From the viewpoint of the timber industry, the state Board of Forestry is working on a package of rules that would significantly reduce timber harvests on private property. From environmentalists' standpoint, the board is laboring over rules that do not go nearly far enough toward protecting water courses and endangered salmon from the effects of logging. The two sides agree on one thing — state forestry regulators do not have adequate data and analysis to make new rules. "Our concern is that they really did not take the time at the beginning, nor have they taken the time since, to dig into what the underlying concerns are," said Mark Rentz, California Forest Association vice president for environmental and legal affairs. Kevin Bundy, of the Environmental Information and Resource Center, sounded a somewhat similar note. "It's unclear to what extent the science that has been developed has been relied upon," he said. State officials disagree and they continue to refine proposed regulations aimed at threatened and impaired watersheds. Driving the new rules is the listing of coho salmon as a federally endangered species, and the pending listing of steelhead. Officials say the rules would protect fish and improve water quality in rivers, primarily by decreasing the amount of sediment that washes into rivers and by keeping streams colder. The Board of Forestry first released the proposal in July, and the board conducted public hearings during September and October before deciding to convene a committee to work on the details. "I like to think we are moving forward," said Dennis Hall, regulations coordinator for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and a board staff advisor. "There is obviously a need to protect watersheds." Exactly what the rules would do is difficult to define because the rules are a work in progress and the board has not chosen from multiple alternatives. Essentially, the package addresses logging near streams and rivers, activity on unstable slopes, road building, and monitoring after a timber harvest. By expanding the definition of a river's "channel zone," the rules could reduce logging near watercourses, Hall said. Currently, the channel zone ends at the first line of permanently established riparian vegetation, and logging generally is prohibited inside the line. One of the proposals would expand the channel zone to encompass a river's alluvial floodplain. Some North Coast rivers, such as the Russian, run through large, nearly flat floodplains. Originally, the rule package called for extensive post-harvest monitoring to determine the effects of logging and accompanying mitigations. However, concerns over gaining access to remote areas, the costs for small landowners and an undefined role for the state has complicated things, Hall said. Still, some additional monitoring requirements are being considered. Maybe the biggest point of contention concerns where the rules would apply. A Scientific Review Panel convened last year by state and federal regulators extensively studied the North Coast and made detailed recommendations for new timber harvest regulations in that area. However, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has expressed concerned about the quality of water in streams throughout the state, Hall noted. Thus, the rules could extend to all state-owned lands and all of California's 7.5 million acres of private timberland. (The U.S. Forest Service regulates logging in national forests.) The National Marine Fisheries Service has pushed for stiffer logging rules because of the strong relationship between forest practices and salmon health, said Joseph Blum, NMFS fisheries administrator in Sacramento. "The [current] rules themselves are simply not adequate to take salmon into account and then do something. The ‘do something' part is deficient," Blum said. "We have continued decline in the overall picture for salmon." But Rentz, of the California Forestry Association, said existing rules in nearly all cases are adequate to protect fish and water quality. "A lot of the concerns are questions of implementation," he said. To that end, Rentz noted, Gov. Davis has approved an additional $7 million for review of logging activities. Rentz and others contend the rules package, if adopted, would severely damage the industry. "It takes a significant portion of the remaining private forest land out of production," Rentz said. "On other lands, it would limit the economic feasibility to such a point that you couldn't economically afford to log that land." He pointed to a study, commissioned by the CFA, that estimated a direct loss of 2,000 jobs in the short-term and 4,000 jobs in the long run, and an economy-wide job loss that could reach 8,000. That study, by Professor William McKillop of the University of California, Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, predicted a reduction in private land timber harvest of one-sixth to one-quarter. "As a result of the impact on all private timber harvests, the total economic loss (in 1999 dollars) from adoption of the proposed rules will be approximately $250 million per year in the short-term and $430 million in the longer-term," McKillop concluded. Bundy, of Mendocino County-based EPIC, which gained notoriety during the Headwaters Forest fight, said revised logging rules are overdue, but the package before the Board of Forestry is inadequate. For example, state regulators have not even defined a "no-cut zone" near streams, he said. State officials need to insist on a more rigorous analysis of factors affecting salmon habitat and water quality, he said. As it stands now, most timber harvest plans contain only a boilerplate description of a project's potential impacts, he said. "Until that basic flaw is addressed, tinkering with buffer zones and road building will not allow watersheds and fisheries to recover," he said. Bundy recommended the state impose strict no-cut zones in sensitive areas, prevent activity on unstable hillsides, prohibit some water crossings and order removal of some logging roads. Most importantly, he said, state regulators should insist on a better scientific analysis of all factors impacting salmon and water quality, he said. EPIC has already threatened litigation if the rule package is adopted without significant revisions. The rules would result in a "take" of coho salmon, which the federal government has prohibited since 1997, and for which the state should be held liable, Bundy argued. Both sides urged state regulators to go back to a firmer scientific basis before taking action. But that does not appear likely to happen. The Board of Forestry, which normally does not meet in December, scheduled meetings this month to continue work on the rule package. Blum, of the NMFS, said he is optimistic the board will at least take a necessary step toward reforming timber harvest practices. The board's goal is to complete the regulations by mid-March, said Hall, of the CDF. The regulations would become effective July 1, 2000. Contacts: Dennis Hall, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, (916) 653-9418. Joseph Blum, National Marine Fisheries Service, (916) 498-6696. Mark Rentz, California Forestry Association, (916) 444-6592. Kevin Bundy, Environmental Protection and Information Center, (707) 923-2931. Web Site: