Date: June 29, 2006
Issued: Dinah Phillips, Public Information Officer
Contact: Fran Layton
California Supreme Court Reaffirms Local Authority
to Determine Location of Timber Harvesting
The California Supreme Court today issued its decision upholding two Santa Cruz County ordinances limiting the location of timber harvesting operations in the County. Big Creek Lumber Company and the Central Coast Forest Association filed lawsuits against the County in 2000, arguing that the Forest Practice Act, the state law that governs the way in which timber harvesting is conducted statewide, prohibited the enactment of local ordinances that affect the location of logging. In a 4-3 decision rejecting the timber industry’s challenge, the Court found that state law did not eliminate local government’s traditional authority to designate where land use activities – including timber harvesting – take place.
One ordinance specifies the zone districts in the County where logging is a permitted use, and the other regulates where helicopter staging areas may be located when helicopters are used in logging operations. Both ordinances govern where timber operations occur, rather than how logging operations are conducted. This difference was critical to the Court’s decision, which stated that ordinances “that speak to the location of timber operations but not to the manner in which they are carried out,” are not preempted by state law.
Praising the ruling, Mark Stone, Chairman of the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, said “the Supreme Court has vindicated one of the most important functions of county government – to protect their residents by ensuring that neighboring land uses are compatible with each other.”
The County adopted the ordinance after extensive public hearings. Santa Cruz residents, both at the hearings and in letters to the Board of Supervisors, indicated their overwhelming support for keeping commercial logging operations out of residential neighborhoods. “Timber harvesting has a greater impact on residents in Santa Cruz than other counties.” Stone said. “No other county in California has our combination of urban growth in close quarters with viable timberland.”
Santa Cruz is the second-smallest county in the state, after San Francisco.
Fran Layton of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, the San Francisco law firm that has represented the County throughout this seven year legal battle, said that she was very pleased with the Court’s decision. “We are gratified that the Court has reaffirmed the zoning authority of local government – not just in regulating where timber harvesting may occur, but in regulating the appropriate location for all land uses,” said Layton.
For further information please contact Fran Layton at (415) 552-7272.