was withdrawn.



DFG biologists cite three major deficiencies in the department's ability to protect fish and wildlife from logging impacts. The first is a lack of positions for THP review. The second is failure by industry to adhere to existing Forest Practice Rules. The third is the inadequacy of existing rules to protect fish and wildlife.

1) Lack of Positions to Review THPs

Because the Department of Fish and game lacks the staff to consistently review THPs, scrutiny of logging plans is sporadic. Statewide, the Department of Fish and Game is able to review only about 15% of THPs, mostly on the North Coast. In the Sierra Nevada region, it has been several years since DFG has had personnel available to review any THPs. In upcoming years, the Department hopes to increase their statewide review of THPs to 25%. To meet this goal, 11 new reviewer positions will be created, and 8 of these will work on Sierra plans. DFG biologists contend that even 25% is not enough.

Due to the shortage of reviewers, DFG must employ triage to determine which THPs get reviewed, and various DFG offices use assorted criteria for selecting which plans to examine. Reviewers may look at the submitting Registered Professional Forester (RPF), which watershed a plan is in, number of acres and number of listed species involved. They also tend to look at plans brought to their attention by the public. Because they have the ability to review only a fraction of the logging plans proposed each year, biologists say they have to hope the plans provides accurate information. But, based on what they see in plans they do review, biologists say that is usually not the case.


2) Industry Ignores Forest Practice Rules

DFG biologists routinely find serious problems on plans they review. These include:

· failure to disclose information used by the project proponent to conclude that significant impacts will or will not occur on a plan;
· failure to identify and mitigate harm to threatened and endangered species;
· improperly identified stream classes;
· inadequate streamside buffers to protect endangered salmonids; and
· badly placed roads and landings.

Interviewed biologists contend that DFG's ability to inspect less than a quarter of THPs means oversight of state logging practices will remain inadequate, and damage to fish and wildlife resources from faulty logging practices will continue.

National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) biologist Joseph Blum is that agency's liaison to the State of California. He is in charge of implementation of the Endangered Species Act. In a June 2, 2000 Declaration issued pursuant to a lawsuit against CDF by several environmental organizations, Blum states:

Every timber harvest plan that NMFS has reviewed has been found to have disparities between what was written in the timber harvest plan and what NMFS staff found to be occurring on the ground during pre-harvest inspections. The disparities generally involved the width of buffer areas along streams, sometimes the plan called for wider buffers than what was actually done on the ground and sometimes the buffer width was wider than described in the plan. These discrepancies are only discovered if a timber harvest plan is reviewed and a site inspection occurs. The board of Forestry and CDF have received testimony from the state agencies charged with reviewing timber harvest plans and those agencies report varying degrees of review far below 100%; the California department of Fish and Game, for example, currently reviews only 14% of the timber harvest plans provided to them. For every timber harvest plan which NMFS has reviewed, NMFS has suggested modifications, sometimes substantial modifications, that should be made to the timber harvest plan to avoid take of listed salmonids and adverse modification of their critical habitat. Most of NMFS's suggested modifications have been incorporated by CDF into timber harvest plans. In two instances, however, Sulfur Creek and THP520 (PRIOR TO Pacific Lumber Company acquisition) NMFS informed CDF that the timber harvest plan was likely to harm listed coho and CDF issued the timber harvest plan anyway without requiring any modifications to address NMFS' concerns."

The Headwaters "Deal." After years of controversy over logging in the Headwaters Forest, the largest remaining privately held stand of ancient redwood trees, the state and federal governments negotiated a deal with Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) for the state to acquire 10,000 acres of the forest. Another 225,000 acres around the acquired land was to be managed under a painfully negotiated Habitat Conservation Plan that is intended to protect the threatened and endangered species that inhabit the area.

The Headwaters Habitat Conservation Plan is a large, three-volume document that includes a plethora of supporting documents. The HCP deal was subject to lengthy negotiations and last minute compromises. According to DFG fisheries staff, critical components in the HCP include buffer strip widths for various water course classifications, control of sediment from roads, hill slope management to avoid landslides, and the concept of a watershed disturbance index.

The HCP also addresses protection for sensitive terrestrial species. These components of the HCP are weaker than the watershed components. All these elements were negotiated at extreme length up to the minute the document was signed. The scientific community replied to the draft HCP by asking for additional protection, only part of which was incorporated into the final HCP.

Last minute negotiations left some issues unresolved. According to state employees, weaknesses in the Headwaters HCP stem from the tremendous political pressure to make the deal, and the fact that PALCO employed an army of attorneys as negotiators, while the state had mid-level managers and biologists at the bargaining table.

