In 1992, at the urging of Committee for Green Foothills and residents of the Skyline area, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors created a 1,000-foot-wide buffer zone that protects existing properties from logging on lands not zoned for timber harvesting. These protections were in response to proposals to commercially harvest large redwoods and Douglas firs on small parcels (5, 10, and 20 acres) right next to homes in the Skyline area. Residents were rightfully concerned about potential effects on their property and the environment from increased landslide hazards, erosion and siltation of drinking water supplies, increased fire hazards from opening up the forest floor to more sunlight, noise, and other problems.
The timber industry went to court, arguing that regulation of timber harvesting had been preempted by the state. The First District Court of Appeals and the State Supreme Court upheld the county’s timber buffer zone ordinance, specifically ruling that while the state regulates how logging is done, counties have the right to determine where it may occur.
The timber industry would very much like to find a way around the 1,000-foot buffer zone. Due to a state audit of the county’s Williamson Act program, which gives tax breaks to landowners who agree to maintain their land in agricultural use, some forested parcels have been found out of compliance. Timber industry representatives are now pushing the county to allow rezoning of these forested parcels to Timber Production Zones (TPZ), which also give owners tax breaks, but do not have the protections of the 1,000-foot buffer.
Committee for Green Foothills will be commenting on any proposed rezonings to ensure that protections from the many adverse impacts of timber harvesting are maintained for nearby residences and lands.