California makes exciting progress


We first wrote in May about a historic plan in California, developed with timber companies, environmental groups and government officials, that would give a boost to the state’s timber industry by allowing some thinning to protect from forest fires.

The Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative is even bigger than that. It would put parties normally at odds on the same page for the first time, creating a shared future for California’s forests that would allow for both working forests and environmental protection. The initiative would produce not just thinning to protect from wildfires but also biomass plants and entry into new markets, such as wood pellets for home heating.

Just this week, Calaveras County in Northern California became the first local government in the Sierra Nevada region to approve the plan. The county’s position as the first goverment to receive the plan was no coincidence, given that much of the state plan was modeled after economic initiatives created by County Commissioner Steve Wilensky.

What’s interesting is that even in Calaveras County, there were mixed feelings about the plan’s ultimate impact:

The unanimous vote came despite lingering doubts expressed by several supervisors over whether the Sierra Nevada Forest and Community Initiative can really engineer a lasting peace between environmentalists and logging companies. That’s something all sides say is needed to break a legal deadlock that has left public forests largely neglected.

“It’s easy to say this and then it all gets hijacked,” Supervisor Tom Tryon said of the resolution calling for local government, state authorities, federal officials, environmentalists and private industry to work together to make forests healthier and safer while boosting the economy.

No surprise that local leaders would have some qualms about such a far-reaching plan, but kudos to California stakeholders for putting their heads together and moving things forward in a collaborative way.