In the 1920s the Albion Lumber Company hired one of the first college educated foresters. On his initial day on the job he rode the train east several miles and strode up a steep hill to one of the company’s logging operations. He surveyed the work being done for the better part of an hour then approached the local woods boss, a man of many years in the business, dating to the days of felling trees with an axe. The young forester rattled off a list of changes he thought would improve production. The woods boss didn’t say anything for a long while then spat a gob of tobacco juice in the dust. “Son, walk back down that hill, get on the train, and don’t let me see your face in my woods again.” Slump shouldered, the forester shuffled away. The woods boss hollered after him, “And don’t stop at the cookhouse.”
Walker Tilley liked to tell that story on himself when he returned to the Albion in the 1950s as a senior forester for Masonite Corporation. Most of Walker Tilley’s successors in the field of corporate forestry have not been so self-effacing. AVA readers may have noted Mike Jani’s letter in response to public concerns about Mendocino Redwood Company applying the herbicide imazapyr to tan oaks. Presumably Jani has moved on from chief forester at MRC (Mendocino Redwood Co.) to the position of president with its sister corporation HRC (Humboldt Redwood Co.). Jim Holmes is the current president of MRC, but Jani obviously keeps his hand in affairs that reach public relations level, not that Jani is adept at relating to actual members of the public.
For full disclosure Mike Jani is one of two people I’ve ever “flipped-off” in public. Jani’s bird came about a decade ago after a meeting in Fort Bragg and the actual gesture took place outside on a darkened street with only one other MRC employee as witness. For the record the other was a Ukiah High School Athletic Director who deemed my Beatles-length hair to be unacceptable on one of his sports teams. He threatened to cut it himself at one point. I don’t know what happened behind the scenes, but the hair remained uncut and I missed no playing time (probably because the gesture was made away from school grounds).
Jani’s letter, printed in the August 1, 2012 AVA, implies that the greatest problem with the application of herbicides over a broad number of acres is the negative visual impact for MRC’s neighbors.
Another letter, in the same AVA issue, from one of those neighbors (Elaine Kalantarian), clearly rejects Jani’s impersonal ploy. Her letter concludes that the only lesson Jani learned from the experience was that future herbicides should be better hidden from the public. Perhaps, but Jani’s callous motives can best be seen in his own words near the end of his letter to the editor: “Ideally, we will someday find a cost efficient alternative to the application of herbicides…”
The ideal world for Jani and MRC is a cost efficient one. MRC already has experimented with stripping the bark of tan oaks near the stumps and found that to be an effective method of killing off tan oak without herbicides, but they will not hire any of this county’s woefully underemployed woodsmen to do that sort of work on a large scale because it is not “cost efficient” in relation to squirting the herbicide imazapyr into the hacked trunks of tan oaks.
Mr. Jani need not stop at the cookhouse either.