Twenty years. That’s how long it took the Quincy Library Group philosophy to permeate forest management practices. What was once considered a radical concept is now accepted as the best approach to preserve our resources.
Gov. Jerry Brown embraced the idea in his just-released Water Action Plan, which reads in part: “Restore forest health through ecologically sound forest management. Overgrown forests not only pose a risk of catastrophic fire, but can significantly reduce water yield.” How often did we hear QLG members articulate those sentiments?
By now most are familiar with QLG’s story. Tired of the fighting over timber harvests, an environmentalist, Michael Jackson; a timber industry executive, Tom Nelson; and a county supervisor, Bill Coates; decided to seek common ground. They met on neutral territory at the Quincy library, hence the name. Like-minded individuals from the private and public sectors, including the Forest Service, joined them.
The group’s vision for managing the forests became law in 1997 when Congress voted 429 to 1 to adopt the Herger-Feinstein Forest Recovery Act. It called for constructing fuelbreaks on 40,000 to 60,000 acres of land annually on the Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe national forests, which the group believed would improve forest health, render forests more fire resistant, protect wildlife, enhance the watershed and provide economic stability for the region through job creation and timber receipts for roads and schools.
Though the full scope of the legislation never materialized for a number of reasons, including lawsuits from environmental groups and the pace of operations in the Forest Service, it proved successful where implemented. The recent independent Pinchot report verified the benefits of thinning and recommended implementation across the West.
Now the legislation is over. The three founding members of the QLG rarely attend a meeting and those that remain plan to abandon the name Quincy Library Group and proceed under a new moniker. One title under consideration is the Feather River Communities and Forest Collaborative. Not quite as catchy. While we understand the desire to choose a name that more clearly defines future goals, the QLG name has recognition; it’s even included in grade school social studies books.
But if we are indeed going to say goodbye to the QLG it seems appropriate to acknowledge the work and dedication of its members for the past two decades.
It wasn’t always pretty. There were arguments. And despite the library setting, there were raised voices. There were hard feelings and no doubt hurt ones as well, but the members managed to put it all aside, always focused on their end goals. They celebrated the legislation, thinking they had succeeded, only to realize that the real work had just begun. They doggedly fought for its implementation for 15 years.
If this is the end of QLG, its members deserve a heartfelt thank-you. Not only from the members of this community but from citizens throughout the West. The group’s vision and dedication will help protect us from wildfires and keep the water flowing through our taps.
Twenty years is a great deal of time for individuals to give of themselves, but it is a short amount of time to change the public consciousness about what constitutes good forest management.