Signpost: December 1999
The High Price of Preservation
After a 13-year fight, California's Headwaters is finally protected. Now
About 300 miles north of San Francisco, virgin redwoods belonging to
Earth's largest remaining stands soar 20 stories into a fog-shrouded
forest canopy, as endangered marbled murrelets and northern spotted owls
nest below. Head-high ferns sway in the breeze, the huckleberries are
ready to explode with juice, and the rivers abound with rare coho salmon.
Last March, politicos inked a $480 million, 11th-hour deal with Pacific
Lumber and its parent company, Maxxam, Inc., to protect this idyllic spot
in what is now known as the Headwaters Forest Preserve. Under the
arrangement, the Bureau of Land Management received jurisdiction over
5,600 acres of redwoods, plus 4,500 acres of "buffer zone" and logging
restrictions on other nearby areas.
The deal punctuated a bizarre, acrimonious 13-year saga that saw an
activist killed by a chain-saw-felled redwood, more than 1,300 protesters
arrested, car bombs explode, and a woman take up residence in a tree for
a year and a half-and counting. Some say the struggle was worth it. Louis
Blumberg, assistant regional director of The Wilderness Society in San
Francisco, first testified before Congress on behalf of Headwaters in
1991. He calls the new preserve "arguably the most outstanding tract of
virgin, ancient redwoods in California, if not the world," though he
admits that "you're going to have to hike through some heavily managed
[read: clear-cut] timberland to get to Headwaters. The area around it is
But as of September there were no trails into Headwaters, and
bushwacking, camping, and overnight parking were prohibited. Once the
redwood groves, circled by clearcuts, are open to hikers, activists are
hoping access will be restricted to guided hikes. "We need to be
conservative," says Kevin Bundy of the Environmental Protection
Information Center (EPIC) in Garberville, California, "and not throw the
gates open to everyone."
Despite the high price paid for these relatively small, restricted
parcels, Blumberg and others who dream of protecting the entire
60,000-acre Headwaters area worry that the true cost might not surface
until the next piece of pristine wilderness comes up for consideration.
"My fear is that this may embolden private landowners to hold out for
For more information, contact: Mendocino Environmental Center, 106 W.
Standley, Ukiah, CA 95482; (707) 468-1660; www.pacific.net/~mec/
The Strange Headwaters Saga
* Earth First! convenes anti-logging rallies at Pacific Lumber offices in
San Francisco, Scotia, and Arcata.
* Northern spotted owl listed as threatened under Endangered Species Act,
strengthening the cause for Headwaters protection.
* Marbled murrelet listed as endangered species, further fueling
* More than 1,000 protesters arrested at Headwaters Rally in Carlotta,
* Julia "Butterfly" Hill begins tree-sit in a redwood she named Luna.
* Police swab protester's eyes with pepper spray, bringing national
attention to the Headwaters issue.
* Protester killed when logger fells redwood.
* Headwaters Forest Preserve is transferred to the public.
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