Forest grumps

Last January, after 2 years of study, political lobbying and more than 40,000 public comments, the U.S. Forest Service announced it had adopted a version of the Sierra Nevada Framework, a plan to manage the 11.5 million acres of public land—including 11 national forests—in the Sierra Nevada. Environmentalists rejoiced, but timber industry interests fumed because the plan would rely more on controlled burning than tree harvesting to reduce wildfire danger. The plan also restricted off-road-vehicle use, much to the dismay of a lot of Jeep jockeys, as well as grazing rights. Opponents said the plan was nothing more than a legacy and tribute to the much-hated Clinton administration, which in its last year had put a lot of land off limits by establishing national monuments and creating the dreaded roadless forest initiative. Last month Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth affirmed the adopted framework by denying the estimated 230 appeals filed against it. But he also asked to re-examine some aspects of the plan, including ways to further reduce catastrophic fire and make it more consistent with the National Fire Plan.

That wasn’t good enough for 31 members of Congress, including Rep. Wally Herger, R-Marysville, who wrote a letter to Mark Rey, the undersecretary for the Natural Resources and Environment Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Rey has the authority to review Bosworth’s decision, and this week, in response to the letter, he agreed at least to reconsider all documents used to uphold adoption of the framework. Herger spokesperson Dan MacLean said that was the second-best decision Rey could have made, short of overturning the entire plan, and that Herger was “very pleased.” The letter Herger signed also says the adopted plan does not allow for enough multiple use of the Sierra Nevada range, whose declining health was documented a few years back in an ambitious study called the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project. That study said years of over-enthusiastic fire suppression and reckless timber harvesting had dealt the system a serious blow. Still, the members of Congress who signed the letter believe more trees should be harvested as means of fire protection—less wood equals less fire—and that Americans have the right to recreate in the forests by driving four-wheel vehicles through them.

A few weeks ago I wrote in this column that Assemblyman Sam Aanestad had stopped by Nov. 16 to chat about his run for state Senate. He is abandoning his Assembly seat because he would reach his term-limit ceiling in two years. I wrote that Aanestad told me he didn’t think it politically correct for an incumbent to endorse a candidate looking to take his seat—in this case Chico City Councilmember Rick Keene. Soon after, more than one person told me they had heard that Keene had indeed picked up Aanestad’s endorsement. There was a letter dated Nov. 11 saying so. It was also reported in the Enterprise-Record. Say, I thought, what gives here? Did I misunderstand and then misquote Aanestad? I called Keene and asked him to clear things up for me. He said he had told the E-R that he had picked up the endorsements of Senator Rico Oller and Assemblyman Tim Leslie and has the support of Aanestad. The paper, he said, used the word endorsement instead of support. This is really splitting hairs because the letter from Aanestad fairly praises Keene, using familiar Republican buzz phrases like “fiscal responsibility,” “common sense,” “solution oriented,” “reduce taxes” and “wasteful spending.” But nowhere is there the word, or any form of the word, “endorse.”

There’s a fog upon L.A. I grieve George Harrison's passing purely out of selfishness. His death from "natural causes" is a reminder of my own rush to senior citizenship. And I resent that vision. To me, The Beatles will always represent why it is better to be a young, idealistic person who can follow fashion trends without looking foolish, rather than a stuffy old closed-minded crank in white shoes standing in line at the all-you-can-eat buffet. And don’t try to tell me any different.