MENDOCINO Co., 9/14/23 — A public meeting in Fort Bragg on Friday, September 15 at 9 a.m., will discuss the future management of Jackson Demonstration State Forest (JDSF). The meeting’s agenda is packed full of issues activists have been hankering to address.
The Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group (JAG) will meet at Fort Bragg’s First Presbyterian Church at 367 S. Sanderson Way. At 1 p.m, the meeting plans to recess to a tour. Be advised that the church is near several local schools, so caution is encouraged in driving to the meeting.
With nearly 50,000 acres wrapping around Fort Bragg, Caspar and Mendocino’s unincorporated eastern areas, Jackson is the largest of Cal Fire’s ten demonstration state forests. Map of the forest shown here.
The area has a long history of logging that began under private ownership in 1862, and then evolved into sustainable harvesting after the state’s purchase of the property in 1947.
Logging in Jackson went along smoothly for many years, although many newcomers were confused about a state-owned forest with a primary mission of logging. That period ended when logging was proposed in 2020 in an area that included a wide swath of the forest closest to Caspar, with beloved large trees just off walking paths in the harvest plan. Past harvests had been deeper in the forest. The areas chosen seemed to be a miscue by the authorities. Although the plan was approved with little input from the public, once the contracts were awarded, a huge round of protests began. The plan that led to the present controversy was approved just as the pandemic hit in 2020. The last three years have been marked by protests, including people locking themselves to logging road gates or entering areas where trees were being felled. Along the way, local tribal activists demanded that tribes participate in management of the publicly owned forest.
Activists say it’s time to change the mission of the forest from sustainable logging to something that might help slow climate change, better prepare the area for forest fires and preserve native species.
The JAG is a unique entity that once operated mostly unseen but has come into prominence with all the controversy in recent years. Here is how the state defines the JAG: “The Jackson Demonstration State Forest Advisory Group (JAG) is an advisory body of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) and the Board of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Mission of the JAG is to provide advice/recommendations to Cal Fire and the Board of Forestry regarding issues relevant to the periodic review of the JDSF Management Plan required under Board policy; ongoing implementation issues; and policy matters relevant to JDSF.”
The JAG is seeking to accelerate the new forest management plan that had been set to expire in 2026, because of all the community input recently, especially related to tribal requests for co-management. Last summer, a new plan was proposed and is being honed. The meeting seeks input on this new, updated vision for management of JDSF and how it will be used to guide review and revision of the Forest Management Plan. This “new vision” was developed with significant input from Tribal leaders, redwood conservation biologists, and public stakeholders. The primary objectives of JDSF are: sustainable forest management, including accelerated forest restoration; research and demonstration; public recreation; and Tribal access and co-management, according to documents attached to Friday’s agenda. Twenty-one written comments have already been received by the JAG. According to the documents, the state is seeking a consultant firm to put together the extensive input on the issue and lead the effort to revise forest use planning for JDSF before 2026.
More about the co-management plan can be found in our previous coverage here.
Items on the JAG agenda Friday include a facilitator-led discussion of how to:
I. Build stronger working relationships between Cal Fire, the JAG members and the public in support of the New Vision for JDSF. The lack of trust between these groups has been featured in an article in the Mendocino Voice.
II. Develop understanding and agreement about the New Vision as a guide
to current and planned activities.
III. Build respectful working relationships between Cal Fire, the JAG, and
Public to advance the shared goals of the New Vision for JDSF.
IV. Develop understanding and support for Cal Fire efforts to advance Tribal
engagement and co-management.