PTEIR concept and process
Over the last two decades, a changing regulatory climate has greatly increased the cost of securing timber harvest permits in California. Non-industrial forestland owners who prefer to log with a lighter touch have been particularly hard-hit by these changes. The cost of permitting has made light harvests less feasible, creating economic pressures to either subdivide large land holdings or leave the forest unmanaged, thereby allowing a hazardous build-up of fuels.
At the same time, the forest — now recovering from its original logging in the 1940s to 1990s — can actually be helped by light-touch logging. Thinning trees can accelerate the forest’s return to late seral habitat, can avoid the cycle of clearcutting young forests which carpets the landscape with young, highly flammable stands, and can fund the rehabilitation of failing roads and stream crossings that are poised to deliver sediment to creeks.
PTEIR: an innovative solution.
Program Timberland Environmental Impact Reports (PTEIRs) can offer a route through this regulatory tangle. Authorized by the state Forest Practice Rules (Sec. 1092), PTEIRs include many of the environmental reviews that individual projects would normally undergo, such as wildlife studies, watershed issues, and cumulative effects, saving landowners from having to repeat the same reviews in their logging plans.
Another advantage is that nearby projects can be evaluated together instead of piecemeal, making the environmental analysis more closely reflect the overall impact. PTEIRs apply to specific land-management practices in a specific area. Once a PTEIR is completed for that area, landowners can file Program Timber Harvest Plans (PTHPs) if they are proposing to use those practices, with far less paperwork than a regular THP. Logging must still meet the forestry standards in place at the time of harvest. One forester who has prepared a PTHP estimates the cost savings at 40 to 65 percent.
The MRC’s goal
With an approved PTEIR permit process, we advocate the sustainable use of Mattole forests and rangelands as a key foundation of local livelihoods. The PTEIR gives landowners incentives to use light-touch logging, and may enlarge the area of the Mattole under active forest management – thereby creating new opportunities for woodsworkers while reducing fire hazard.