I have submitted a letter to the Natural Resources Committee (attached) and added sections from the Forest Practice Act (the proposed leg. language makes the review team (interagency review process noted in the Act and the Forest Practice Rules)) process + plus public comment and Calfire review impossible).
After re-reading #5 in the bill — the language completely subverts the intent of the Forest Practice Act and Rules – by not allowing the Review Team Process , as intended by the act. where the Team may assess and add information or request additional information to complete the review process, and add recommendations in compliance with the Act and/or other California Code.
The only reason THPs are returned or held up is that the Department has found failure of the document to be consistent with the FPA/FPRs and other California Code. Does the proponent of this Bill want plans processed or approved that are not in conformance with the Forest Practice Act, Forest Practice Rules, or other State Code?
All issues are noted to the RPF by Calfire Staff and the RPF is allowed time to respond (which sometimes takes forever – due to inability of the RPF to respond to the non-compliance issue.
Bill Language – with notes in RED
4592.5. (a) This section shall be known as the Timber Harvester’s Bill of Rights.
(b) The department shall implement a Timber Harvester’s Bill of Rights to ensure the uniform and efficient implementation of processes and procedures regulating the filing, review, approval, required modification, completion, and appeal of decisions relating to timber harvesting plans. The bill of rights shall comply with all of the following requirements:
(1) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan to the department shall have the right to assistance provided by the department and the board regarding the regulatory and permitting requirements applicable to timber harvest plans. The board shall make an ombudsperson available to work with and assist persons intending to file a plan at each location where the department accepts those plans for filing, review, and approval. Why do trained foresters need an ombudsperson to help them navigate what they should already know? Cafire responds to Registered Professional Foresters who submit incomplete and inaccurate plans with a list of what needs to be fixed. They do not tell them how to fix it – as these are issues (subordinate to the Forest Practice Rules, Water Code, and Fish and Wildlife Code) that the RPF must assess and address in the plan (as per the requirements of the Forest Practice Rules). It is not Calfire’s job (or the State’s job) to write plans for an Registered Professional Forester or a landowner. There certainly are budget impacts.
(2) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan shall have the right to access all clearly written guidance documents prepared by the department that explain the regulatory process. In this connection, the department shall publish a list of all information required in a plan, using the rules of the board and an explanation of the criteria used to determine whether the information contained in a plan is adequate. This is currently in place. All information required in a plan is so stated in the Forest Practice Rules and Registered Professional Foresters are supposed to be experts and know the rules. The State should not be writing plans for RPFs.
(3) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan shall have the right to a timely determination under Section 4582.7 and any relevant administrative regulations. The department shall promptly notify a person submitting such a plan regarding whether it is accurate, complete, and in proper order. This is in place. However, negotiations and help for the Registered Professional Forester may take some time to resolve issues due to the nature of passing information back and forth between agencies and allowing time for response. Not allowing such time for communication and responses puts more pressure on all parties and may force Cal Fire to reject incompetent plans outright.
(4) The department shall provide information to explain the meaning of the terms “accurate,” “complete,” and “in proper order” when used in connection with any determination regarding the completeness or sufficiency of a timber harvesting plan. Do those words not have accepted meanings? Maybe the Board of Forestry should clarify definitions in the Forest Practice Rules. However, the rules are clear on the need for completeness and accuracy of plan submission. Cal Fire only returns, or holds up plans, for clarification of issues of missing and inaccurate information.
(5) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan shall have the right to know the basis for any determination that a plan is deficient and to understand what further information is needed to make a plan complete. After a plan is accepted as complete, the department and any other public agency that participates in the review of a plan shall not request any new or additional information that was not specified prior to the filing of an accepted plan. Not allowing Review Team agencies is a huge problem and subverts the intent of the Forest Practice Act, California Water Code, and California Fish and Wildlife Code to address resource issues (forest productivity, water quality, species protection, etc) with information is the basis of the ACT. Limiting this is contrary to the intent of the Forest Practice Act and managing the State’s Forests and Water Quality values. Also – the Review Team may need new and or additional information in the performance of their responsibility or in compliance with other State Codes.
(6) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan shall have the right to a timely decision on the approval of the plan, and the department shall comply with any time periods set forth for the review and approval of any plan as prescribed in statute or any relevant administrative regulations. The department can just reject plans that are not in conformance. Is that what they want?
(7) If a timber harvesting plan is returned to a person without a determination that it is accurate, complete, and in proper order, the director shall provide the ombudsperson and the person submitting the plan with information about what is needed to make the plan complete, and the ombudsperson shall assist the person in completing the plan. Back to ombudsperson – RPFs are supposed to be trained in how to assess THPs in conformance to the rules.
(8) The department shall provide a person submitting a timber harvesting plan with information on the designated lead agency that the person shall work with to comply with any plan requirements prescribed in this division or any relevant administrative regulations. This is confusing as to the intent or to actual desired outcome. Cal Fire is the lead agency – then there is the Review Team which includes Cal Fire and participating agencies (RB, CDFW, Coastal Commission – if in The Coastal Zone, Geologic Survey).
(9) A person submitting a timber harvesting plan shall have the right to know who will be reviewing the plan and to be provided with information on the estimated time for completion of the full plan review process. Cal Fire provides this information – and it is noted on the PHI – all external agency/Review Team participants – when an RPF calls or writes Cal Fire on issues – the responsible parties at Cal Fire are evident and noted.