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Road to Julian

A landowner can't apply for these permits based on his own appraisal of the woods on his property. "A registered professional forester," Porter explains, "must certify and mark the trees that are to be harvested...either mark them directly or be in direct supervision over the person who does mark those trees. A registered professional forester is licensed by the State of California after a seven-year experience-gathering period followed by a professional-level exam. So, in order to certify that a tree is dead, dying, or diseased, a registered professional forester must believe that tree is going to be dead within a year of the day that he is standing there looking at it. Then that tree can be removed."

But even then, the area will not be clear-cut as some in Julian worry it will be. The permit "is a 10 percent dead, dying, and diseased tree-removal permit," Porter says. "That allows somebody -- as long as the trees are dead, dying, or diseased -- to take up to, but not greater than, 10 percent of the volume of timber off of the land."

Determining 10 percent of the volume of the wood of the timber on a piece of land is not determined by counting the number of trees and taking 10 percent of that figure. Porter says it's a product of a number of factors: "The types of trees, how many trees per acre, what the average diameter is, what the average height is. All of that is compiled into statistical analysis that gives you an average volume per acre. The description of it is more difficult than the practice of it, once you understand it. There are pocket-sized devices for figuring out what the average stand density is. From there, you can figure out what the average volume per acre is."

If more than 10 percent is dead, diseased, or dying, "Then you have to apply for a substantially damaged timber land permit," Porter says. "Then you need to certify to the state that you have got a bigger and worse problem than 10 percent."

On top of having a certified forester determine which trees will be cut, the forestry act requires that the Department of Forestry inspect the operation before and during the logging.

As to the rumor that logging companies are being lured to the local mountains by stands of valuable timber, Porter says it couldn't be. "Coulter pine, which is the most common tree up there, has virtually no value. Incense cedar does have some value. White fir has little value. Jeffrey pine has pretty good value if you get it before it gets a blue stain, which is considered to be a defect. As the tree dies, a certain insect cultivates fungus inside of the wood, and that seeps through the wood, and it stains the wood blue. That is considered a defect, and it drops the value. I can tell you right now that when this current episode of tree-removal opportunity goes away, we likely won't see logging here for another 50 years. The industry just isn't here to support it."

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