The key to solving the problems that plague Plumas County is visible from virtually every vantage point in the county — our national forests. Twenty years ago a group set out to grab that key and open the door that would protect the long-term viability of our communities.
But many in that group are tired. Last week, the group that used to draw dozens to its monthly meeting could only muster a handful.
“Everybody should be here,” Indian Valley resident Mike Yost said following last week’s Quincy Library Group meeting. “Seventy-five percent of the county is national forest. Our economy is based on it. Without proper management, it will burn up and then where will we be?”
From our doorsteps we can see the trees — a renewable resource. Trees can be grown and harvested, supporting an entire industry and the surrounding communities. Not only does that put private foresters, loggers, truck drivers and mill workers on the payroll, it provides timber receipts that bolster the federal treasury, and also paves our roads and funds our schools.
Harvesting trees and thinning the forests in a strategic manner promotes forest health and helps the landscape become resilient to fire. During last year’s devastating Chips Fire, a Forest Service review showed that areas that had been managed according to the QLG strategy stopped the fire’s spread.
In addition to providing a renewable resource, the national forests provide recreation that local residents and visitors alike can enjoy. But no one enjoys picnicking in an overgrown thicket where the sun can’t penetrate, or on scorched earth dotted with burned trees. Neither scenario improves the watershed, and the latter certainly can’t provide a home for wildlife.
The QLG earned bipartisan support in Congress, drawing a 429-1 vote to enact its pilot project. But lawsuits decimated the legislation’s intent, forcing a series of extensions to try to accomplish the work that should have been completed in five years.
“It’s expensive and it’s draining,” QLG co-founder Bill Coates said last week. Environmentalists filed suit as soon as timber sales were advertised, thus delaying, halting and dragging out the process so that it was difficult to accomplish anything. All the while, salvageable timber rotted and healthy forests burned. Is that what the environmentalists wanted?
Twenty years ago, Plumas County’s staunchest environmentalist, Michael Jackson, said that it wasn’t and he joined forces with Coates, then a county supervisor, and Tom Nelson, a timber industry representative, to protect the forests and sustain our communities.
Yost is right. It’s time the rest of us stand up and demand what is really just a matter of common sense.
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