As part of the criteria for its newly acquired certification from the Forest Stewardship Council, Green Diamond Resource Co. held a public meeting last week at the Bayside Grange for a standing-room-only crowd.
Company representatives, including communications manager Gary Rynearson and vice president Neil Ewald, gave an hour-long presentation on the company’s forestry practices, harvest plans and projected activities, including announcements concerning plans for the McKay tract south of Eureka and Strawberry Rock near Trinidad.
After a brief description of the history of the McKay property, John Bernstein from the Trust for Public Land announced a potential partnership with Green Diamond to preserve 1,200 acres of the 7,600-acre tract as a community forest. Another several hundred acres is also being considered for a conservation easement, though logging would continue on the remainder of the property.
As for the forest around Strawberry Rock, Ewald announced the company’s willingness to work with stakeholder groups to preserve part of that property.
"Not long before the holidays, I had occasion to meet with a fella named Abe Brower. ... He called me and said, ‘I’d like to talk to you about Strawberry Rock.’ He’s a tree-sitter out there, and so we organized a meeting in Trinidad. He told me what he was interested in, and I told him we would listen. And we did," Ewald said.
He said it was the company’s intention to find a way to get a conservation easement for three special areas: the trail to the rock for public access, for the rock itself, and for the stand of trees - about 27 acres in size - that the trail straddles.
Following Ewald’s announcement, the floor was opened to questions and comments. Public response to the plans ran the gamut from complimentary and grateful to confrontational and disappointed. Many speakers said they felt that the company was attempting to "greenwash" their image through small concessions and minor adjustments, while still engaging in practices like herbicide use and clear-cutting.
Several speakers said that the timber harvest plan for Strawberry Rock includes more than 100 acres scheduled for harvesting, and called for the entire timber harvesting plan for that area to be canceled. Ewald said that had not yet been considered, but that the company would "take it under advisement." Gary Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, expressed a common concern.
"One of the main issues we want to address is (Green Diamond’s) perpetual commitment to even-aged management - clear-cutting," he said. "The areas keep getting smaller and smaller, but the science keeps getting stronger and stronger, especially in the temperate rainforest ecosystem of the redwoods showing how damaging clear-cutting really is, especially to the climate...
What I understand from a lot of the climate science right now is that the way the planet is warming, we could very well be facing nearly uninhabitable conditions by the year 2050. ... We’re right here with the redwood forest, the most endangered temperate rainforest on the planet, and you’re committed still to clear-cutting. So my question really is: When will you hear what the community and the scientific world is saying about clear-cutting and make that move ahead of time, on your own avail, to move ahead from this clearly climated estroying paradigm?"
Ewald said Green Diamond does everything it can to ensure it protects public health resources on our property, noting the company employs 45 scientists.
"Everything has tradeoffs," he said. "Even with selection harvesting, you do it with tractors and bulldozers, and you end up with skid trails. Those tradeoffs are things we’ve considered, and in our view, this is the most prudent way to manage these forests."
EPIC conservation director Andrew Orahoske said he was "disappointed" that the forest council brought Green Diamond under its umbrella.
"In 2011, the FSC changed their policy to allow clear-cutting in these very forests. ... I have to really question that decision, and we are going to vigorously investigate the process. ... We plan to file an official complaint with FSC, because we really do not think this is a legitimate certification," he said.