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Logging Co.'s Claim of Sustainability Challenged and Investigation Says Action Needed

by Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
Sustainable certification for Humboldt Redwood Co. lumber is in question after official investigator says HRC's controversial Rainbow Ridge logging plans need "corrective action". Herbicide use and logging of legacy forests and sensitive habitat are hardly sustainable, say group challenging certified sustainable label used on lumber sold at Home Depot.
Humboldt Co.-Responding to a Complaint filed by the Petrolia-based Lost Coast League (LCL) to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), questioning the “sustainability” of Humboldt Redwood (HRC) logging plans on Rainbow Ridge in the Mattole River watershed, Lead Investigator, Dr. Robert Hrubes, issued a determination that LCL’s Complaint had merit. The LCL formal Complaint brought two specific issues forward: the logging of previously un-entered forest stands and the extensive use of herbicides, claiming the precautionary approach prescribed under FSC standards was neglected. (See the Complaint, maps, and other information on LCL’s website: Audit Report from Dr. Hrubes available upon request)

The logging plans in this area have been the subject of numerous protests, blockades, and Mattole community concern for several decades. This summer, HRC hired ex-Navy Seals who employed dogs, Tasers, and torture techniques to remove those defending the forest from the loggers.

Dr. Robert Hrubes, one of the founders of FSC and Lead Investigator, stated “I hereby conclude that two of the complainants’ allegations with respect to Humboldt and Mendocino Redwood Companies’ operations, in the Mattole and elsewhere, are factually with merit with regard to non-conformance to the FSC US National Forest Management Standard. Accordingly, two Corrective Action Requests are being raised as a result of this complaint investigation, one pertaining to updating the HCVF assessment in the Mattole and one pertaining to chemical use as addressed in a Vegetation Management Plan.”

The HCVF assessment is to designate lands with “High Conservation Value.” Up to now, HRC has had no formal process for reviewing their lands for HCVF, while LCL contends there are numerous rare, unentered stands in the Mattole holdings. Dr. Hrubes instructs HRC to go over their lands with LCL to make those determinations.

The Rainbow Ridge area is a remote forest of critical biological importance, harboring habitat for sensitive or endangered species such as the Humboldt Marten, Spotted Owl, Pileated Woodpecker, Golden Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Pacific Fisher, Salmon and Steelhead, and increasingly rare reptiles and amphibians such as Red-Legged Frogs, Southern Torrent Salamanders, and Pacific Giant Salamanders. HRC owns 18,000 acres in the Mattole, in addition to its approx. 191,000 acres elsewhere in Humboldt County. Both HRC and Mendocino Redwood Co. (MRC) to the south are owned by the S.F.-based Fisher family, also owner of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic retail empire.

HRC’s lumber is marketed as “Certified Sustainable” in the Bay Area through Home Depot and other retail outlets.

Dr. Hrubes also wrote that HRC (and MRC) has a systemic problem in relation to herbicide use, noting that “Over the years that the companies have been FSC certified, several ‘Findings’… have been raised by audit teams that… pertain to herbicide use. These Findings have resulted in corrective action responses and closures, and ongoing actions such as a Vegetation Management Plan, still in development. But the issue has persisted and, particularly in Mendocino County and the Mattole Watershed of Humboldt County, intensified.”

Under FSC rules, timber companies are to develop alternatives to the use of poisons as well as draft a plan to phase them out entirely. Furthermore, Hrubes wrote, “Indicator 6.3.d in the FSC Forest Management Standard requires that ‘management practices maintain or enhance plant species composition, distribution and frequency of occurrence similar to those that would naturally occur on the site.’” Dr. Hrubes faulted HRC for poisoning a naturally occurring tanoak stand in an attempt to convert it to conifers.

“These harvest plans failed the test of sustainable forestry as determined by the Forest Stewardship Council – the reviewing agency on which HRC bases their claim as industry leaders. The public does not buy the idea you can continually poison a mature forest and claim to be growing it sustainably. Had we not brought this action, the practices would continue unabated. We pledge to work with HRC to protect public trust resources in the Mattole,” declared Michael Evenson, Lost Coast League Vice President.
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