County Forest Policy Looking A Lot Like Arcata’s – September 21, 2010

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Daniel Mintz

Eye Correspondent

HUMBOLDT – Arcata’s success with acquiring and managing community forests has been noted by the county, which is supporting efforts to establish new regional community forests.

At its Sept. 7 meeting, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted to support a grant request from the Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA) to a private foundation for studying the feasibility of creating new community forests.

Arcata’s community forest system has expanded to the City’s Sunny Brae area and was repeatedly cited as an example of how to carry out sustainable timber harvesting to pay for new recreation and habitat conservation opportunities.

“The City of Arcata’s model has clearly shown that it generates significant revenue over and above what is required to maintain and operate that piece of land,” said county Public Works Director Tom Mattson.

Doing something similar would allow the county to expand its parks system. “For once, we’re hoping to be able to say, ‘Yes, we can do this’ instead of saying, ‘No, we can’t take it without any additional funding,’” said Mattson.

Yana Valachovic, the forestry advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension who was recently appointed to Arcata’s all-citizen Forest Management Committee, told supervisors that the county has the advantage of having a working model to follow. “The City of Arcata’s forest has provided an accessible demonstration of multi-use management,” she said. “It has been such a leader for integrating the community into the idea that’s it’s possible to get a steady supply of wood as well as a place for recreation, a water supply, wildlife habitat and all the things that people seem to hold in common.”

Gordon Leppig of the Department of Fish and Game said that the county needs “more non-regulatory approaches” to preserve forest habitats.

“The Arcata community forest model is world renowned and has been fabulously successful at doing so,” he continued.

But the idea of supporting the grant proposal was not without a hint of controversy. The RCAA’s proposal cites a 400-acre open space parcel that’s included in the controversial Forster-Gill Subdivision as an example of a viable community forest site. The subdivision is the biggest in the county’s history and Supervisor Jill Duffy was wary of the appearance of support for it.

Mattson said the parcel was only intended as an example of a site that could be used. “Our hope is that the feasibility study would look at the region as a whole,” he continued.

Supervisor Mark Lovelace entered the county’s political scene several years ago, when he led opposition to an industrial logging plan and helped establish the Sunny Brae Community Forest. He said a feasibility study will help regardless of which site is chosen.

“I could talk endlessly about the benefits of community forests,” Lovelace continued. “I can look at the forests that have been managed by the City of Arcata over the years and see the much greater health and the greater aesthetic value in the parts of the forest that the city has been actively logging versus a piece that was industrially logged 30 years ago and left to do what it’s going to do.”

Jen Rice of the RCAA invited supervisors to offer ideas on how to draw people into the process of establishing county-area community forests modeled after Arcata’s.

Supervisors unanimously approved sending a support letter for the grant proposal.