By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A Sonoma County Superior Court judge has rejected the state’s approval of a timber harvesting plan at the Bohemian Club’s retreat in Monte Rio, ruling that alternatives were not adequately considered.
Environmentalists who brought suit against the Bohemian Club a year ago called the ruling a victory.
“They will have to redo their alternative analysis and that is a very important point,” said Jay Halcomb of the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“We want basically to cut at a lower logging rate,” Halcomb said. “They justified the high rate on the basis of fire danger, but you don’t have to cut trees to reduce fire danger, you want to cut brush.”
Bohemian Club officials, however, said they were equally happy with the ruling, which was handed down Thursday by Superior Court Judge Rene Chouteau.
Officials said the ruling didn’t throw out the plan, but just asked for alternatives to be considered, which they consider a technical and procedural issue.
“We will come back with the alternative the judge has requested,” said spokesman Sam Singer. “The question is not whether it is a good plan or not.”
The Bohemian Club is proposing to remove 7 million board-feet of lumber by 2016 at its 2,500-acre property, which it contends will lessen fire danger and protect old-growth redwood groves.
The site is the San Francisco club’s retreat on steep terrain alongside the Russian River in Monte Rio, and known for its summer encampments that attract the rich, famous and powerful from around the world.
The proposed timber plan would remove tan oak and thin the Douglas fir, but it would also include cutting down some young redwoods. The club has promised no old-growth redwoods would be cut.
Cal Fire in December 2009 approved the plan, which was scaled back from the first Bohemian Club plan proposed in May 2006.
The Sierra Club and the Bohemian Redwood Rescue Club filed suit in February 2010 seeking an injunction to harvesting and asking that Cal Fire’s approval be overturned.
The suit contended that Cal Fire violated the California Environmental Quality Act by not including alternatives to the harvest plan and also did not address greenhouse gas impacts.
On Thursday, Chouteau agreed on the major point in the suit, that alternatives to harvesting were not taken into account.
“If the department has concluded that there are no alternatives, it must explain in meaningful detail the basis for that conclusion,” Chouteau wrote in his ruling.
Singer said that within the next month or two, the Bohemian Club will come up with alternatives, which will likely include less harvesting.