Anyone entering the mill at Big Creek Lumber, south of Pescadero, is immediately hit by a sensory overload — a cacophony of saws, the rattle of conveyor belts and a prominent pine fragrance. A freshly cut redwood enters the mill and, in a flurry of cuts, the tree is julienned into a pile of boards with some leftover scraps for potting soil.
About 100,000 board feet of timber are churned out of the lumberyard each day — or about enough wood to extend a single two-by-four about 21 miles. All those redwoods are chopped down from the verdant coastal forests from Half Moon Bay south to San Luis Obispo.
The trees are abundant, and demand is nearly endless, but Big Creek officials fear for the company’s future nonetheless. Here on the Peninsula, Big Creek controls the last remaining mill, giving them, in some ways, a local monopoly on lumber production. But company officials refer to that privilege as more like being the last dinosaur.
Over recent years, the lumber company officials say they’ve watched as thousands of acres of coastal hills have been “locked up” through conservation acquisitions and easements. The lumber company is not celebrating a new $300 million Measure AA bond approved by voters earlier this month to expand and maintain protected wilderness under the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Big Creek officials fear the new pool of money could put the remaining open timberlands in the crosshairs of an expanding greenbelt up the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Back in 1980, California was self-sufficient for its lumber products, pointed out Big Creek spokesman Bob Berlage. But today more than 80 percent of the wood is brought in from out of state, mostly from Canada. The net effect, he says, is that Californians are tightening control of local resources and outsourcing the ecological damage elsewhere.
From the Half Moon Bay Review: http://www.hmbreview.com/news/timber-firm-wary-of-growing-greenbelt/article_5dbb8444-0213-11e4-b50a-0019bb2963f4.html