Politics, Policies, Regulation and Forestry in the Redwoods: Three Decades of Recollection

Henry K. Trobitz

President, Trobitz, Inc. and Member, State Board of Forestry

Friday, October 01, 1982

My thanks to classmate John Zivnuska for the invitation and to those who bestowed the honor of my being selected to give the 1982 S.J. Hall Lectureship.

This is the opportunity to respond to frequent questions by forestry students and young foresters:

What do you do as a forest resource manager?

What problems do you have to deal with?

What is it really like to be a manager of a large land and timber resource?

How do I prepare myself for such a responsibility?

    and to assess forest management and the forces influencing forestry in the past, present and future as reviewed by a participant over 32 years - hence the title of his presentation:

    "Politics, Policies, Regulation and Forestry in the Redwoods: Three Decades of Recollection"

    The various categories of users or would-be users have a wide range of wants, expectations and demands of the vegetative and land resources wildlands with which foresters, land managers and owners deal in their day to day management responsibilities.

    These vegetative and land resources provide the life-sustaining environment for fish, wildlife, insects, as well as the necessities for human survival. Expectations of people complete with justifying rationale vary from the single use preservationist concept to multiple use, thence to complete development for commercial purposes.

    The vegetative and land resource is in a constant state of flux or change as are the priorities of demands of the various users.

    The search for a reasonable balance of the wants, expectations, and demands in this constantly changing environment is a major reason for the dilemma confronting the people, politicians, public and private foresters and landowners as they search for harmony so that the best interests of all parties will be served. Obviously, compromises are in order and must be negotiated.

    The struggle for the control of these activities on the private wildlands is intensified by the fact that our population will continue to grow. More people will have to be fed, clothed, sheltered, watered, recreated and the impacts of their presence will have to be accommodated placing more stresses on the forest resources and pointing to the need to reach compromises without destroying private property rights.

    For the period of recollection, 1950 - 1982, I recognized three periods which were significantly different in terms of industry activity, forestry and public interest which reflected politics, policies and regulation.

    The 50's were years of tremendous growth in the forest products industry with generally "laissez faire" public interest.

    The 60's was a period of transition. Many small timber-poor operators closed their doors. Public interest mounted in timber harvesting and related activities, with demands for regulation by those who perceived inadequacy in the regulation, increasing in tempo.

    The 70's were years of significant decline in forest industry activities, the beginning of the young growth economy, and a time of dramatic increase in regulations affecting timber harvesting and the management of public and private forest resources.

    1950 - 1959 was the period of industrial growth, relative freedom from regulations and a generally disinterested public.

    Virgin old growth redwood and Douglas-fir of the finest quality were available as far as one could see. There was no need for those who came to log and mill to be concerned with the future. There appeared to be plenty for all.

    Early in the decade prime quality, readily accessible old growth redwood and Douglas-fir timber sold for less than $5/MBM, rising to over $40/M. Land went with the timber and was assigned little value. Smaller, remote tracts of smaller lower quality, less accessible timber were considered to be worthless and probably would never be logged (ho, hum).

    Interest rates were 4.5%.

    Public and private timber was sold in volumes sufficient to meet the needs of the lumber, veneer and plywood producers who flocked to the area.

    There was an active log market, derived primarily from the excesses of the large timber owner harvests and from gyppo (contract) loggers who bought timber, logged and sold the logs.

    Major corporations consolidated their ownerships by purchasing other corporations and timber tracts to establish land and timber inventories to assure wood supplies or sustained yield operations.

    Pacific Lumber Company purchased Holmes Eureka and Dolbeer Carson; Simpson purchased Northern Redwood Lumber Company, Sage Land and Lumber Company, and M & M woodworking in close succession, and Georgia-Pacific acquired Hammond Lumber Company, to mention a few of the major transactions.

