The Union Democrat
Forest Watch looks at ways to reach goals
Published: March 17, 2005
By SUNNY LOCKWOOD
Having lost its case at the state's last court of appeal, a foothill environmental group is planning to turn to the court of public opinion to block clear-cut logging in area forests.
Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch representatives say they hope to organize community groups, lobby county officials and support state legislation as avenues for blocking future clear cuts.
"If litigation doesn't work, there are other strategies," Forest Watch President Bruce Castle said.
In 2002, the grassroots environmental group sued California Department of Forestry over its approval of Sierra Pacific Industries' clear-cutting logging plans for SPI-owned land in El Dorado, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties, saying the CDF was not considering the cumulative effect of all the timber harvest plans it was, one by one, approving.
And in each county's superior court, the environmental group lost.
It then combined El Dorado and Calaveras' appeals, but lost again in California's Third Appellate Court last August. Undaunted, Forest Watch filed a petition for review with the California State Supreme Court — which last month denied the petition.
The Tuolumne case is still on appeal.
While it will argue the Tuolumne case, the group says it has regrouped and is deciding its next move in Calaveras and El Dorado counties.
"We're exploring ways to empower the citizens," Castle said.
Two Forest Watch members, Murphys residents Addie Jacobson and Penny Sarvis, recently attended a workshop on organizing community activism.
"We believe we have a right to say what direction we want our county and state to go in and corporations should not completely dominate the rest of us," Jacobson said, adding that she's not exactly sure how Forest Watch will engage the larger community.
Sarvis said as Forest Watch moves forward, the group will find out what issues concern residents throughout the Sierra Nevada, and explore ways to resist economic activity that the citizens don't want happening in their communities.
"The concerns may be clear-cutting or big box stores," she said.
Sarvis said the 400-member organization may also seek to have the counties formulate their own, stricter logging regulations.
Tom Nelson, director of forest policy for SPI, a major logging outfit, said his firm feels the courts have vindicated the company and the process CDF uses to analyze timber harvest plans.
"If nothing else, I would think the public would feel glad that we have a system and a recourse to challenge things. It's a wonderful thing to use the system to get your grievances aired," he said.
"We feel that happened and the judges at every level deemed that the protections that are in place are more than adequate."
Contact Sunny Lockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org.