Governor Seeks to Chop Red Tape for Loggers

Forms and reviews would be streamlined in exchange for a $10-million hike in fees.

From Associated Press

May 15, 2004

SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to make it easier for timber companies to get approval for logging plans in exchange for a $10-million increase in logging fees.

In exchange for imposing the higher fees, the state should cut its
"overly burdensome" bureaucratic reviews of logging plans, mimicking the one- or two-page applications and brief one-stop reviews required by neighboring Oregon, the Republican governor said in his revised budget plan Thursday.

California requires that detailed timber harvest plans be prepared by
licensed foresters and other professionals. The typical plan runs 100 to 500 pages, costs $42,954 and waits 65 days for state approval -- a delay that climbs to an average 85 days for logging plans along the
environmentally sensitive northern coast.

Schwarzenegger's plan amounts to "massive regulatory relief for the
industry," objected the Sierra Club's Paul Mason. "Oregon has extremely lax forest practice rules. They're certainly not the state we want to be emulating."

Though California Forestry Assn. President Dave Bischel liked the idea of trimming the state's review, he objected to paying the $10 million in higher fees. The industry shouldn't have to pay more than the actual cost of reviewing timber harvest plans, he said, and that cost should drop considerably if the process is altered as Schwarzenegger proposes.

Schwarzenegger wants to let harvest plan approvals remain in effect
longer; expand a single plan to include entire watersheds; and reduce the paperwork. Plans still would be reviewed by the departments of Conservation and Fish and Game and the State Water Resources Control Board, though environmental groups contend those reviews are often ineffective.

"Details of that have to be worked out, but certainly the intention is
to maintain a high level of environmental review," said Bill Snyder, the forestry department's resources chief.

A second Schwarzenegger initiative would spend $39 million over five years for prescribed burns and other forest thinning to protect Sierra Nevada waterways. The state forestry department proposes to thin 105,000 acres to protect 1 million acres of watersheds.

"It's a very important program, and an example of the state thinking
creatively" to find fire prevention funds, said Jay Watson, director of the Wilderness Society's wild land fire program.

Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

Informant: Teresa Binstock


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