    At the peak of this industrial activity in 1959, over 2.0MMMFMB/year were harvested in Humboldt and Del Norte County to satisfy the needs of over 400 wood processing plants - 2.3 times the harvest of 1950. The burners caused smoke and flying ash problems; there was excessive sawdust and no opportunity to utilize hog fuel, sawdust or other wood residues.

    With this increased activity came unpleasantries for those who visited or passed through the area, as well as locals:

    Visitors particularly were shocked by the visual impacts of logging along major highways. Highways were congested with logging veneer, plywood and lumber trucks during the summer period which frightened the tourists. Commonly one would meet over 100 trucks southbound and nearly as many northbound on the two-lane US 101.

    Bark caused by log rafting down the Klamath River caused disgruntled fishermen.

    The major floods of 1953 and 1955 dislodged log-ging residues into streams causing congestion and logjams.

    As would be expected, there was an increase in dust, smoke, noise and sawdust associated with the industry accelerating activities.

      Local public interest, at least on the surface, was in more jobs, the other discomforts accepted. Public interest in the future of the industry was shown by the Humboldt County instituted Vaux study and the subsequent formation of the Humboldt County Forestry Advisory Committee and the hiring of a full-time county forester.

      There was little or not industrial public affairs effort, except for the activities of the various associations and Simpson Timber Company.

      From a political standpoint the industry was relatively inactive.

      The legislature convened every other year; hence one half as much exposure to new legislation. There was better representation in the state legislature, particularly the Senate, for the low population forested counties, the "one man one vote" was yet to come.

      Foresters, of which there were a few working for the private sector in 1950, increased in numbers during the decade. Their activities were primarily associated with fire protection; mill recovery studies; locating, cruising and appraising timber; marking timber in selective cut areas, running ownership lines and trespass surveillance. Natural regeneration was relied upon. The extent to which foresters were involved depended upon the individual company.

      During the early 1950's there was a rash of wildfires, the largest of which was the Healy Fire in 1955. In that fire over 21,000 acres of forest land was burned. After critiquing the actions taken and results attained, the major landowners north of the Van Dozen River decided that there had to be a better way. They formed the Mutual Fire Protection Association and hired a seasonal coordinator. The understanding between owners provided for the immediate movement of men and equipment on a fire regardless of location; the first day charges borne by cooperators and charges thereafter to the owner upon whose land the fire was located. Concurrently with the formation of the association an air patrol and fire weather forecast was initiated, woods workers and the public alerted to the need to be fire-conscious and cooperation between the landowners and the Department of Forestry improved.

      The mutual fire protection concept was and still is highly successful and exemplified by the extremely low wildfire burned area record on the lands covered during the past 26 years.

      As the foresters moved through the decade, it became apparent that there were new areas of responsibility that would have to be addressed.

      County taxes were on the rise representing an increased annual cost in spite of declining taxable timber volumes.

      Public opinion as reflected by the public turn down of the "bear control" issue was a surprise. It was shocking to discover that the public would not agree to allow disposal of bears on private land when they were causing significant damage to the young growth trees.

      Again, in the case of bark in the Klamath River due to log rafting, it was discovered that bark in the river peaked in the morning when fishermen were going upriver, causing mechanical problems in their outboard motors. This was caused by the loggers bulldozing the bark on the river landings into the river as a first order of business in the morning. Once this practice ceased, the problem was resolved, avoiding the possibility of closing down log rafting on the Klamath.

      Foresters and loggers began to include the public, state agency representatives and landowners in the discussion of controversial issues to gain better understanding. The Redwood Region Logging Conference included speakers from the Department of Fish & Game to discuss alleged fisheries deterioration due to logging. The Society of American Foresters invited representatives of the Sierra Club, fishing interests, geologists and other forest user groups.

      It was becoming evident that there had to be better communications and understanding between the various interest groups which could best come from talking to each other.

      Forest practices regulations were relatively simple. Most violations dealt with snag disposal; with the far-flung gyppo operations and the small Division of Forestry staff, many remote operations were never visited.

      Major national forestry issues that were still being discussed were the Helen Gagahan Douglas Redwood National Park proposal and federal regulations of private timber harvesting. Fears of the realization of either resulted in the formation of the Redwood Region Conservation Council as a public education and involvement program.

      Foresters began to realize that public interest and opinion were their professional responsibilities, that they had not anticipated this new role, and that they were generally not prepared to cope with this new dimension of management. The profession received some warning signals from such notable foresters as Charles Connaughton and DeWitt Nelson, who told them that the public was growing increasingly unhappy with their stewardship of the forest resource. Thus ended the 50's and the "laissez faire" period for forestry in California.

      1960 - 1969 was heralded as the "golden 60's". This was to be the decade of unparalleled forest products business. It fell miserably short of expectations. The 60's were also a period of transition from the noninterference philosophy to regulation as known today.

      Timber supplies were being recognized as exhaustible, particularly for those operators who relied upon the log market, buying small tracts of private timber, and public timber to keep their plants going. In the absence of a local market and conversion facilities, young growth timber was exported to the Japanese economy. Private land and timber went into state and federal parks; the largest take of all - the Redwood National Park - took 28,000 acres and the USFS timber sales were reduced as a result of the wilderness act, lawsuits affecting their timber sale program and access problems.

      There was a clear imbalance between timber supply and demand; demand exceeding supply. Timber prices jumped to $100 and over by the end of the decade. Land prices also increased.

      Politically, the "one man, one vote" decision had a devastating effect upon the timber producing, low population counties. The Senate seats moved south with control, as in the Assembly, to the large urban areas of the state.

      The Reagan administration's decision to set its own environmental standards and regulations preempting the possibility of federal intrusion, resulted in regulations which were harsh; exceeding in some cases the federal standards that finally emerged.

      The tempo of preservationist environmentalist activities accelerated dramatically.

      The attack upon the clearcut silvicultural harvesting method received national recognition.

      The attempt to ban log exports by organized labor as well as environmentalists was a coalition with different purposes in mind. Labor wanted logs for U.S. manufacture while the environmentalists were interested in reducing the timber cut.

      The sustained yield concept was challenged.

      Environmentalists funded lawsuits against the USFS which resulted in reduced timber marketed.

      Dr. Siri, president of the Sierra Club, in his presentation to the Society of American Foresters at the annual meeting in Oakland in the early 1960's made a clear challenge and warning to the profession. After telling the audience that their profession was doing a poor and unacceptable job of managing the forest resources, he concluded by saying that the Sierra Cub had decided that the situation warranted the "end justifies the means" concept to institute necessary changes. Foresters learned the significance of the "end justifying the means" concept rapidly.

      The Redwood National Park was established after feverish lobbying. This resulted in reduced private timber supplies, job losses, more plant closures and further uncertainties about future timber supplies.

      Assemblyman Charles Warren conducted forest practice hearings in 1967. It was at this hearing that the public concerns about the original Forest Practice Act and Rules surfaced and the strength of the movement for change emerged.

      Wild and scenic rivers were delineated, and the concept of all land being publicly owned with private ownership only a "use in trust" surfaced with several state legislators and lawyers. "Grow your own" emerged as the best way to assure future timber supplies.

      Harvesting regulations were under the old Forest Practice Act and dealt with snag felling, fire protection, slash burning, seed tree leave regeneration, alternate plans and notification of areas to be logged.

      Foresters had increased in numbers and responsibilities and were dealing with more forestry oriented professional activities in addition to those of the previous decade.

      Alternative methods of regeneration and harvesting were considered. Seeding and planting, in addition to natural regeneration were used as well as selection, seed tree leave and clearcutting methods. Streams were cleared, particularly after the 1964 flood, and there were studies of the value of fertilizers as a growth stimulant.

