The Quincy Library Group, nationally acclaimed for its open and politically diverse membership, will be holding some of its meetings behind closed doors.
restriction, adopted March 30 in a unanimous voice vote, is to
prevent disruptions the group fears from longtime opponents of its
controversial forest management plan for three national forests in
the northern Sierra Nevada.
"For us to get our
work done, I see no reason to invite in people who are opposed to
what we do," said Tom Nelson, a Sierra Pacific Industries forester
who co-founded the group. But to its critics, the limits on
participation give explicit sanction to a policy of exclusion that
they say has been characteristic of the Quincy Library Group since
its formation in 1992.
"It's troubling that they
would formally close their doors to interests that have differing
opinions," said Jay Watson, regional director of The Wilderness
Society. "This is a flawed process that has run even more amok."
Founded by Nelson, then-Plumas County Supervisor
Bill Coates and Quincy environmental attorney Michael Jackson, the
Quincy coalition designed a forest management plan to protect
wilderness and roadless areas while providing timber for local
sawmills (HCN, 9/29/97). The plan calls for removing small trees
from up to 60,000 acres a year to reduce the threat of wildfire,
and harvesting the timber on around 9,000 acres a year one tree at
a time or in two-acre clear-cut blocks.
proposal became the focus of regional and national opposition after
Rep. Wally Herger, R-Calif., introduced legislation requiring the
Forest Service to execute the plan in a five-year demonstration
project. In October, President Clinton signed the bill co-sponsored
by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., despite widespread opposition
from environmental groups. The Forest Service has until Aug. 17 to
complete a review of the environmental
An interdisciplinary team of more than
25 agency specialists is assessing the potential effects of the
logging, particularly the experimental removal of trees to create a
network of forest fuel breaks as a protection against wildfire. The
work must comply with all federal regulations, including
protections for the California spotted owl, an indicator species
that is declining, according to recent studies. So far, the Forest
Service team has drafted four possible plans and is working on a
fifth, said Lee Anne Schramel Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Plumas
To monitor and influence the
agency process, the Quincy Library Group established the Pilot
Project Consultation Committee. It is here that the group gives the
most scrutiny to Forest Service plans and their effects on water
quality, forest fragmentation, prescribed fire and other ecological
issues. And it is these meetings that are now closed except to
members and invited
Representatives of several environmental
groups, including outspoken opponents of the Quincy legislation,
had been attending the pilot-project committee meetings to
participate in the discussions that could affect the eventual
management of a large tract of public
"Here's a little group of people that can
decide public policy," said Erin Noel, staff attorney for the
Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, a coalition of
environmental groups. "I'm hoping to raise substantive issues
before they become roadblocks or litigation."
But her reports to her clients angered some
Quincy Library Group members, who said they were being
misrepresented and their discussions used as ammunition against
them. Noel and others interrupted and inhibited the committee's
work, said George Terhune, a Quincy Library Group member who
proposed the closed-door policy. Terhune said recent meetings were
adjourned early because of disruptions caused by what he called
"outside interests trying to destroy us."
said closing the committee meetings excludes the public from key
discussions about natural resources owned by
"Until now, the Quincy Library Group
has walked a line between public forum and special-interest group.
This is a strong step toward special interests," she
The coalition is a group of private
citizens working toward a common goal, said Nelson, the Sierra
Pacific forester. Though it is a consensus-based collaborative
group meeting with the interested public, it is not a public body
subject to open meeting laws, he said.
of how the Quincy Library Group behaves, the federal environmental
review by the Forest Service is still a public process providing
opportunities for anyone to participate, said Watson of The
Wilderness Society. That should be the public focus in the few
months before the agency presents its management recommendations,
The decision to close the meetings of
the Pilot Project Consultation Committee does not affect the Quincy
coalition's monthly meetings, generally held in the library from
which it took its name, said co-founder Coates.
* Jane Braxton Little
writer reports from Greenville,
You can contact
* Quincy Library Group, Mike DeLasaux,
Nevada Forest Protection Campaign, Erin Noel, 530/292-4276.
* U.S. Forest Service, Dave Peters,