On June 7, 2016, Mendocino County voters approved Measure V, declaring intentionally-killed and left-standing trees a public nuisance. At issue was the local timber industry practice of poisoning millions of trees and then leaving them to die in our forests. The Measure's intent was to address the additional fire (and firefighter) hazard that results from this practice. It did not prohibit the practice of poisoning trees (aka hack-and-squirt) but merely asked practitioners to clean up the mess and not leave an ever-expanding fire hazard in their wake. Measure V passed by overwhelming majority, the will and desire of the people was clear.
One month later (July 6, 2016), Dennis Thibeault (Mendocino Redwood Company VP) sent a letter to Carmel Angelo (Mendocino County CEO) claiming that timber operators were "exempt from a public nuisance determination" and the county lacked "authority to adopt any ordinance restricting its practice." This little bit of corporate saber-rattling was all it took to frighten the County into inaction on the newly passed Measure.
Nine months later (March 2017), after residents continued to complain to county officials about their inaction on V, Mendocino County Counsel Katharine Elliot came up with the buck-passing tactic of soliciting the state Attorney General's office for an opinion on the matter, asking: "Does state law preempt the enforcement of a county ordinance that declares 'intentionally killed and left standing trees' to be a public nuisance?"
Two-and-a-half years went by before the AG's office finally responded:
"With regret, we must cancel your request for an opinion on the following question: ‘A county ordinance declares certain intentionally killed trees that are left standing to be a public nuisance. Is such an ordinance preempted by state forestry law governing the conduct of timber operations — specifically the Z'berg-Nejedly Fprest Practic [sic] Act of 1973 or the California Timberland Productivity Act of 1982?’ Unfortunately, we discovered late in our internal vetting process that we should withdraw from the matter in order to avoid a risk of a conflict of interest arising. We are sorry that we are not able to produce an official opinion on your question. Thank you for your interest and understanding."
More than three years have now passed since voters declared this practice a public nuisance. The timber industry says they can ignore our law, and continue to leave dead trees in their wake. During the two full years (2017, 2018) since Measure V became law, the timber industry distributed 1,984 gallons of imazapyr (the herbicide used for hack-and-squirt) over 14,082 acres in Mendocino County. That's enough poison to kill 2,503,146 nine-inch diameter trees. Meanwhile, Mendocino County officials continue to cower and do nothing.
This is a complete failure of democracy. These entities, business and government, have no respect for the will of the people. We're going to have to insist.
LEGAL NOTE: Countering MRC’s claim of exemption is this passage from CA Government Code, Sec. 51115.5:
"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, timber operations conducted within a timber production zone pursuant to the provisions of the Zberg-Nejedly Forest Practice Act of 1973 (Chapter 8 (commencing with Section 4511) of Division 4 of the Public Resources Code) shall not constitute a nuisance, private or public."