Pacific Forest Trust secures US$7.8M grant from California's Wildlife Conservation Board to buy conservation easement on 8,230 acres of forested Bear Creek watershed from Roseburg Forest Products

Wendy Lisney

Wendy Lisney

Dec 14, 2011 – Pacific Forest Trust

SACRAMENTO , December 14, 2011 (press release) – The Pacific Forest Trust and Roseburg Resources Company have secured state funding for PFT to buy a pioneering working forest conservation easement on 8,230 acres of forested watershed supplying flows to the Sacramento Delta. The $7.8 million grant from the California’s Wildlife Conservation Board will help will secure forests, water and jobs key to the economic health of the struggling Northern California timber region.

“By funding the Bear Creek Working Forest Project the Wildlife Conservation Board has made an important investment in the future of California’s water,” said PFT Co-CEO Constance Best, the project’s chief architect. “This grant will provide much-needed new revenue to support this company that stewards our green infrastructure for water, climate benefits and many other public services. All Californians will reap the rewards.”

Owned by Roseburg Resources, the Bear Creek Working Forest Project will conserve key watersheds and other significant natural resources of a working forest located on the slopes of Mount Shasta in Siskiyou and Shasta counties. The funding approved Dec. 8 will allow the Pacific Forest Trust to purchase the working forest conservation easement from Roseburg Resources, which will continue to own and manage the Bear Creek lands in accordance with the easements’ terms. Working forest conservation easements keep forestland in private ownership and productive use while preventing it from being developed or converted to other non-forest uses. The Bear Creek easement will safeguard the property’s resources in perpetuity for far less than what it would cost to purchase lands outright for state or federal protection.

"It is a great outcome when County Supervisors, a business, and conservationists can develop a project that's good for jobs and helps protect our forests and species," added Chuck Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Conservation Board’s chairman.

Completion of the project will ensure the permanent conservation of the upper Bear Creek watershed, spawning grounds for the world-famous Fall River rainbow trout, and vital to the watershed health of the Fall River. The Fall River is a tributary of the Pit and a major source of water into Lake Shasta on the Sacramento River, which supplies the majority of California’s agricultural and drinking water.

Though the economy is the dominant issue for Californians, a majority of voters are concerned the state has “major water problems” and must invest in its water infrastructure to ensure reliable water now and in future years, according to a new statewide survey released today by the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA).

“Watershed health is central to the Bear Creek Working Forest Project as well as Proposition 84, the voter-approved measure that provides this grant money,” said John Donnelly, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. “In addition to safeguarding water quality and supply for the public, this public-private partnerships with Roseburg Resources and the Pacific Forest Trust also promotes recreation, fish and wildlife habitat and economic security in rural economies like Siskiyou and Shasta counties. This project successfully balances ecological and economic concerns with a holistic, landscape-level approach to conservation in a key watershed region.”

Located in the Klamath-Cascade Region – where runoff from the glaciers of Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen forms the headwaters of two of the state’s largest rivers – the Bear Creek tract is part of an interwoven quilt of public and privately-owned forest watersheds that capture and filter the majority of California’s drinking and agricultural water. The Region has traditionally been an anchor of the state’s timber industry and is home to the world’s most biodiverse conifer forests.

Its rich natural resources are at risk, however, from economic pressure on forest landowners to harvest more timber to maintain a shrinking bottom line, or sell out altogether. Roseburg operates one of the two remaining sawmills in Siskiyou County, and is committed to keeping their forestlands intact, both physically and ecologically. But like its peers, the family-owned company has been under tremendous pressure in recent years from the housing market collapse, global competition and restructuring of the U.S. forest industry.

The Bear Creek project will help provide the company with new revenue to sustain their operations and keep their resource base secure. This will greatly benefit the regional economy, helping protect more than 230 high-quality jobs in an area where unemployment ranges from 16 to 19 percent – well above the state and national average – and buffering communities against more “boom and bust” economic cycles.

Allyn Ford, President of Roseburg, commented, “We believe the future of our company and our industry is in managing our forests for all the public benefits they provide, including sustainable wood supplies, renewable energy, clean drinking water, habitat for fish and wildlife and increased carbon storage. Conservation easements provide us with compensation for this stewardship, making our business more robust. In working with Pacific Forest Trust we are showing our deep commitment to the future of California’s forests and to the forest industry. This project is good for business, good for jobs and good for the environment.”

The economic benefits of the project were top of mind for local Siskiyou County officials who made the 3.5 hour trip south to Sacramento to advocate for the project at last week’s WCB meeting, where they stressed the project’s potential to create a new forest economy grounded in conservation.

“A mutual, symbiotic relationship does exist between the environmental infrastructure and the human infrastructure. Roseburg, PFT and Siskiyou County realize that this is essential to sustainability. The Bear Creek Working Forest Project squarely targets that goal,” said Ric Costales, natural resources policy specialist for Siskiyou County. Costales joined Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Cook (Dist. 1) and Supervisor Michael Kobseff (Dist. 3) in speaking out on behalf of the project at last Thursday’s meeting.

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