Over the past 5 years, California’s forests have been devastated by drought, bark beetle and wildfire. In fact, we just experienced the worst wildfire season in California history and are still dealing with the loss of 129 million trees from the bark beetle epidemic.
Our forests are in crisis. They are overcrowded and unhealthy. In order to enjoy all the benefits that they provide, it is paramount that we find a new approach to management for overall forest health.
Calforests has created a list of proposals that would restore the health of our forests, and we’re looking to work with our partners on a number of different solutions. Below are the proposed actions and a download of the full 2018 Forest Health Initiative.
FUELS MANAGEMENT AND BIOMASS
We must reduce the fuel load in our forests and wildlands. Cal Fire and the Board of Forestry need to complete the proposed Vegetation Treatment Program to provide greater assurity to landowners and the liability issues for the use of prescribed fire need to be addressed. Landowners with 5,000 or fewer acres often cannot afford timber harvest planning, so technical and financial assistance might be needed to engage these landowners.
The biomass material removed from the land should be used as a renewable fuel source. Currently, the economics work against biomass energy production so action needs to be taken to treat biomass like solar and wind power.
EFFICIENCIES IN THE REGULATING OF TIMBER HARVESTING
In 2012, the Legislature called for “efficiencies” in the regulations of timber harvesting. The Natural Resources Agency needs to complete its work on synchronous permitting. Timelines for permit approval need to be honored and a landowners “Bill of Rights” should be considered.
Planning at a watershed level can involve multiple landowners and agencies and will produce landscape level actions which can improve watershed utility.
Over the past several years, the Legislature has approved numerous exemptions to the regular timber harvest review. These exemptions can be consolidated to achieve consistency of approach and prioritization of actions.
Consistency of approach to endangered species and clarification of rules related to “candidate” species would provide landowners with greater assurance regarding approved Timber Harvest Plans.
ACTIVE FOREST MANAGEMENT
Given the state’s finite financial resources, California should prioritize its conservation efforts in order to ensure that taxpayers receive a maximum return on the stewardship of our natural resources.
There are several innovative “new wood” products including cross-laminated timber. Some of these products utilize biomass material. California should actively explore use of mass timber through pilot construction projects and updating of the building code.