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'Hack-and-squirt' resolution can't hack it

Independent Coast Observer of Gualala, California

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After hearing hours of public testimony in favor of a resolution, a divided Mendocino County Board of Supervisors Tuesday rejected the "hack-and-squirt" resolution that would have requested commercial timber companies to voluntarily cease the practice of leaving dead standing trees, at least for the next six months.

Supervisors Carre Brown, John McCowan and Tom Woodhouse voted against the resolution. Supervisors Dan Hamburg and Dan Gjerde voted in favor.

"This is telling private property owners what they should do," Wood-house said.

The resolution requested "that the commercial timber companies, on a voluntary basis, immediately cease the practice of leaving dead standing trees on their property, and propose[d] an independent analysis of the fire danger resulting from this practice of creating standing dead trees for a period not to exceed six months."

Many individuals at the meeting spoke during public commentary, offering opinions that the resolution should be made an ordinance and that it was not strong enough.

"We need to take one step at a time," Hamburg said, "There are more radical -ideas out there. This is a mild and reasonable one."

Frilling, or hack-and-squirt, is a method of treating tan oaks, considered a blight to the California commercial forests. Tan oaks are highly flammable trees that are also susceptible to sudden oak death disease. Contagious sudden oak death spreads quickly, jumping from one tree to the next, creating a forest of skeletal matchsticks.

For commercial landowners such as the Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC), tan oaks could cost them millions of dollars. One way to deal with the tree is by cutting marks into the tree and spraying the hacks with imazapyr, GarlonĀ® and RoundupĀ®. This poison slowly kills the tree. After that, the landowner can leave the tree be.

"If we thought this led to an increased risk, if we thought frilling was dangerous, we would not be in it for the long haul," said Mike Jani, president and chief forester with MRC during his testimony in front of the board.

Many firefighters warned Supervisors that the trees still pose a risk, especially during fire season. Once the poison has set in, tan oaks effectively become kindling, ready to ignite. In the beginning of a fourth consecutive drought season where water and financial resources are running dry, firefighters are leery of the safety MRC's practices for two reasons: fire risk and safety.

"Firefighters need to know the greater community does in fact support rational methods of providing firefighters what we need to get the job done," said Bill Nap of the West Port Volunteer Fire Department.

"We are used to smoke, not poison," added Mendocino Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ed O'Brien.

Firefighters from around Mendocino County met with the Board of Supervisors prior to the resolution discussion to talk about fire safety and how the county can help facilitate safety in fire departments throughout the county.

"It behooves us to do all that in our power to make that job as less hazardous as possible," Hamburg said.

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Original Publication Date: April 24, 2015

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