The Bohemian Club’s aggressive timber harvesting proposal (1-06NTMP-011SON), which it calls its Healthy Forest Initiative, raises a series of complex questions, with most experts coming down opposing the plan.
Fire Hazard Reduction
Since the Bohemian Club first started logging its property commercially in the early 1980s, the Club has claimed that all its logging activities are designed to reduce fire hazard at the Grove. Yet, it is common knowledge that redwood trees are notoriously fire-resistant. In fact, opening up redwood stands through logging actually increases fire danger by allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor, drying out the forest microclimate and encouraging the growth of fire-prone shrubs and hardwoods. The Bohemian Club’s own NTMP (Page 116) concedes that all the commercial logging undertaken prior to 2005 increased the fire danger on the property. Several respected experts have also expressed grave reservations about the Bohemian Club’s assertion that the NTMP will reduce fire hazard.
On its side, the Bohemian Club has used the questionable expertise of one Tom Bonnicksen to justify its emphasis on fire hazard reduction. LINK TO: LA Times article about Bonnicksen; letter from academics about Bonnicksen.
Acreage questions / Misuse of Conservation Easement
The environmental community has long asserted that the Bohemian Club cannot qualify for an NTMP because the forested acreage on the property exceeds the 2500 acre upper limit allowed for this type of permit. We base our assertion on a 2001 Bohemian Grove Forest Management Plan written by the Bohemian Club’s former forester, Ed Tunheim, who resigned in 2005 when asked to double the cut on the property. Tunheim’s calculations indicated that the Grove consisted of 2680 acres of which 2608 was forested (SEE Tunheim Plan). The Club’s new forester, Nick Kent, by using tactics such as subtracting the acreage of logging roads, the grass parking lots which were cut out of the forest and an artificial lake, has managed to get the acreage down slightly below the 2500 acre limit, but the Department of Forestry has determined that the issue remains unresolved.
In order to reduce the Grove’s forested acreage below 2500 acres, the Bohemian Club is now trying a new tactic: donating a conservation easement covering 161 acres of old growth trees to a Montana-based organization called the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. This is acreage which the Bohemian Close failed to even disclose originally (see A CHRONOLOGY OF DECEPTION) and was required to set aside as “no cut” areas, either because the acreage was part of the Main Grove where the members’ camps are located or because the agencies insisted the old growth be protected as Northern Spotted Owl or Marbled Murrelet habitat. SEE SF Chronicle Story March 2008; SEE What The Experts Say; also SEE Channel 5 TV story
Old Growth Protection
One of the most puzzling aspects of the Bohemian Club’s efforts to obtain this NTMP has been its intentional strategy of concealing from the responsible agencies and the public the extent of old growth on the property. The is confusing because the trees are celebrated as a central component of Bohemian culture and the Grove was originally purchased for the recreational enjoyment of members and their guests.
The entire watersheds of two creeks which feed directly into the Russian River – Smith Creek and Kitchen Creek – are included within the Bohemian Grove. Smith Creek has a steep cascade near its mouth which may or may not be a barrier to salmon and steelhead spawning; however, CDFG has recommended that Smith Creek be managed as a Class I (fish-bearing) stream (SOON: Link to Spawning survey). Certain upper portions of Kitchen Creek flow on the surface year round and provide important habitat for a wide range of animals and plants. Douvoul Creek flows south from the Bohemian Grove and into Dutch Bill Creek, a fish-bearing tributary of the Russian River.
The Bohemian Club has doubled the mileage of roads and skid trails on
the property since it started commercial logging in the early 1980s.
The North Coast Water Quality Control Board has expressed concerns on
several occasions over the poor conditions of the roads on the Grove
which begs the question fo where revenues received from logging 11 million
board feet of redwood and fir over the past 20 years have gone if the
condition of the roads on the property is so poor.
One of the conditions for approval of an NTMP is that the plan must demonstrate that the rate of logging is sustainable. Early on, Professor Philip Rundel of UCLA analyzed the Growth and Yiled Tables for this NTMP and determined that the proposed rate of harvest was not sustainable. When environmentalists brought up this issue at a second review team meeting on April 20, 2007 (LINK TO Rundel letter; verbatim transcript of that hearing and JH letter to Jay Mancini of Feb __2008), they were dismissivly told that they did not understand how to read a timber yield table. Yet. we understand that Nick Kent, the Bohemian Club’s forester, is currently rewriting these very tables.
Climate Change/Carbon Storage Capabilities of Forests
The field of forestry is changing in many ways, no more so than in areas where foresters are trying to make sense out of the implications of climate change and how forests can help alleviate some of the negative consequences we are seeing with global warming. With the prospect of a warming climate in California in future years, many foresters and scientists are arguing that we must manage our forests with much more refinement to make sure that timber harvest practices do not result in further drying up the climate and adding carbon to the atmosphere.
Interestingly, as carbon trading becomes a reality and companies and non-profits are starting to sell carbon emission reduction credits, the Bohemian Club has shown no interest in this area, even though the value of the Bohemian Grove left standing as a “carbon sink” might well be the equivalent of the aggressive timber harvesting plan now being pushed. FUTURE LINK TOPACIFIC FOREST TRUST’S VAN ECK FOREST AND THE CONSERVATION FUND’S GARCIA FOREST)
Hardwoods and Herbicide Use
In 2004, The Bohemian Club started applying a herbicide called Arsenal on takoak stands at a rate of 60 to 70 acres per year. This may seem counterintuitive as problems with sudden oak death (SOD) in these very stands was already beginning to become apparent at that time. Now the Bohemian Club asserts there are 25,000 dead tanoaks on the property and is trying to justify the approval of its NTMP as the solution to this problem. However, as environmentalists have said all along, the treatment of genuinely fire prone hardwoods does not require a permit form the state as long as the wood derived is not sold. And, in fact, the Bohemian Club is engaged in an active program to thin hardwoods stands which no one is objecting to.