Human Impacts of Logging the Central Forest

Visual impact. Logging, even the innocuous-sounding “single-tree selective logging” proposed for the central forest, is far from attractive. Neighboring owners will at least have forest views from their property preserved by the usual logging-industry practice of leaving a thin strip of untouched forest at the edge. But anyone who steps into the forest will be faced with views like the following (taken just after a “selective harvest” in a forest managed by the same forester, Matt Greene, who has developed the logging plan for our forest):

pretty ugly

Here is an eloquent account, by Sea Rancher Ginger Waltemyer, of the logging aftermath the last time our Central Forest was logged. That event was also “selective logging”:

We moved to Sea Ranch full time in January 1993. One afternoon, while my husband and I were driving around and learning neighborhoods, we pulled into the CTPZ access point at Schooner. Our mouths dropped and both of us looked at each other and exclaimed “What in the world happened here?!” Then I realized this was the area that had recently been “selectively logged.” We were shocked and deeply saddened by the level of destruction we could see. What should have been a maturing forest was a wrecked landscape. It was utterly destroyed. It looked more like “open space” than forest.

There were huge ruts in the earth. There were piles and piles of slash. Shrubbery and little trees had been trampled and crushed everywhere. Beautiful young trees were broken in half with their perfect crowns littering the ground. The trunks of many of the remaining trees were gashed and scarred. The entire area looked raw and vulnerable.

My first hand impression is there is nothing “lightly” or “gently upon the land” about logging. It is an inherently violent and destructive operation. There is nothing “environmentally sensitive” about it. My reaction to seeing the aftermath was physical and visceral. I felt sick in my heart and sick to my stomach. The sight of such damage left me feeling bereft. It was one of the saddest things I've ever seen, and I hope to never have to witness such ravagement again.

Another excellent account of the aftermath, last time the central forest was logged, was published by Sea Rancher Janann Strand in the 1993 issue of Soundings.

Loss of access. All Sea Ranchers will be affected by the frequent (every four years) and lengthy (a year at a time) loss of access to parts of the forest, including trails. Even when the trails are open, they would be quite different. The major trails in the forest would be turned into wide, graded logging roads capable of supporting heavy equipment. Others would be turned into “skid trails” suitable for dragging large logs. Sea Ranchers would lose access to the trails in each unit for a year at a time while logging is going on, and in the aftermath. (NTMP FAQ, questions 11, 12)

Noise. Logging is a noisy industrial operation. It's not just a matter of logging trucks and chainsaws, though those are certainly noisy. There is also other heavy machinery involved: tractors and “yarders” are particularly noisy, and both are planned for the Fall and Spring operating periods (NTMP p. 22 ff). (A yarder is a crane-like system for dragging out logs.)

Here is an account from a former Sea Rancher who had the misfortune of living within earshot of logging operations:

Our former home on Timber Ridge Rd was on the edge of the CTPZ and enhanced by the lovely fir/redwood forest (thank you Susan Clark and others!). When we first moved to TSR, there was logging going on across the river directly behind and to the south of our house on non-TSR land. The noise that bothered us the most was from the “yarder,” a machine that winches up logs cut on a slope. The noise is accompanied by an ear-splitting series of “TOOTs” that signal the readiness of the loggers to do which ever phase of the process is called for with the yarder. The yarder noise was worse than the chain saws or trucks, at least from our perspective. We even went up to Gualala Redwoods office to talk to the guys in charge about it and ask if the noise could be moderated. We were worried that this was going to go on forever. After about 4 months or so, the logging moved to another area.

Sea Ranchers who chose forest lots specifically for peace and quiet, and who had the misfortune to choose property near the central forest (perhaps trusting the original Rule 7.3's promise of no logging), will be deprived of the enjoyment of their property while logging operations are ongoing. And this is not a one-time thing: as witness the account above (“across the river”), noise carries, so these fellow Sea Ranchers will suffer through this every three or four years, for months each time, under this logging plan.

The NTMP FAQ acknowledges this is a problem (Question 9), and mentions that “We have taken specific measures limiting hours of operation and days of the week when operations are allowed to reduce the noise as much as possible. ” That is the kind of accomodation that might be acceptable when the issue involves the competing rights of two different property owners: one wants revenue from logging his land, and has the right to do that, but the other wants peace and quiet...so the obvious compromise is to limit hours of operation.

But the situation here is quite different. There are not two competing property owners; it is the Sea Ranch Association that proposes to log Commons, which itself belongs in part to the neighbors who are harmed by the noise. The Commons are governed by the Sea Ranch Restrictions. According to the Restrictions, the Design Committee has the responsibility to refuse permission for operations on Commons that harm neighbors.

Section 3.07 of the Restrictions says, “if the Association proposes ... to remove any trees, shrubs or ground cover ... The Design Committee shall approve the plans and specifications submitted to it pursuant to this paragraph only if all of the following conditions have been satisfied.” The last of those conditions is:

(3) The Design Committee finds in its sole discretion that the proposed work shall not materially prejudice The Sea Ranch or any Owner in the use and enjoyment of his property.

There is no limitation to particular hours and days for the right of Owners to use and enjoy their property.

Property values. Major factors in the attractiveness of Sea Ranch lots adjoining the central forest are peace and quiet; easy access to forest hiking; and the general enjoyment of nature in an undisturbed forest. Most owners of such properties relied on the explicit “no logging” promise in Rule 7.3 (originally Rule 12) to maintain those attractions. (This applies to any such owners who purchased their property prior to August 23, 2014, when the Board amended that rule to permit logging under an NTMP.)

In a conversation on June 12, 2015, Sean Gaynor-Rousseau (managing broker and Realtor at Sea Ranch/Gualala Real Estate Company; also a member of TSRA) commented about the logging plan: “This plan will have a dramatic effect on resale values and desirability.

The burden of this loss falls disproportionately on neighbors of the central forest. But to some extent, this loss in value and desirability would apply to all Sea Ranch properties if the logging plan is implemented: we all lose access to significant portions of the forest for roughly 25% of the time. Moreover, the plan effectively transforms TSRA into a logging company; many of us would not have purchased here if we had been told that implied being part owners of a logging operation. The same factor can be expected to reduce the population that might otherwise be interested in becoming new owners here.