Forest commission appointments delayed

Ashland Mayor John Morrison intends to appoint Daniel Maymar, who has a forestry background, and Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center staff member Joseph Vaile to the Ashland Forest Lands Commission.

The Ashland City Council confirmed numerous mayoral appointments to city commissions, committees and boards on Tuesday night.

Two appointments to the forest lands commission are on hold while the city determines whether Maymar meets criteria that at least one commissioner live on forested land. Morrison said Maymar lives on the border of land identified in a 1992 forest management plan map, and may meet the city criteria.

Speaking at the council meeting, long-time Commissioner Bill Robertson asked Morrison to reconsider his decision not to appoint him to another term on the commission.

Robertson, a forest land owner, said city lands in the Ashland Watershed need to be thinned in order to reduce wildfire risk.

“I am the strongest, loudest voice for doing more, sooner. ... I’m not sure you folks grasp the severity of the situation here. With what I know about the conditions, I think we are headed for devastation, possibly,” he said.

Morrison does not plan to reappoint Robertson, creating an opening on the commission. Commission Chair Stephen Jensen previously resigned his seat — leading to a second opening — after Councilor Cate Hartzell was assigned as council liaison to the commission. Hartzell is known for her detailed questions and comments during meetings, leading some residents to feel she bogs down city processes while others believe she is a valuable contributor and critical thinker.

Morrison said appointing Maymar and Vaile would create diversity on the commission. While Maymar has a forestry background and Vaile works for Ashland’s most active environmental group, Morrison said they both are able to work with others constructively.

Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center staff member Liz Crowsson previously served on the commission until she had to leave the area.

Environmental activist Eric Navickas, who does not work for any local conservation group, also had applied for a seat on the commission. But he said Vaile would be a good choice and would represent the environmental values of the community.

Navickas has clashed with forest land commissioners at their meetings in the past, prompting the commission to hold discussions about adopting rules for civil public input.

Navickas is opposed to all commercial logging and believes city lands can be treated with non-commercial thinning of brush and small diameter trees.

For his part, Robertson has advocated for commercial logging, including on the city-owned Winburn Parcel high in the watershed. The city implemented a commission-designed commercial thinning project on city lands low in the watershed last year. But commissioners delayed plans for thinning the Winburn Parcel, which has suffered less from drought and insect infestation than the dry, low-elevation lands. Any commercial logging of the Winburn Parcel would face intense scrutiny because of the greater number of large, healthy trees on the land.

While the commission’s commercial thinning project was viewed by many as a success because it excited little public controversy and tailored treatments to specific forest conditions, the commission has been so troubled by personality conflicts that they have discussed bringing in a facilitator.