      The multitude of political and policy issues that surfaced had to be addressed by foresters as most of the industry and public problems were associated with land and timber management. It was a "learn while doing" process and not without many frustrations and a feeling of helplessness.

      A new development was the review and, in some cases, legal action taken by the Federal Trade Commission as a result of the acquisition of major forest products companies by other companies. Some of these acquisitions were perceived by the FTC as creating monopolies and in restraint of trade, particularly in redwood. The FTC actions dampened the enthusiasm of some potential buyers to expand their holdings.

      The 60's were a period of change in the public interest with what was going on in the harvesting of timber and the impact on the environment as well as a period of marshalling of political, public and lobbying forced to institute changes.

      The 70's was the period of unprecedented new regulations in response to recognition of public demands as spearheaded by the preservationist environmentalist movements.

      The original forest practice act was declared unconstitutional and after long debates, lobbying and negotiations, the 1973 Forest Practice Act became law.

      Forest management, timber harvesting and other forest land uses became political issues. Forest products companies and their foresters found themselves in the center of the political arena in an unfamiliar role. Legal and political battles had to be fought as well as lobbying for and against legislation and in the administration of regulations once implemented. Forestry had become a political football.

      Governor Brown's environmental leanings were manifested by his directive to the Board of Forestry to rewrite the just-completed and untried forest practice rules under the 1973 act, and his selection of resource agency personnel and appointments to boards and commissions regulating forestry activities who supported his leanings.

      The Mammoth decision extending CEQA to private as well as public projects provided a basis for the extension of regulations.

      The implementation of the nonpoint discharge concept of Chapter 208 of the Clean Water Act addressed silvicultural practices and resulted in the third writing of the Forest Practice Rules in search of "best management" practices.

      Water quality basin plans, wild and scenic river plans, the coastal commission and its special treatment rules added further intrusions into management planning to harvest that resulted in added product costs for which there were no accompanying schedules of benefits to offset those costs.

      Vast sums of money were spent in the regulation struggle, much of which could have been better spent in the practices of more intensive forestry and research in the best interests of all.

      The Redwood National Park expansion terminated a bitter and hotly contested battle, which in addition to being costly, had a tremendously adverse effect upon the north coast economy.

      The second taking of 48,000 acres of timber and land in the decision to expand the RNP further aggravated an already tight timber supply situation affecting the short-term needs of the industry and the market. The long range impact of the loss of future growth from the 76,000 acres placed in the park will probably have a greater long range impact than the loss of the old growth timber. Young growth product markets developed and young growth timber helped replace old growth shortages.

      Stumpage prices responded to the timber shortage with prices of $500-$750/M for old growth and dramatic increases in young growth prices. More plants closed down being unable to compete for stumpage and market logs. They were unwilling to risk capital to improve their plants to be competitive because of timber supply and the uncertainties of future regulatory costs.

      From a forest management and forestry standpoint landowners realized that the land was the basic resource and could be managed profitably.

      There were more studies of growth and alternate management concept, the implementation of intensive forest management with its site preparation, planting, brush control, precommercial thinnings, fertilization, and the development of superior strains of trees by rooting and cloning.

      Professional foresters finally succeeded in legislating a licensing program requiring a license to practice forestry in California.

      The new Forest Practice Rules and other regulations required long-range planning requirements in timber harvesting and necessitated the use of a greater range of experience and technical knowledge. Foresters had to utilize expertise in hydrology, soils, genetics, geology, innovative planning, public awareness and political astuteness to mention a few.

      So ends my 32-odd years of recollection. Now, where are we and what of the future.

      The State of California has the most stringent regulatory program for forestry activities in the United States, and some say in the world. The cost of the system to implement and police these regulations is the greatest in the United States. The cost to the regulated is estimated to be as much as $30/M, with the possibility of new forest practice rules that are being considered doubling that amount. For example: The recently presented roads and landings rules package, on 2,000 timber harvest plans per year, has an estimated cost to the operators of 9-20MM per year. This cost is in addition to that now required to meet presently implemented rules.

