A real forest partnership is NOT about giving up rights under the law; suspending duly established government process or excluding the public from important decisions about the public lands. Real forest partnerships are not about accommodation; they are about finding a new social balance which is respectful of the laws and the land. Real forest partnerships honor the Organic Act which created the national forests so that westerners could enjoy "favorable conditions of water flow" and as a hedge against future timber famines. Real forest partnerships honor the mandates of the National Forest Management Act: biodiversity, clean streams, diverse recreation and responsible resource use without impairing the land.
When communities and industries embrace such a vision – the original and therefore the conservative approach – left and right wing labels dissolve into air and true community – not shotgun weddings or marriages of convenience but real community - emerges.
As an elder of the tribe I consider it a disappointment and a disgrace that some who call themselves defenders of the earth are willing to make deals and reach accommodations which do not honor the far seeing laws enacted to protect public land and public trust resources including water and wildlife. These are bedrock laws and public trusts; true partnerships will not compromise them.
For many western politicians all forest partnerships that include timber corporations are the same: they have never seen one that they did not fall all over themselves seeking to support. These politicians have been too eager to pass legislation which skirts bedrock public land laws in order to get more trees out of the woods. This is what happened with the Quincy Library Group Bill championed by Wally Herger and Diane Feinstein and passed into law in 1997. Its proponents promised not only jobs but also fire risk reduction and even that the bill would augment California’s water supply by removing “thirsty” trees from the Sierra Mountains.
The QLG legislation has been a failure. Not only has it failed to deliver the promised logs, it has increased rather than reduced conflict over Northern Sierra timber sales, increased rather than decreased the risk that forest fires will burn catastrophically and decreased rather than increased the dry-season flow in Northern Sierra rivers and streams. Can I prove these claims? Well in the case of the water claim I do not need to provide justification – at least according to Nobel laureate Wangari Mattei. When asked in a 2005 interview published in Sierra Magazine why she concentrated her efforts to help women on tree planting Mattei replied:
We all know where water comes from, from forested mountains.
I am not sure just which “we” Mattei referred to. She apparently does not realize that here in the American West the full connection between trees and water supply is a carefully guarded secret which not even Forest Service researchers have the political will to study.
The press has been as gullible and uncritical as the politicians. HCN is one of the few publications that has provided diverse perspectives on the QLG legislation and other forest partnerships. Unlike environmental groups which are classed as right or left, radical or mainstream, etc and whose actions are closely evaluated, forest partnerships have gotten a free ride from the western press. Following the lead of the politicians, the western press declares “success” if former antagonists sign an agreement. I know of no instance where the media has gone back later to report on the actual results on the ground. Where, for example, are the follow-up stories on the QLG legislation? I’ve done the on-line searches and I can not find a single example of a forest partnership or collaboration which the media - including HCN - has revisited after implementation to report on results.
As a mater of fact, that would be a great article for HCN – an evaluation a dozen years after its passage of how the QLG legislation has played out on the ground.