Salvation is at hand

Sept. 3, 1998

IT WAS inevitable, we suppose, that when the ancient redwoods of Headwaters
Forest were finally saved, a few boo birds would remain. Their tiresome
chirping almost makes you want to become a greedy industrialist.

The final deal achieved Monday in the state Legislature is, to our way of
thinking, pretty nifty. Gov. Wilson says he'll sign the legislation. It
provides nearly a quarter billion dollars ($230 million) to purchase the
largest grove of redwoods in private ownership anywhere, plus giving other
protections to the surrounding forest. Smaller groves of redwoods will be
preserved for at least 50 years.

Rejoice. Remember: The deal very nearly didn't happen.

The federal government earlier put up $250 million as its share of the
purchase price from Pacific Lumber Company. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein
negotiated the basic agreement nearly two years ago and had worked hard in
recent weeks to bring together the state and the lumber company.

She called this $480 million deal "the last, best chance to save
Headwaters." And indeed it was. Without a settlement, years of litigation
would have ensued - possibly with environmentally unfriendly results.

A few critics, however, derided the deal as "extortion" and a "giveaway."
It was hardly either of those, although Pacific Lumber got a fair price for
its land and trees.

The last remaining issue of contention was the size of buffer zones around
streams where no cutting will be allowed. Pacific wanted a mere 30-foot
buffer; environmentalists wanted 170 feet. They compromised, for the time
being, on 100 feet, allowing a scientific review to set the ultimate amount.

This is the area where critics should concentrate their energies -- making
sure that science -- and not politics or corporate greed -- rules. The
endangered coho salmon, and other fish, need a wider buffer zone to keep
streams free of dirt and debris.

After any battle, we suppose, there is a letdown for the combatants in
which they may feel sad, guilty or betrayed. But such postpartum depression
need not, and should not, exist. Hey, high fives all around. The good guys
won this one.

No sawdust on the forest floor. No millions of board feet. No wanton
destruction of habitat. The ancient giants of Headwaters are spared for the
appreciation of generations to come. Savor it.

1998 San Francisco Examiner Page A 20

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