But Gary Hughes, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center, called the liability proposal "a direct giveaway from the Governor's Office to the largest landowner in the state."
Timber companies, environmentalists and Brown officials met for months leading up to Brown's May budget.
On April 21, Brown received three contributions from the timber industry toward his November tax initiative, including $10,000 from Sierra Pacific Industries, $10,000 from Green Diamond Resource Co. and $5,000 from the California Forestry Association. Sierra Pacific Industries also gave $46,800 toward Brown's 2010 gubernatorial campaign.
"There's no tie between the two," said Brown spokeswoman Elizabeth Ashford.
The Personal Insurance Federation of California backed legislation in March to reduce liability for tree damage. The insurance group gave Brown's initiative campaign $200,000 on the same day as the forestry groups.
PIFC political director Kelly Calkin said the group's bill, since tabled, was intended to deal with non-wildfire damage, and the group has no interest in the governor's latest plan.
Timber companies must submit harvest plans before cutting trees. For years, activists complained that regulatory agencies such as the Department of Fish and Game have been so poorly funded they cannot adequately judge the impacts tree-cutting will have on endangered species and animal habitat.
Brown's proposal would raise $30 million annually for timber harvest reviews through a 1 percent tax on all lumber sold in California. Republicans, whose votes are needed for taxes, are undecided on the charge. Many have signed no-tax pledges.
The California Retailers Association, which represents Home Depot, is leaning against the plan, said President Bill Dombrowski.
The lumber tax would provide more money for oversight, but also eliminate about $500,000 to $600,000 in fees for timber companies.
"We definitely believe the Department of Fish and Game needs money," said Hughes, "but the timber industry is the only industry as far as I know that would be exempt from paying fees for the permitting process."
Sierra Club California is neutral on the proposal and has concerns, said director Kathryn Phillips. Other environmental groups, such as the Nature Conservancy, are in support.
As much as 70 percent of lumber purchased in California comes from outside the state, according to California Forestry Association President David A. Bischel. The industry believes that a lumber tax would spread costs while raising money for California's timber harvest programs.
He said California timber companies pay multiple times more to file harvest plans than their competitors in the Pacific Northwest. If the state were to push more costs onto the industry, Bischel said it would be harder to compete with companies from beyond California.