>Published Aug. 26, 1998
>High-wire Headwaters: Legislature must pass something or deal dies
>The Headwaters deal once symbolized a valiant and rare effort by government
>and industry to preserve the largest stand of private ancient redwoods left
>in the world and to craft a model plan of sustainable logging for
>surrounding acreage. Sadly, the Headwaters has degenerated into a game of
>political chicken. Key Democratic legislators in Sacramento insist on
>placing conditions on the $130 million in state funds needed to purchase
>the grove. Maxxam Corp., which owns the Pacific Lumber Co. and the
>Headwaters, objects. Neither side wishes to blink first. Yet blink they
>must, and fast, before everybody loses.
>A series of colossally bad political assumptions has brought the Headwaters
>deal to the brink of collapse. Things looked far more promising in the
>spring, when government biologists and the lumber company seemed in general
>agreement on the stickiest part of the transaction -- the crafting of the
>sustainable 50-year logging strategy, known as a habitat conservation plan,
>for 200,000 acres surrounding the Headwaters. Then Maxxam, noted for its
>hardball negotiating style, began to fight too hard for logging near
>streams and in wet conditions, to the point that all the biologists
>couldn't endorse what Maxxam ultimately drafted.
>This left Maxxam alone in Sacramento, where its high-priced Washington
>lobbyist and public relations crew apparently had no clue about how to sell
>the controversial logging plan in this foreign political environment.
>Precisely which consultant thought that the answer was to put Maxxam's
>Charles Hurwitz (Mr. Wall Street) and the state Senate's John Burton (Mr.
>Bombast) in the same room for a negotiating session? The meeting, shall we
>say, went badly. Communications have been dysfunctional ever since.
>Democratic legislators made their own blunder by assuming they could defer
>to environmental groups to write the conditions on how to protect redwoods
>near streams and ancient stands outside the Headwaters, known as the
>"lesser cathedrals," in exchange for the $130 million. The Headwaters deal,
>because it is an appropriation, will require a two-thirds vote. While
>Hurwitz may have few friends in town, the California forest industry
>(concerned about conditions on logging near streams) does. The result can
>too easily become a political stalemate.
>The last nail on the proverbial coffin would be for the Legislature to
>decide to do nothing this month and revisit the Headwaters in January,
>after the lumber company and state and federal agencies have finished work
>on the 50-year logging plan. By then, there likely will be no deal to
>It is too much to ask government agencies and Maxxam to spend thousands
>more hours crafting hundreds of pages of complex environmental documents on
>the outside chance that the next Legislature may do something. This
>Legislature must pass a Headwaters bill. If lawmakers can't resist crafting
>new protections for streams and ancient redwoods, the measures should at
>least be based on science and not constituency politics. Leave it up to
>Gov. Pete Wilson and Hurwitz to say no. Let the Headwaters deal live.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644
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