With some notable elements excepted (See Insert), DFG biologists believe that the HCP establishes stronger fish and wildlife protection than the Forest Practice Rules, under which logging in the rest of the state is regulated. However Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) and Department of Fish and Game biologists have very different interpretations of many provisions in the HCP. Moreover, according to DFG biologists, PALCO foresters fail to comply with the HCP provisions in some THPs. As a result, logging plans filed under the Headwaters HCP have been contentious, and solving these differences has caused delays in plan approval.

PALCO has bombarded the governor's office and state agencies with complaints about delays in getting timber harvest plans approved. The complaints often turn personal, as company officials attack the qualifications of state employees they consider obstructionists.

Logging plan reviewers argue the delays stem from deficiencies in the THPs themselves. The plans often fail to meet minimum standards required under the Forest Practice Rules or the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) adopted by the Headwaters Deal, which specifies rules for logging on Pacific Lumber Company-owned lands around the Headwaters Forest in order to protect sensitive or federally-listed species.

To the Woodshed: the Susan Kennedy Meeting
Those who thought the Davis administration would put fish and wildlife interests ahead of timber industry profits got a rude awakening early this year when Governor Davis' Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff Susan Kennedy asked managers and department heads from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to attend a meeting at the State Resources Building on January 18, 2000.

The meeting had no written agenda; however the wildlife managers were led to believe that they were to discuss the implementation of the Headwaters HCP. Managers from the three wildlife agencies and CDF anticipated a discussion regarding the problems with the THPs that delayed their approval.

Instead, the meeting consisted of a presentation by Jared Carter, Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Pacific Lumber, who complained about the delays in approving THPs. He blamed DFG for the delays, which he characterized as unnecessary. He also had harsh words for CDF.

Carter complained that Pacific Lumber couldn't continue to operate with those kinds of delays. Tommy Boggs, the Washington D.C. lobbyist for PALCO's parent corporation, Maxxam Corporation, also attended this meeting.

Wildlife managers characterize the session as "one-sided." In front of PALCO staff, Kennedy instructed state officials to bend over backward to get PALCO's logging plans approved more quickly. According to employees, this meant compromising HCP conservation measures and making concessions in conflict with management objections. State employees say the public chastising was "unnecessary and demoralizing." Stated one witness:

The company came to the administration and complained; so the governor's office beat up on us a bit. Pacific Lumber left the meeting feeling pumped up. We didn't need a public whipping to go back to work with CDF. Susan was pandering to the company, who went away all puffed up. That's not the way to encourage the people already killing themselves working long hours. Morale is not a concern to the governor's office; we could have accomplished the same objectives without being beaten over the shoulders about it.

According to several sources, the meeting and Kennedy's message served to embolden PALCO executives to push state agencies harder. As a result, DFG has had to give in to the company on the issues of Spotted Owl buffers and incidental take of murrelets on public land. PALCO reinterpretations of the HCP are reportedly getting worse, not better. Employees from several agencies say the company now routinely contacts the Governor's office on every THP. PALCO memos obtained by PEER show that the company continues to resist leaving live culls, attack the qualifications of state employees who challenge THPs, and demands time-constrained review of harvest plans. (Appendix A)

State resource agency employees say that Susan Kennedy continues to be "a timber industry tool." According to several employees, Kennedy obstructs implementation of the Headwaters HCP and the Forest Practice Rules. One biologist claims Kennedy "obstructs the ability of Fish and Game to fulfill their obligations under the Public Trust Doctrine as trustees of the State's fish and wildlife resources."


3) Forest Practice Rules Are Not Protecting Fish and Wildlife.

Both state and federal biologists maintain that even if there was strict adherence to state logging regulations by industry, fish and wildlife would still suffer as a consequence of legal logging practices in California, because existing Forest Practices Rules do not protect fish and wildlife.

According to one DFG manager:

Forest Practice Rules are laden with good intent language. The rules, however, fall short of meeting that intent. The biggest downfall is that standard measures are not sufficient to achieve objectives. The evidence for this is overwhelming. For example, commercial logging is the predominant management activity affecting coho salmon. Coho numbers have declined precipitously; therefore Forest Practice Rules are not accommodating that species.

Neither the sensitive watershed rule nor the late-successional rule has ever been effective at preserving species. There has never been a sensitive watershed designated and although there have been 3 or 4 thousand THPs since the late-successional forest rule went into effect, it has only made a difference on one plan.

