Humboldt County Releases Draft McKay Community Forest Stewardship Plan
The County of Humboldt has released the draft McKay Community Forest Stewardship Plan for public review and comment. The Forest Stewardship Plan is the county’s guidance document for managing the McKay Community Forest over the next ten to fifteen years.
The McKay Community Forest was established southeast of Eureka in August 2014 in partnership with Green Diamond Resource Company and The Trust for Public Land for multiple purposes including public access and recreation, timber harvest, and watershed and resource conservation. The forest was recently expanded in June 2020 to its current size of 1,194 acres.
“The McKay Community Forest is a tremendous asset for the people of Humboldt County,” said Rex Bohn, Humboldt County First District Supervisor. “The draft Forest Stewardship Plan presents the county’s proposed management approach, and we welcome public comment to ensure that the Community Forest meets the community’s desires and interests.”
The draft Forest Stewardship Plan describes how silviculture, fire risk reduction, habitat restoration, carbon sequestration, monitoring, and adaptive management would be implemented during the next ten to fifteen years. The draft plan and a comment form are available at humboldtgov.org/mckayforest. Comments on the draft plan are welcome through Tuesday, May 31, and the final Forest Stewardship Plan is expected to be completed in July.
The Community Forest is envisioned as a place that enhances quality of life by providing opportunities to experience a diverse, dynamic, and productive forest. The Forest Stewardship Plan describes existing conditions, defines the management goals and objectives, presents the overall management approach, establishes guiding principles and conservation measures, and highlights initial priorities. Later this year, the county plans to form a seven-member resident advisory group to help guide the management of the Community Forest consistent with the Stewardship Plan.
The draft Forest Stewardship Plan proposes to manage the Community Forest using principles of forest stewardship and ecological forest management. Forest stewardship is a general approach to managing the forest that conserves the forest’s resources, including wildlife, timber, soil, water, and recreational opportunities. Forest stewardship takes a long-term view and manages the land with a sense of service and responsibility for future generations. Ecological forest management relies on science-based strategies to integrate multiple environmental, economic, and social goals while sustaining the integrity of forest ecosystems and landscapes and reducing risks to the forest resources.
Timber harvesting will be implemented to provide consistent income and enable the Community Forest to be economically self-sustaining over the long term. The county will manage the forest through uneven-aged management which involves thinning, single tree selection, and small group openings. The rate of harvest will average approximately 50 to 60% of annual tree growth. Harvests will be designed with an emphasis on enhancing structural complexity and creating stands with diverse age classes. The county’s management approach will shift the trajectory of the forest toward a composition with larger, older trees and more complex structural characteristics, with biomass and carbon sequestration increasing over time.
The Forest Stewardship Plan is a companion document to the Non-Industrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP), which is a regulatory document developed to demonstrate compliance with the California Forest Practice Rules. The NTMP is currently being reviewed by CAL FIRE.
The Stewardship Plan was developed to complement the McKay Community Forest Trail Plan, which was completed in December 2020. The Trail Plan describes the framework for providing public access and recreational opportunities in the Community Forest. The Trail Plan proposes a trail network with 31 miles of multi-use roads, multi-use trails, hiking trails, and mountain bike trails, along with a Bike Skills Park. The Community Forest will become a place for Humboldt County residents and visitors of all ages and abilities to enjoy walking, hiking, mountain-biking, wheeling on approved mobility devices, horseback-riding, learning, and connecting with the natural world.
Trail building is expected to start in the summer of 2022 after the environmental report for the Trail Plan is adopted. Completion of this report was delayed to ensure consistency and integration with the NTMP. The environmental report for the Trail Plan is expected to be released for public review within the next few weeks.
The first trails to be built and opened to the public will be located near Northridge Road, Harris Street, and Redwood Acres. Trail construction will depend heavily on the Volunteer Trail Stewards, California Conservation Corps, and Redwood Coast Mountain Bike Association. A parking area was constructed in Cutten along Northridge Road to provide dedicated access to the McKay Community Forest. Additional access points will be located along Harris Street and within Redwood Acres. Access points are expected to be developed near Redwood Fields, Manzanita Avenue, and Walnut Drive as large parcels are permitted for subdivision.
For more information, please visit the McKay Community Forest web page.
An aerial view of the McKay Community Forest, courtesy of the Department of Public Works.