Commentary: Speak up about the disposition of PG&E watershed lands
Karen Mills and Noelle Cremers
If you are a cattle rancher or a beekeeper who currently leases land on PG&E watershed properties, or an avid outdoorsman who takes your family to fish on Bass Lake in Madera County or Lake Almanor in Plumas County, you will want to have a voice in the discussions taking place about the use of these lands.
The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council is hosting a series of public meetings in November and December to prepare a plan that will determine how 141,000 acres of PG&E watershed lands, in 22 counties, will be managed and utilized in the coming years.
Currently these lands are used for a variety of purposes including grazing, timber operations, recreation and power generation. You may be interested in current and proposed agricultural uses on these lands and changes to recreation that can impact neighboring properties. PG&E has owned a large portion of its lands for nearly 100 years. The challenge for the Stewardship Council and those interested in the lands now is how to assess current uses and plan for potential new uses.
The planning on PG&E's watershed lands arose as a result of PG&E's bankruptcy filing and the ultimate settlement with the California Public Utilities Commission. PG&E agreed that all the watershed lands it owns shall be made subject to permanent conservation easements restricting development of the lands to protect and preserve the beneficial public values and/or donate the land to one or more public entities or qualified non-profit conservation organizations, whose membership will ensure protection of the beneficial public values.
Public values include the protection of the natural habitat of fish, wildlife and plants; the preservation of open space; outdoor recreation by the general public; sustainable forestry; agricultural uses and historic values. To oversee the disposition of the lands, the Stewardship Council was formed in 2004 as a non-profit corporation with a 17-member board of directors.
The Stewardship Council has broken out the 141,000 acres into 49 planning units across 11 watershed areas. The accompanying map (PDF, 457 KB) provides a general idea of the scope of the lands. Draft concepts have now been created for what might be appropriate uses of all the planning units. The public, interested users of the lands, and neighbors are encouraged to comment about the viability and sustainability of the proposals.
Those interested in these watershed lands can provide input in a number of ways: at the community meetings, directly to the Stewardship Council or to California Farm Bureau Federation. Your feedback is needed in order to provide appropriate perspective about the lands, as at some point the board will be making decisions on whether to approve particular dispositions and uses on the lands that may be implemented as early as 2007.
(Karen Mills is an associate counsel in the CFBF Legal Services Division. She can be reached at email@example.com or (916) 561-5655. Noelle Cremers is the director of natural resources and commodities in the CFBF Government Affairs Division. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (916) 446-4647.)
The Stewardship Council will be hosting a series of community meetings in November and early December as follows:
Ukiah: Nov. 1, 6-8 p.m. Ukiah Senior Center Bartlett Hall 499 Leslie St., Ukiah
Chester: Nov. 15, 6-8 p.m. Chester Elementary School 158 Aspen St., Chester
Burney: Nov. 16, 6-8 p.m. Veterans Memorial Hall 37410 Main St., Burney
Sacramento: Nov. 29, 9-11 a.m. Sacramento Convention Center 1030 15th St., Room 203, Sacramento
Redding: Dec. 5, 6-8 p.m. Red Lion Hotel, 1830 Hilltop Redding
Chico: Dec. 7, 6-8 p.m. Masonic Lodge 1110 West East Ave., Chico
Maps and details will be provided at the meetings. To review information in advance go to www.stewardshipcouncil.org.
Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.