>Published Thursday, July 23, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News
>The strange case of Headwaters
>The struggle to save the Headwaters Forest has come to a strange pass. The
>timber company that owns it -- with the idea of logging it -- favors making
>it a public forest. The environmentalists most vocal about saving redwoods
>don't like the deal.
>The decision lies with the California Legislature, which must decide
>whether to put up $130 million in state money to match $250 million in
>federal money to meet the asking price of $380 million.
>Pacific Lumber, which owns the forest in Humboldt County, will sell 7,500
>acres, about half untouched ancient redwood forest and half a buffer of
>more recent growth. The deal also includes approval of a habitat
>conservation plan that details how Pacific Lumber will manage 200,000
>adjacent acres that it owns.
>The habitat plan is the hangup, and the hanger-upper in the Legislature is
>Sen. Byron Sher, D-Palo Alto, backed by many environmentalists.
>So far, Sher has persuaded the Senate not to put the $130 million in the
>overall budget, where it would be swept along with the tide of eventual
>budget approval, but to create a separate bill, SB 533.
>The bill stiffens the habitat conservation plan by widening the no-cutting
>buffers beside streams and by making absolute, instead of contingent, the
>preservation of 11 smaller old-growth groves for 50 years.
>Pacific Lumber says Sher is asking too much. The company is backed by
>Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, who
>were instrumental in negotiating the deal.
>Sher is not asking too much. For $380 million, the public should get more
>than 7,500 acres of trees; it should get a model management plan, or at
>least a closer approximation of one.
>The main fear of environmentalists is that the habitat conservation plan
>now attached to the agreement will set a weak precedent for management of
>other timber lands. It won't do so officially. But as the first habitat
>conservation plan for this region, and a highly scrutinized one, the
>Headwaters plan will be looked to by both government agencies and private
>landowners in the drafting of future plans.
>Letting the deal fall through instead is rolling the dice on the fate of
>the forest. With no deal, the trees remain in the hands of Pacific Lumber.
>But the dice are loaded.
>Even if the core Headwaters grove is not purchased by the public, it won't
>be cut down. The Endangered Species Act almost certainly will prevent the
>cutting of live trees because of the presence of an endangered species, a
>bird called the marbled murrelet. In the rest of the forest, logging will
>be limited near streams, in which live another endangered species, coho
>A failed deal will not reflect badly on Wilson and Feinstein. They worked
>hard in a good cause. But Sher's objections are telling.
>The best outcome is the purchase of the forest, with the stipulations
>proposed by Sher. Short of that, California should save the money and
>pursue other ways to save the forest.
>©1997 - 1998 Mercury Center.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
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