>State suspends Pacific Lumber's logging license
>Nov. 11, 1998
>By MIKE GENIELLA Press Democrat Staff Writer
>EUREKA -- In an unprecedented action against a major timber company, state
>officials Tuesday suspended Pacific Lumber Co.'s logging license, forcing
>the layoffs of 180 company loggers.
>The surprise state action -- the company was lauded publicly less than a
>month ago by the state Department of Forestry for its improving record --
>stunned company representatives and supporters and cast new doubt on its
>ability to win state and federal approval of long-term timber management
>plans necessary to complete public purchase of the company's Headwaters
>Pacific Lumber was threatened with a suspension last year but promised to
>comply with state regulations and has been operating on a conditional
>license since January. State forestry director Richard Wilson said Tuesday
>he had no choice but to suspend the license because of continuing
>"This decision is not an easy one to make, considering the effects on
>employees, but we simply cannot allow these violations to continue," he
>Wilson said while he's aware of the potential economic fallout from the
>layoffs -- the first at the company in more than a decade -- the state's
>primary objective must be to "enforce the rules which protect our
>environment, along with the economy."
>The license suspension is the first ever against a major timber company in
>the 25-year history of the state Forest Practices Act. It applies only to
>company logging crews, who cut about 50 percent of the logs needed to keep
>Pacific Lumber mills operating. Until its problems with the state are
>resolved, Pacific Lumber will rely on independent logging companies, who
>operate under their own state licenses, to cut timber on company lands.
>Although the suspension is expected to be temporary, the move sobered
>hundreds of Pacific Lumber workers and community leaders who converged
>Tuesday at the Redwood Fairgrounds for the last public hearing on proposed
>50-year plans aimed at protecting wildlife and regulating cutting on the
>company's 200,000 acres of Humboldt County timberlands.
>Federal and state approval of the plans is the last major step in the
>public purchase of Headwaters, the largest tract of ancient redwoods in
>At Tuesday's hearing, longtime Pacific Lumber worker Bert Silva praised the
>company for agreeing to the most stringent environmental demands ever
>proposed for a California timber company. He said the company is trying to
>meet the letter of the law, while continuing to provide jobs for
>generations of timber-dependent families.
>"This is our lives we're talking about. Please don't forget that," he said.
>But the state crackdown was deemed long overdue by environmental activists
>and some owners of property adjacent to Pacific Lumber timberlands, who
>complain proposed government protections are inadequate because of the
>company's logging pace over the last decade. Soon after a 1986 corporate
>takeover by Texas financier Charles Hurwitz, Pacific Lumber sharply
>accelerated its logging to cash in on a huge inventory of trees built up
>during a century of conservative cutting under its old ownership.
>"This company can't be trusted,'' Cecelia Lanman of the Environmental
>Protection Information Center in Garberville said at the hearing. "We want
>no deal. Let's start all over again."
>Pacific Lumber President John Campbell defended the company's record,
>Campbell said the state-cited violations are highly technical in nature and
>involve mostly road-building and drainage issues. He said company
>violations are the result of conflicting interpretations of new regulations
>that tie the management plan to the controversial Headwaters deal.
>"We have made tremendous improvements during the past year, and I have
>pledged to continue bringing our operations into full compliance," he said.
>Campbell cited as examples the recent firing of a 16-year company forester
>for "poor judgment" in monitoring a timber harvest operation and the
>termination of a contract with an independent logging company because of
>its violations of state rules.
>"In addition, we are adding four new people to our payroll to deal
>specifically with compliance issues," he said.
>But the company's moves came too late to stave off another public
>embarrassment over its hotly contested logging operations.
>The state action requires the company to stop all timber operations by its
>logging crews within 24 hours.
>Campbell said the company will file an appeal. Wilson then will have to
>decide within 10 days whether to terminate Pacific Lumber's logging license
>for the rest of the year.
>Although the total number of logging violations for the company this year
>total significantly less than in 1997, when the company first was
>threatened with losing its license, a recent spate has brought renewed
>scrutiny to the company's logging practices.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644
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