More detail about our fight against the “Effectiveness Monitoring Committee” sham….
At the beginning of the year, for the first time in memory, an adequate funding source was in place to bring about the needed reforms to California’s logging rules… as was the legislative mandate to do so.
Our struggle? To prevent Big Timber from hijacking these funds and steering this once-in-a-lifetime reform chance the industry’s way. Their approach was to eliminate transparency and prevent participation and oversight by diverse stakeholders and the public.
Elements of sunshine and participation are essential to keep such a process from being commandeered by the industry, as so many failed reform attempts have been before.
Last year about this time forest-defenders were pinching themselves because of the newly enacted Assembly Bill (A.B.) 1492. It levied a permanent one percent tax on lumber products sold in California, thus providing a steady and substantial stream of revenue to fund long-neglected environmental oversight and monitoring of logging practices, as well as to make forestry regulations more consistent and efficient to implement by the responsible agencies.
We then turned our attention to ensuring that the objectives enshrined in our bill A.B. 875 were to be funded by the new revenue stream. A.B. 875 would have established forestry pilot projects that would develop a uniform approach for gauging and then regulating logging’s impacts on soil, wildlife, and water.
This “cumulative watershed effects” assessment has been a fundamental requirement of the state’s forestry laws, but honored only in the breach for some 40 years.
However, as our bill was stalled in committee at that point we pivoted toward pushing for implementation of its objectives using the vehicle of the state Natural Resources Agency budget.
Enter the “Effectiveness Monitoring Committee.” This was touted as the agency’s instrument for developing a comprehensive, efficient set of forest-practices environmental standards, as required by 1492. But the EMC consists of the usual suspects—industry and timber agency players— together working their age-old game plan to coopt reform by creating the appearance of setting up meaningful standards for environmental protection.
The EMC immediately set about structuring the process so as to shield it from public participation and scrutiny.
Why does this process require public participation? Because it’s a matter of courtesy to include the public? Because concerned citizens have time on their hands and want more meetings to attend, more documents to pore over?
No. It is because if the interested public and environmental advocates are not at the table, experience has shown that the industry players will bend the process their way at every turn, rendering the resulting regulatory process toothless.
Adding extra urgency to the situation: A.B. 1492 erased all permit fees the timber operators had previously been required to pay in the course of conducting their logging activities.
Now the public solely, through the new retail lumber tax, is paying for the development of a new, improved regulatory framework for the industry—but the public is being shut out from developing that framework.
Your letters helped in 2014 to slow the EMC juggernaut and direct attention onto the meaningful alternative we have advocated in A.B. 875 and related legislation in recent years.
With your letters and support, and the relentless pressure of our advocate, the EMC has listened. They have inserted pilot-project-friendly language into the charter documents that guide the committee’s efforts. To make sure this step isn’t merely lip service—a facade without proper pilot projects—we are keeping up the fight.
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