Protecting life or money?

The California state constitution and common law states that public trust resources of water, fish, and wildlife belong to all citizens. The state of California is charged with guarding these public trust resources.

The 1970 California Endangered Species Act (CESA) requires public agencies fully filter all timber decisions through environmental implications and concerns. The process is to be transparent and public concerns met with due process. Furthermore, significant environmental impacts must be mitigated.

In 1973 a major check and balance was weakened when the state created the Forest Practices Act. This act did away with a complete Environmental Impact Report, allowing landowners to file a Timber Harvest Plan. This plan is reviewed by the department of forestry, fish and game and water agencies whose purpose is to ensure forestry regulations are followed and the public trust resources are respected. The more thorough process of comparing science with specific topography and wildlife was no longer between the forests and timber industry. This juncture represents a turn away from the sensitivities of our environmental life support and a move forward into the wishes of the powerful timber industry. While most non-industry landowners found this a blessing, the result of this act has been the devastated logging remains we see today. The public trust no longer was a major factor in the decision making, falling away to the discretions of individual landowner.

Obviously maintaining the sustainability of the public trust has failed in such dismal ways that one could wonder if anyone is watching at all. For instance in the year 2000, 20 acre plots in Arnold were being approved one at a time, taking no notice that the sum of the approvals had created one single 884 acre clearcut. It is hard to imagine the frustration, anger and pain of local citizens through this type of absurdity and certainly the tensions between property rights advocates and public trust advocates is strained. As one devastated community after another clearly shows, the law is with industry and not the people.