Bohemian Club gains state approval on harvesting plan

The Bohemian Club gained state approval for a hotly-contested plan to harvest timber at the exclusive campsite retreat property it owns near Monte Rio in Sonoma County.

The San Francisco-based club acquired the 2,700-acre plot of forestland along the Russian River in 1872 and has been using the property to host lavish summer retreats for a highly secretive membership that includes former U.S. presidents, corporate tycoons and celebrities.

For the last three years, the club has been pushing a plan to “selectively harvest” overgrown sections on the land that it says pose fire risks to old growth redwood and Douglas-fir trees and surrounding properties.

On Tuesday, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection approved a revised proposal to remove up to 700,000 board-feet of timber over a 10-year period, the club said.

Opponents say the club has been over-harvesting the land for decades and that its plan will continue to endanger ancient trees and pose other environmental hazards.

“We think it represents too high of a logging rate still,” said Jay Halcomb of the Sierra Club Redwood Chapter.

Cal-Fire’s approval was the final administrative step the club needed to move forward with the plan. However, opponents may sue to stop it, said John Hooper, who has coordinated efforts against the club’s proposal.

Hooper said environmentalists will debate whether to pursue litigation in the coming weeks.

Bohemian Club spokesman Sam Singer said state approval makes sense since the plan was created by the best minds in forest preservation.

Commercial logging had clear-cut the land, known as the Bohemian Grove, before the Bohemian Club acquired it more than a century ago, according to President Jay Mancini.

Since then, the club has worked to restore the forest to its natural state, he said in a statement.

The club says it will replant redwood seedlings on parts of the property that will be harvested. Around 15,000 redwood seedlings are already being planted annually by the club, it said.

“Any revenue generated by timber harvesting will be re-invested in forest restoration at the Bohemian Grove,” the club said.

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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