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River Views

More than 50 denizens of the area around the Albion River crowded into the Albion School during the evening of April 11th to discuss the 586-acre timber harvest plan Mendocino Redwood Company has proposed for the lower Albion. The headline of the evening came from MRC’s Albion forester, John Andersen, and MRC’s president and chief forester, Mike Jani: the company will not use herbicides to control tan oak anywhere on this particular timber harvest plan. Of course there was hedging about how far into the future this pledge would last. That is contingent on redwood seedlings outgrowing the tan oak, which in turn is dependent on MRC’s willingness to spend money on the labor required to curtail too much tan oak growth so that fledgling redwoods can gain a healthy foothold. Andersen and Jani claim that they have witnessed significant enough growth from redwood seedlings planted in 1996 by their predecessor-in-interest, Louisiana-Pacific, to justify avoiding herbicide (imazapyr) use on neighboring tan oak.

MRC is using this timber harvest plan as an experiment, a poster child if you will, to see if it can avoid the use of imazapyr. However, they made no long-term promises and pointed out, in a brief Powerpoint presentation, that all the non-herbicidal treatments of tan oak MRC has tried so far have failed. In other words Mendocino Redwood Co. may hack and squirt imazapyr elsewhere on their more than 200,000 acres in Mendocino County and they may resort to it at a future date on this very same tract bordering the lower Albion.

Surprisingly, no one in the audience mentioned that the European Union has banned imazapyr use for a decade. Most likely, many in the Albion audience are unaware that until four years ago US Customs and Border Protection employed imazapyr in the aerial spraying of Carizzo cane along the Rio Grande River. The Border Patrol planned to eradicate the Carizzo cane to improve visibility in monitoring illegal border crossings.

Discussion of the 586-acre Albion River THP took up more than two hours of the April 11th meeting. Neither the audience nor the MRC foresters brought up the company’s 80-year habitat conservation proposal (public comment on the HCP closes April 21st). Some portions of the 586-acre THP will have to be logged by helicopter. The westernmost portion of the harvest plan lies upon ground so steep on the north bank of the Albion that few people have ever bothered to walk it. The northwestern-most area of this steep grade edges near the corner common to sections 15, 16, 21, and 22 of Township 16 North, Range 17 West of the Mount Diablo Meridian. You don’t have to be conversant in surveying techniques to appreciate the story of why Mendocino Redwood Company cannot cable log this hilly terrain. It involves the influence of decades old tactics employed by Louisiana-Pacific Corporation upon the present day actions of Mendocino Redwood Company.

Readers need to understand the incestuous relationship between corporate foresters and the California Department of Forestry, which theoretically governs all timber harvest plans in this state. One of the highest ranking officials in CDF is Chris Rowney. Many readers will recognize his name from his stint as an L-P corporate forester in the 1980s and ‘90s. I remember him most for responding to a question in those days about what to do with a neighboring landowner who does not see eye to eye with the wishes of the logging corporation. “Wait for him to die,” Rowney responded.

Next week we’ll see whether that theory proved true.

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