>Published Saturday, July 18, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News
>Headwaters Forest plan has politicians at loggerheads
>Saying it's not enough, Sher holds up agreement
>BY PAUL ROGERS
>Mercury News Staff Writer
>For the past 12 years, environmental activists have chained themselves to
>trees and hung off the Golden Gate Bridge trying to save the ancient
>redwoods of Northern California's Headwaters Forest from logging.
>Yet in perhaps the most important showdown yet, the struggle has moved away
>from the TV cameras and the police in riot gear to a new arena: Gov. Pete
>And now it's crunch time.
>A $380 million deal to buy 7,500 acres of the forest from Pacific Lumber
>Co. of Humboldt County is
>tangled up in negotiations this weekend among ``The Big Five'' -- Wilson
>and the top Sacramento lawmakers haggling over the state's budget.
>One person more than any other is responsible for holding up the redwood
>deal: state Sen. Byron Sher, D-Redwood City. And environmentalists couldn't
>Congress already has approved $250 million for the deal. The remaining $130
>million must come from Sacramento.
>But the deal shortchanges taxpayers and doesn't go far enough to protect
>salmon streams or old-growth trees, Sher says. So, the 70-year-old Stanford
>University law professor, widely viewed as the environmental dean of the
>Legislature, earlier this year succeeded in pulling the state's $130
>million share out of the budget, where Wilson wanted it. Instead, Sher
>wrote a separate bill demanding tougher logging rules across all of Pacific
>Lumber's remaining 200,000 acres as a condition of receiving the money.
>But he has found himself caught in a powerful bipartisan squeeze from
>Wilson -- California's most powerful Republican -- and U.S. Sen. Dianne
>Feinstein -- the state's most powerful Democrat -- both of whom
>painstakingly negotiated the deal with Pacific Lumber owner Charles Hurwitz
>and now want to see it survive.
>``It's high noon for this deal,'' said Carl Pope, national executive
>director of the Sierra Club. ``Byron Sher is under a tremendous amount of
>pressure. I'm delighted he has been firm.''
>The question now is who will blink. The answer could come any day now.
>Wilson and the Republicans could go along with Sher and require the tougher
>standards. That could happen under a scenario where Wilson compromises on
>Headwaters to win from Democrats his top goal, a cut in the state's car
>licensing fees. But one risk is that Hurwitz will walk away from the table.
>Or top Democratic negotiators -- Senate President Pro Tem John Burton,
>D-San Francisco, and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, D-Los Angeles
>-- could abandon Sher, cutting a deal with Wilson that gives them what they
>want on issues such as education funding.
>Environmental and timber lobbyists have spent weeks frenetically trying to
>``Of course I'm nervous,'' said John Campbell, president of Pacific Lumber,
>based in Scotia, near Eureka. ``We've spent over 10 years at this. And now
>at the 11th hour people are saying it's not enough.''
>Sher's bill, said Campbell ``is too restrictive. The company could not
>remain economically viable.''
>Feinstein also says Sher is driving too hard a bargain.
>``There have been at least 10 separate efforts to save Headwaters over the
>last 12 years,'' she said, describing herself as ``incredulous.'' ``Every
>one of them has failed. This saves virtually more redwood than any other
>effort I know of.''
>If Sher keeps pushing for a stricter deal, she said, that could endanger
>$250 million in federal money already approved by Congress and signed by
>``There are murmurs back here from other senators about what they would
>like to do with the money instead,'' said Feinstein. ``I can say 100
>percent that if this doesn't go through, then the federal money is gone. I
>feel I've done everything I could over a long period of time to get the
>best I could. At some point people have to trust that and recognize that.''
>Headwaters Forest, 15 miles south of Eureka, is the world's largest
>privately owned old-growth redwood forest. It has been a flash point of
>national controversy since 1985, when Hurwitz, chairman of Houston-based
>Maxxam Inc., acquired Pacific Lumber in a hostile takeover, doubled the
>rate of logging and threatened to clear-cut Headwaters Grove.
>After huge protests, Feinstein and other officials reached an agreement
>with Hurwitz in 1996 to buy 7,500 acres -- about half of it old growth --
>The deal also requires Pacific Lumber to prepare a ``habitat conservation
>plan'' for managing its remaining 200,000 acres of forest during the next
>This week, details emerged in a 2,000-page document from the U.S. Fish and
>Wildlife Service, negotiated with Pacific Lumber.
>The plan calls for banning logging within 30 feet of endangered salmon
>streams. By contrast, Sher's bill calls for 170-foot buffer zones.
>And although the plan would preserve 11 smaller old-growth groves, Sher
>wants another, Owl Creek.
>He said he's not scuttling any deal, just representing the taxpayers of
>``I know that Senator Feinstein has invested a lot in this,'' Sher said.
>``She deserves credit for getting the agreement. And she was instrumental
>in getting the appropriation.
>``But I don't believe I was elected by my constituents to rubber-stamp a
>deal that was made behind closed doors in Washington. The Legislature had
>no influence over it, and then they say OK, give us $130 million.''
>If he were almost any other Senate member, Sher probably would have been
>steamrollered by now.
>But on environmental topics, he carries considerable influence.
>As an assemblyman in 1988, Sher wrote the state's Clean Air Act. In 1989 he
>wrote the law that required California cities and counties to reduce by 50
>percent their trash, through recycling, by 2000. He also has written laws
>to toughen drinking water standards, monitor acid rain and put scenic
>rivers off limits to dams.
>``We have a responsibility to see if this is a good deal for the state of
>California,'' said Sher. ``And frankly it has serious flaws in it,
>particularly in protecting coho salmon.''
>So far, Sher appears to be winning.
>In a key test on Thursday, Republican Cathie Wright of Simi Valley
>attempted to put the $130 million in Headwaters money back in the budget
>bill. She was rebuffed by budget conference committee Chairman Mike
>Deal is possible
>Thompson, who is running for Congress this November to represent the North
>Coast district that includes Headwaters Forest, signed on two weeks ago as
>a co-sponsor to Sher's bill.
>``Senator Thompson thinks the Sher bill makes the agreement stronger,''
>said Ed Matovcik, chief of staff for Thompson.
>Meanwhile, Wilson's staff hinted on Friday that he may be willing to wheel
>and deal on Headwaters.
>``It has been the administration's preference to pay for the Headwaters
>agreement out of the general fund,'' said Ron Low, a spokesman for the
>governor. ``That's the governor's preference. But as to any deals,
>negotiations are ongoing.''
>To approve the funding in any form will require a two-thirds vote of the
>If the entire deal collapses, environmentalists will be in court fighting
>Hurwitz on each timber cutting plan. They say that would be better than the
>But the company says having the deal fall through would be a disaster.
>``I just hope the issue is put to bed,'' said Campbell. ``It's crucial to
>our 1,500 employees. It will finish a very divisive period on the North
>Coast. Otherwise, we're back to square one.''
>©1997 - 1998 Mercury Center.
David M. Walsh
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