CCFA & Big Creek Lumber Co. vs County of Santa Cruz – a history

by Cate Moore on March 12, 2013

This dispute and the resultant lawsuit are the seminal forces that formed the Central Coast Forest Association and informed its purpose.  CCFA came together in 1998 to respond to predation on forestland owners by environmental activists using the Santa Cruz County government as their foil to enact ordinances to disable and eventually kill local timber harvest businesses. Two years of negotiation and political effort were fruitless so CCFA joined Big Creek Lumber in a lawsuit against the County and their accomplice, the State Coastal Commission.

The dispute began when the County of Santa Cruz petitioned the Board of Forestry for a large package of special rules for Santa Cruz County forestry.  These rules included responsibility for determining the location of property lines (normally a civil law operation between landowners), prescriptive road regulations that preclude professional judgment, regulation based on property zoning rather than actual site conditions, greatly expanded no-cut and no-entry zones around watercourses, and a great deal of expanded bureaucracy including expanded notification procedures, additional county permits. No substantive documentation of actual existing problems was submitted to justify the need for the rules.

Big Creek Lumber Company and CCFA won our major points at trial in the circuit court and scored a resounding win in the 6th Appellate Court on February 17, 2004.  See here for the summary (Sixth_Appellate_Summary) and the text (bclvscc6thappelatecourtdecision) of the Sixth Appellate Court Decision.  It is interesting to note that the California Coastal Commission dropped out of the action after their loss in the appellate court.

We pick up the action here with our update posts as the case left the appellate court.  Shortly after the appellate decision, the Santa Cruz Sentinel published an editorial Santa_Cruz_Sentinel_Editorial(), as did CCFA (CCFA_Editorial_02_20_2004).

The County appealed the appellate decision to the California Supreme Court.  On June 11, 2004, CCFA received word that the case had been accepted.  The case was finally heard on April 4, 2006.  CCFA’s post from that day reads (Supreme_Court_Hearing_Post):

The decision was released on June 29, 2006.  The Supreme Court reversed much of the appellate court’s decision.  The final ruling stated that the State of California did have control over the regulation of timber harvesting and forest practices, but that the County could choose where timber harvest could take place via their zoning authority. Here is the complete text of the ruling (SupremeCourtDecision 1).

This ruling caused an upheaval in land use designations, as the County decided that timber harvesting could only take place on TPZ land, mostly because they did not have the authority to forbid it, since TPZ is a state-regulated zoning.



{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment