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California Forestry Legislation Update

ACL - Associated California Loggers Forestry

ACL - Associated California Loggers Forestry May 2013, Contributed by Paul Violett, Vice President, Plumas-Sierra ACL Co-Chair –

 

AB350 fails, two other bills pass assembly natural resources committee; negotiations begin.

Action was taken on three forestry bills in committee on Monday, April 29. All three bills will be part of ongoing negotiations of the Timber Harvest Working Group, of which ACL is a member.  ACL was at the Committee hearing for testimony. Summary:

AB 350 (Wieckowski/Bigelow), ACL SUPPORTS: Expands “LaMalfa Fire Prevention Exemption” to allow for fuels reduction thinning of trees up to 28 inches in stump diameter. The current exemption only allows trees less than 18 inches in stump diameter to be thinned, which does little to reduce fuels and does not produce enough merchantable wood to cover costs of fire prevention thinning.

The current situation is akin to having no forest fire prevention program in place at all because current law makes it economically infeasible to do so.

Increasing the allowable stump diameter to 28″ would make fire prevention thinning economically feasible, resulting in healthier forests and decreased fire risk.

Committee Chair Wes Chesbro (D-Eureka) announced at the beginning of the hearing that he wanted to “hold this bill in committee without a vote,” stopping it as a “two-year bill” for further negotiation in the Timber Harvest Working Group.

At this time, Chesbro does NOT support AB 350. He allowed testimony and a vote. All 3 Republicans on the committee voted “Aye.” One Democrat, Mark Stone of Santa Cruz, voted “no”. Stone said, “this exemption would not fit redwood trees in my coastal district”. The other five Democrats on the nine-member committee were either absent or did not vote “in respect of Chairman Chesbro’s wishes.” Final Vote: 3 Ayes, 1 No, 5 Absent or not voting. FAILED PASSAGE. Reconsideration was granted(by a vote of 9-0) and this issue moves back into negotiation.

AB 875 (Chesbro), ACL WATCH:     This bill establishes two pilot projects, using AB 1492 “restoration money” from the lumber tax if and when available, to centralize forestry data and to standardize information that will help make the evaluation and response to cumulative impacts “credible and effective” particularly in regard to salmonoids and other wildlife, watershed and forest health issues.

This bill has environmental support and industry neutrality for now, except that labor (The Forest Products Industry Labor Management Committee) opposes it.  Final vote: 9 Ayes, no Noes, no absent or not voting. PASSED to Assembly Appropriations Committee.

AB 904 (Chesbro), ACL WATCH: Pulled by Assemblyman Chesbro in last session and reintroduced this year as AB 904. AB 904 would create Working Forest Management Plans (WFMPs) formally allowing up to less than 15,000 acres to be placed under these plans, as opposed to the less than 2,500 acreage limit currently on NTMPs.

The only opposition was Forest Products labor.  Final Vote: 8 Ayes, 0 Noes, 1 absent or not voting. (Democrat Mark Stone of Santa Cruz), PASSED To Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The Timber Harvest Working Group will continue to meet throughout 2013. Though AB 350 failed and AB 875 and AB 904 passed to their next committees, all three bills – and possibly more issues – will be negotiated together in an effort to develop an overall legislative package for 2013 that can be passed by the Legislature and signed into law.

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