      Absent in all this is a Board-sponsored study to estimate existing rule costs as well as the total regulatory package to the public and to the landowners. Totally lacking is a formal study of what the public and landowners receive for these expenditures and the entire regulatory system including administration.

      These kinds of questions must be answered:

      Are we beyond the point of diminishing return when we compare the cost of regulation to the benefits attained?

      What are the real needs of the people?

      Are we moving in the right direction to provide them?

      What risks of damage for harvesting activities are reasonable, and what are the long term adverse impacts, if any, of timber harvesting?

      How much of the perceived adverse damage for silvicultural activities are real and how much are due to happenings beyond landowners' control or the result of aesthetic changes?

      Are we approaching or are we at a level of regulation whereby it is looked upon as an unquantified risk to be added to fire, insects, disease, market uncertainties and interest rates?

      Does the added regulatory unknown for the future serve to discourage the up-front capital investments necessary to practice intensive forest management to meet the projected public needs for forest products and other products of the forest?

      Is our present regulatory system in the best public interest 40 - 50 years hence when the effects of our activities will be realized?

        The answers to these and many more questions must be researched and answered with credibility and hopefully free of political intrigues. It is hoped the decision makers will have common sense, information and knowledge to provide a system of regulations, or guidelines, which will provide the balance of expectations and meet the needs of the whole spectrum of the public, from those who enjoy the forests to those who must have the products of these same forests to survive.

        The other alternative may be to charge ahead without this information and proceed on a philosophy of, "If a little is good, then more is better". The future is in the hands of the forestry profession. Young and old must set the goal for the future, chart the course and be prepared to take the initiative to fight for what is right, based upon our studies and knowledge; always being sensitive to the presence of total public interest and the protection of public needs for the future.

        My experiences over the past 32 years with a progressive, growing, forest oriented corporation, Simpson Timber Company, have provided me with an exciting, challenging and demanding career opportunity. To those of you who would choose the same, the opportunities are still to be found and that we, as foresters, are just beginning to discover the real potentials of the forest resource. This full potential will only be realized by preserving the free enterprise system and property rights while providing exciting investment opportunities free of unjustified regulation. Finally, it will take professionally trained, business oriented and motivated foresters to succeed in meeting the challenge of satisfying future needs from the forest resources of California.

        Introducing: Henry K. Trobitz

        Henry K TrobitzMr. Henry K. Trobitz is a native Californian and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley, where he received the B.S. degree in Forestry in 1938. Following graduation he worked for the U.S. Forest Service until 1942, when he joined the U.S. Air Force as a navigator. After discharge in 1946 he did graduate work at Berkeley and joined the Simpson Lumber Company in Shelton, Washington, in 1948.

        Mr. Trobitz returned to California in 1950 as Simpson's Chief Forester at Klamath and moved through a series of promotions until being named California Resources Manager in 1972. During his years with Simpson he was involved in assemblying Simpson's California land base. Starting with the purchase of an original 23,000 acres near Klamath in 1948, he engineered a series of acquisitions and mergers resulting in the current total of about 300,000 acres. Some of the most productive forest lands in America are included.

        He is a recognized leader in intensive forest management for Simpson, and the industry generally. His dedication to intensive management lead to the development of Simpson's highly sophisticated, containerized nursery near Korbel, California.

        Mr. Trobitz was appointed by Governor Brown as a member of the State Board of Forestry and Chairman of the Professional Foresters Licensing Examination Board. He has served as a member of the Board of Managers of the California Forest Protective Association and was a two-time President of that organization. He also served as a member of the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Research Advisory Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture. He is a member of the Society of American Foresters, and is past chairman of the Northern California Section.

        Mr. Trobitz retired in 1981 after 32 years of service with the Simpson Lumber Company, now lives in Arcata, California, and continues to be active as a forest consultant to Simpson and other companies.