For terrestrial species, there are only token measures for protecting Board of Forestry identified 'species of special concern.' The rules include snag retention standards, but the management intent is not clear. If the objective is conserving species or providing functional habitats, i.e. snags, the rule is not effective. Rather, these are token measures intended to look like they are doing something. CDF treats the THP review as an assembly line process rather than a review. CDF is more receptive to DFG recommendations now; but the rules are still inadequate.

National Marine Fisheries Service's Joseph Blum concurs. Again citing his declaration:

NMFS is aware of examples where timber harvest plans which have been approved by CDF as in compliance with the California Forest Practice Rules have likely resulted in take of listed salmonids or adverse modifications of their critical habitat. 99% of the timber harvest plans submitted to the CDF are never reviewed by NMFS. Considering the fact that every timber harvest plan NMFS has reviewed would likely have resulted in take of listed salmonids or adverse modification of critical habitat without NMFS suggested modifications, it is likely that many of the remaining 99% which NMFS has not reviewed may result in take or adverse modification of critical habitat.

In my official capacity as NMFS' representative, I have testified before the Board of Forestry and/or its Interim Committee, on no less than 10 occasions and explained that the California Forest Practice Rules are inadequate to protect and conserve salmonids. I have explained that timber activities under timber harvest plans approved under the California Forest Practice Rules are resulting in the destruction of salmonid habitat and are harming listed salmonids. I have presented the Board of Forestry with guidelines for forestry that, if followed, would reduce the likelihood of harming salmonids and I have provided the Board of Forestry and CDF with approximately 100 scientific citations documenting risk to salmonids associated with timber harvesting and related activities. Numerous times, before the Board of Forestry's Interim Committee and before the Board of Forestry itself, I have recommended that the Board of Forestry adopt the NMFS' Short-Term HCP Guidelines as interim rules while the Board of Forestry promulgates permanent rules that incorporate adequate salmonid protection. Further, in my official capacity, I have explained to the Board of Forestry and officials at CDF on numerous occasions that the state may be liable under the ESA for promulgating a regulatory scheme that which they are fully aware results in the take of listed salmonids and adverse modification of critical habitat. The only action the Board of Forestry has taken to address these issues is the adoption of the inadequate interim changes to the California Forest Practice Rules.

According to DFG employees, if political will to protect fish and wildlife is voiced, the increased budget will help. Otherwise, the inevitable outcome of having more THP reviewers is finding more problems.



The State Water Resources Control Board and the United States Environmental Protection Agency have determined that timber harvest operations are impairing water quality in dozens of California's streams and rivers. Less than 5000 wild coho salmon will spawn in the year 2000 in California-this represents less than 1% of their former numbers. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), timber harvesting and related activities are contributing factors in the decline of salmon and steelhead populations, several of which are now listed as "threatened" under the federal Endangered Species Act.

NMFS has repeatedly informed the State of California of the need to significantly strengthen its regulation of forest practices to provide adequate habitat for threatened fisheries. NMFS did a comprehensive review of Forest Practice Rules in relation to salmonids in 1998 and concluded that of 51 rules that affect salmon habitat, only 9 were "adequate" to "provide for the conservation of aquatic resources," 20 were "inadequate," 39 were dependent on a "high level of technical expertise" that may not be present, and 36 heavily relied "on agency review that is not consistent." [Effectiveness of the CA Forest Practice Rules to Conserve Anadromous Salmonids, Protected Resources Division, NMFS, Santa Rosa and Arcata, CA., May 22, 1998.]

In 1999, a blue ribbon Science Review Panel (SRP) concluded that California's Forest Practice Rules "do not ensure protection of anadromous salmonid populations." In March 2000 the Resources Agency and Cal-EPA jointly put forward a package of Forest Practice rule changes based on the SRP Report. This rule package was intended to provide modest improvements for imperiled coastal salmon. March 2000 was the last possible Board of Forestry meeting at which the rules could be adopted if they were to be applied in the year 2000.

The state is in a vulnerable legal position. In March 1999, the Garberville-based Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations (PCFFA) and others had brought suit in federal court against the California Dept of Forestry (CDF) for approving Timber Harvest Plans (THPs) that take or harm coho salmon. The Administration recognized they might be found guilty of permitting activities that caused harm to salmon. Taking or harming listed salmonids has been illegal in much of the state since 1996.

Industry's position was long held and often stated: There is no problem, therefore no solution is necessary. Because of the heavy industry make-up of the Board of Forestry, no rules package could pass without industry support.

