SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan. 10, 2013 - State oversight of the wildlife impacts of forest logging will be restored under Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget, released today. The budget will establish 35 new staff positions at the Department of Fish and Wildlife, four at the regional water boards, and two for the California Geologic Survey. All of them will be specifically assigned to review logging plans on private forest lands in order to protect fish, wildlife, waterways and forest ecosystems.
"We applaud Governor Brown's budget for providing these critical funds," said Justin Augustine, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "I hope we can start really protecting our state's wildlife from the clearcutting, salvage logging and loss of old-growth that continues on California's private forests."
Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger initially decimated environmental review of logging plans — known as timber-harvest plans and nonindustrial timber-management plans — through a line-item veto in the 2010 budget bill. The veto resulted in the elimination of 16 staff from an already depleted Department of Fish and Wildlife; as a result, for the past two years logging on private lands in California has been approved by the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) with very little involvement from the state wildlife agency. But state law requires that the Department of Fish and Wildlife oversee the wildlife impacts of logging on private forests. This is because it is the only state agency with the ecological expertise and legal mandate to protect California's wildlife.
"I really hope this is the beginning of a new direction," said Augustine. "Clearcutting has been allowed to run rampant on private forest lands for many years now, and unless we swing the pendulum back in the direction of conservation, we'll lose some of the state's most vulnerable species. It's no coincidence that the wildlife most at risk of extinction in California are species that rely on the complex forest structure that has been, and continues to be, eliminated from private forest lands."
Marbled murrelets, coho salmon, Pacific fishers, Humboldt martens and black-backed woodpeckers — species currently protected under California's Endangered Species Act — all rely extensively on mature and old-growth forests. It can take many decades, if not centuries, for a clearcut forest to return to a state that can sustain animals that depend on the elements found in old-growth forests.
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