Senator Tom McClintock, following a chamber luncheon in Oakhurst, visited North Fork Aug. 28 for an afternoon town hall meeting at the North Fork Rancheria Community Center.
McClintock took questions on a wide range of topics, including military intervention in Syria, implementation of the Affordable Care Act (he will be voting to defund Obamacare), as well as such time-honored national concerns over Social Security (still running out of money) and energy independence. He said he would like to see hydraulic fracking of the oil shale in Monterey as well as opening the Keystone pipeline from Canada.
But the overriding concerns voiced by the citizens involved local issues. The depressed Sierra economy, the rise of catastrophic forest fires such as the Rim Fire and the environmental policies that are perceived as being the root cause of both problems dominated the discussion.
McClintock made it clear that as a member of the House National Resources Committee he considers current policies "a tragedy" and that "starting 30 years ago we replaced sound forest management practices with a policy ... resulting in grossly overgrown forests that are susceptible ... to dangerous fires."
McClintock stated that timber harvests are down 80% over the last 30 years leading to the unprecedented fires of the modern age as well as a significant downturn in economic health.
Bringing environmentally sound logging back as a means of caring for the forest by preventing fires as well as stimulating the economy was common ground for all the residents attending the meeting in the once-thriving mill town.
McClintock stated that we are not protecting endangered species such as the yellow-legged frog or Yosemite toad when we allow them to be "burned to a crisp."
Dan Rosenberg, president of the North Fork Community Development Council, stated that prior to arriving in the Sierra 15 years ago, he was against logging. But his perspectives changed after studying the science. "Taking care of the forest by selective logging and brushing I support that."
Bass Lake District Ranger David Martin was cautious about simple solutions.
"It's complicated, we have to respond to a variety of different laws, regulations, policies and public interests, the vast majority of which are well intended."
Martin went on to clarify that the Forest Service has been actively pursuing successful hazard reduction logging projects for the past 15 years, from Sunny Meadows, south to the Whiskey Ridge area. Martin pointed out the Forest Service is opening up 8,000 new acres for additional fuel hazard reduction, which includes logging several million board feet of timber that is expected that to have a positive impact on the economy of area communities.
McClintock made it clear it was his opinion that opposition to environmentally sound logging projects came primarily from bureaucrats above the Forest Service, in the Department of the Interior, and from radical environmental groups who pursue their agenda through lawsuits. He vowed to work against these forces while in office.