By law, the nine-person Board of Forestry includes three Timber Industry representatives, one representative of the livestock grazing industry, and five Public Interest members, all gubernatorial appointments. New regulations require five affirmative votes. If Governor Davis needed the industry's support to pass the rules package, he had only himself to blame. A few months earlier Davis had appointed Sierra Pacific Industries' director Mark Bosetti to the Board. One of Davis' Public Interest appointments is a Humboldt County Supervisor with a family connection to the timber industry. Davis has not yet filled the fifth Public seat.

Despite extensive information and testimony that even the full rules package failed to fully address impacts of logging on endangered species, at its March meeting the Board of Forestry voted to adopt rules protecting Class I (fish-bearing) watersheds, but dropped proposed protections for Class 2 (fish present within 1,000 feet downstream an/or aquatic habitat for other aquatic species) and Class 3 (watersheds capable of transporting sediment downstream to Class 1 or 2 watersheds). Moreover, the adopted rules will Sunset (expire) on December 31, 2000.



To ultimately replace this modest interim regulation, the Board was to adopt rules allowing the timber industry to substitute "flexible," "site specific" prescriptions based on watershed assessments done by the landowners. As of August 2000, the Board is continuing to develop the substitute rule. The Davis administration proposed a watershed assessment program that Fish and Game biologists say falls far short of the standards necessary to ensure that logging practices are reformed. The program would collate mostly landowner- and industry-generated data on which the California Department of Forestry (CDF) would be allowed to base its approval of future timber harvesting plans. The governor included $6.9 million in the Resources Agency Budget to fund a related watershed-assessment program.

The legislature (AB717, Fred Keeley) countered with legislation that required watershed assessments based upon the best available science and peer reviewed and certified as appropriate for use in California by a team of qualified and independent scientists with demonstrated expertise in relevant fields. These would be appointed by the California Academy of Sciences in consultation with the Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Governor Davis blue-penciled the legislature's budget control language that would have prohibited funding for the governor's watershed program unless a strong AB 717 was enacted this legislative session. The struck language would have helped prevent weakening amendments to the Keeley bill. Linked to AB 717, the control language would have necessitated that the bill include adequate interim habitat protections for coho salmon and steelhead, such as no-cut streamside buffers, as well as science-based watershed assessment subject to peer and public review. With a Davis veto of the original AB717 virtually guaranteed, the bill has now been re-written and the watershed assessment language deleted.



While imperfect, the Headwaters HCP is a substantial improvement over the Forest Practice Rules with regard to fisheries protection. PALCO has 225,000 acres in the HCP. Another company, Simpson Timber, has twice as many acres, and this company's Timber Harvest Plans are only required to comply with the less restrictive Forest Practice Rules. After the HCP was adopted, DFG attempted to require the same watercourse buffers for streams in the Little River watershed, of which over 50% has been logged in the last 15 years. CDF did not agree and recommended a THP for approval without adopting the DFG recommendations.

Following negotiations between Simpson, DFG and CDF managers, it was decided they will alternate; one plan will use Simpson's Forest Practice Rules buffer; the next will implement DFG's expanded buffer. For a three- to five-year period, Simpson will be in charge of monitoring the effectiveness of each program on site. According to DFG fisheries staff, the Simpson monitoring plan will not provide useful information because of brevity of the study, storm intensity and sediment currently present.

"The state is experimenting with an endangered species [coho salmon]. Monitoring will not show anything except that it doesn't matter which buffers are used, which is what Simpson wants. Watershed damage does not occur at regular intervals in such a way that it can be measured annually or every five years, as proposed by the Simpson plan. The damage will occur with major storm events, the timing of which cannot be predicted. That's where these fail; that's where they fall apart. We can get a storm where it rains at one inch an hour. Large events will happen. Fisheries management consists of decades of boredom, punctuated by moments of panic.

It's not appropriate to experiment with an endangered species. Either apply the best science as Fish and Game has recommended, or non-concur. But the message from Governor Davis was 'don't non-concur.' It's frustrating that DFG missed that window of opportunity to have the HCP used as minimum protection; it's certainly scientifically justified."



According to one DFG manager, the greatest unmet need of fish and wildlife in the state is the complete lack of Timber Harvest Review in an entire bioregion - the Sierra Nevada. With zero funding for THP-reviewer positions, it has been years since DFG has been able to address logging in the Sierra Nevada. If recently approved positions are filled, the department hopes to be able to inspect approximately 25% of logging plans. With Sierra Pacific Industry (SPI) rapidly accelerating clear cutting on its 1.5 million acres of timberland in the Sierra, biologists and environmentalists agree the ability of DFG to review SPIs Timber Harvest Plans comes not a moment too soon.

