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Dead Trees & Pot

A woman who lives in Mendocino County now but was raised in Oregon, called me after reading last week’s column on the Measure V ordinance issue where Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) is claiming it is exempt from its coverage.

Measure V was a voter-approved 2016 local ballot measure that mandated that trees killed by herbicides left standing for 90 days were a public nuisance. The measure was aimed at entities such as Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC) that use the “hack and squirt” process of injecting hardwoods, mostly tanoaks, with herbicides like Imazapyr, to kill them over time. The main objective of Measure V was to stop MRC from using the herbicide through the public nuisance enforcement mechanism.

I wrote that legally it appears that at least two state laws — the Right To Farm Act and the state Forestry Practices Act — appear to support that argument. I also speculated that politics, in the form of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s long-standing relationship with the Fisher family, who own MRC, could also play a role in the controversy.

It was this latter consideration that spurred the woman to call me. This is what she had to say.

“My father, one brother, and two uncles are or were employed in the timber industry. My other brother graduated from Oregon State with a degree in forestry and he now works as a state forester in Montana. I support the modern logging industry because of the positive changes that have been made over recent years, but I don’t support using herbicides that leave trees standing that are dead. No one should be poisoning our forests. If you’re right about MRC being exempt because of state laws, then those laws must be changed. But I don’t understand how the governor can get involved in this local problem because he truly has a conflict of interest through his friendship and campaign contributions from the Fishers and I’m assuming MRC. How does anybody know if he’s not behind the scenes pulling strings for them?”

I told her that Newsom is a savvy politician and I’m sure he’s smart enough to avoid exercising any direct influence in this matter that may run him afoul of conflict laws. But as she said, there’s the “behind the scenes” indirect ways to send a message in politics. That’s been the case forever. But I think this case is too high profile at this point for any monkey business occurring off-stage. We’ve already seen enough of that with the state Attorney General’s Office declining to render a legal opinion due to an unspecified conflict of interest.

Without a doubt the courts will be deciding the outcome of this dispute. A judge will resolve the jurisdictional and exemption arguments raised by the parties.

The only question likely to be left open after the courts rule is, what are we going to do with all those dead but upright trees?

Pot Ordinance Mess Is Still A Mess

Mark Scaramella, of the Anderson Valley Advertiser, reported that at this week’s BOS meeting, “Carre Brown managed to outdo Haschak when, responding to the Grand Jury’s blast at her and her colleagues, she cited the County’s pot licensing program as a success, a statement so at odds with that resounding failure it calls into question the Supervisor’s sanity.”

I like Carre Brown, I’ve known her for a long time, she’s served her constituents well. But she’s just just flat wrong on this pot stuff.

By any reasonable, empirical standard of policy evaluation or criteria the county’s Cannabis Ordinance is an abysmal failure. With the exception of county officials, I have yet to hear from anyone who thinks or claims it is a success. The legalization ordinance has been on the books for over three years and the record is clear and unambiguous. Cultivators have voted with their feet. Approximately 90 percent of farmers refuse to make application for a permit. By any definition that evasion of compliance constitutes a public policy and programmatic failure. There is no other conclusion that can be reached. The pot program is still a mess. 

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