Although forest practice rules ostensibly limit clearcut size to 40 acres maximum, companies need wait only 5 years before logging the buffer between clearcuts. Currently there is no limitation whatsoever on the total amount of land in an area that can be clearcut. Current practice is to clearcut one set of logging units, burn for site preparation, apply herbicides to knock brush back, plant trees in rows, and then five years later come back and start all over again on the adjacent lands. Whole watersheds can be clearcut in short order and SPI has indicated it intends to do just that.



The resource professionals at the Department of Fish and Game are dedicated to fulfilling the Department's role as Trustee for the state's fish and wildlife, delegated to the agency under the Public Trust Doctrine. These employees believe the Davis administration is compromising the Department's ability to fill that role, by being overly sympathetic to the demands of the state's timber industry.

Biologists say additional staff is needed so that the Department can review more Timber Harvest Plans throughout the state. Because plan reviewers consistently find problems in these plans, such as failure of the plans to identify the presence of listed species, they say their ability to review only a fraction of these plans means impacts to fish and wildlife from logging are going undetected. But they also note that reviewing more plans will mean finding more problems for which they have no legal remedy, because the existing Forest Practice Rules do not protect the state's fish and wildlife resources.

According to Department biologists, as well as biologists in other agencies, the Davis administration is much too friendly with industry, and as a result has failed to address deficiencies in the Forest Practice Rules. Those deficiencies are resulting in the continuing decline of federally-listed Threatened and Endangered Species such as coho salmon.

DFG biologists say the Governor's staff is obstructing implementation of the Headwaters Forest Habitat Conservation Plan, by caving to industry on essential elements of the plan. As a result, the viability of species such as northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet are threatened in the Headwaters Forest.

While DFG biologists say some Department of Forestry offices are more receptive to fish and wildlife concerns than in the past, others still refuse to adopt their recommendations. Biologists believe that the Governor's directive that forbids DFG from writing "non-concurrence" letters denies them important leverage when they believe a Timber Harvest Plan fails to mitigate harm to wildlife from a logging operation.

Department of Fish and Game employees want the Governor's staff to cease their interventions on behalf of the timber industry. They call the administration's intervention on individual Timber Harvest Plans "unprecedented." They want the Governor to allow badly needed reforms to the state's Forest Practices Act and they want the ability to fulfill their role as Trustee for wildlife, without being castigated by the administration and told to accommodate industry demands.


In the Fall of 1998, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility surveyed the 1600 employees of the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) at the request of agency employees.

The findings were troubling. Respondents reported that under the Pete Wilson administration, politics routinely overrode science in agency decision making, and that efforts to protect California's wildlife resources were often obstructed by DFG's own chain of command. Further, employees feared retaliation from management for advocating the enforcement of environmental laws. Tellingly, 89% of the survey respondents stated that agency morale was low.

When Gray Davis won the Governor's seat in 1998, DFG employees expected that things would change rapidly for the state's resource management agencies. Davis pledged his support for environmental enforcement, and shunned the Wilson administration's open disdain for environmental professionals.

This report stems from PEER's efforts to document just what changes were made during Davis' first term. PEER believes that the best people to report these events are the state's resource professionals: the men and women that work every day on behalf of California's fish and wildlife resources. California's Failed Forest Policy is the second in a series of interview-based reports on California natural resource agencies. California PEER's report on the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, from July 2000, is also available on request.

To research this report, California PEER conducted extensive one-on-one interviews with 70 current DFG employees, as well as other state employees. This report summarizes the most consistent themes from the interviews

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is an association of resource managers, scientists, biologists, law enforcement officials and other government professionals committed to upholding the public trust through responsible management of the nation=s environment and natural resources.

PEER advocates sustainable management of public resources, promotes enforcement of environmental protection laws, and seeks to be a catalyst for supporting professional integrity and promoting environmental ethics in government agencies.

PEER provides public employees committed to ecologically responsible management with a credible voice for expressing their concerns.

PEER's objectives are to:

1. Organize a strong base of support among employees with local, state and federal resource management agencies;
2. Monitor land management and environmental protection agencies;
3. Inform policymakers and the public about substantive issues of concern to PEER members; and
4. Defend and strengthen the legal rights of public employees who speak out about issues of environmental management.

PEER recognizes the invaluable role that government employees play as defenders of the environment and stewards of our natural resources. PEER supports resource professionals who advocate environmental protection in a responsible, professional manner.


 PEER National Headquarters
2001 S Street, NW, Suite 570
Washington, DC 20009
(202) 265-PEER
(202) 265-4192

PEER California
PO Box 2367
Sacramento, CA 95812
(530) 333-1106
 (530) 333-1113