Published Tuesday, November 3, 1998, in the San Jose Mercury News
Hearings critical to logging plan
Headwaters Forest: New environmental safeguards draw conflicting scientific
opinions about tree-harvesting's effects on wildlife habitat and fisheries.
SCOTIA (AP) -- Federal officials this week begin a final round of hearings
on plans for management of Pacific Lumber Co. timberlands critical to a
$500 million agreement to buy the Headwaters Forest.
National Marine Fisheries Services officials will be in Oakland today to
discuss new regulatory requirements that state and federal officials say
would be the most stringent imposed on a California timber company. The
Scotia company's plans are expected to serve as models for other timber
companies facing dwindling log supplies and increased regulatory pressure
to protect wildlife habitat and help restore declining fisheries.
"The proposed standards go far beyond current requirements and will
continue to make the California timber industry by far the most regulated
in the nation," said Chris Nance of the California Forestry Association.
The Habitat Conservation Plan, which is more than 1,000 pages long,
describes expected timber growth and harvest as well as plans to manage
recreation, wildlife, fisheries and other resources. The report is one of
several required as part of a government agreement to buy the Headwaters
Forest and several other old-growth redwood groves.
Environmentalists are concerned about the fate of wildlife on Pacific
Lumber's 200,000 acres of timber, home to several species included in the
Endangered Species Act. In particular, environmentalists say logging on
steep slopes prone to landslides could have disastrous consequences for
aquatic life in streams below.
And the new environmental safeguards proposed for those acres are being
dogged by conflicting scientific opinions over the effects of logging on
north coast fisheries.
State Resources Secretary Doug Wheeler and the Clinton administration have
said the standards would provide "dramatic improvements" for fish and
wildlife. But a coalition of environmental groups contends the proposed
regulations don't go far enough to protect the last 1 percent of wild coho
Legislation tripled the width of stream-side protection zones on Pacific
Lumber land. But critics say government scientists reacted to pressure by
Pacific Lumber and politicians by agreeing to "no cut" buffer zones that
are weaker than other scientists say are necessary.
Peter Moyle, a coho salmon expert at the University of California-Davis,
and Terry Roelofs, a Humboldt State University fisheries expert, said
widths of proposed stream-side protection zones along north coast streams
need to be at least tripled to offer any chance for coho salmon recovery.
Roelofs said even with such drastic steps, it would take decades to improve
north coast fisheries.
"That's the price we're going to have pay after decades of intensive
logging," Moyle said.
But government scientists say what those experts propose is unrealistic and
potentially devastating to the region's timber industry and communities.
"What they propose is not a fair test of the requirements that state and
federal agencies must take into account. They're offering a pristine idea
of what conditions could be like, but we don't have that luxury," said Jim
Gaither, an ecology expert and special assistant to Wheeler.
Pacific Lumber standards "far exceed anyone's expectations of what
government could accomplish to protect wildlife and fisheries on private
lands," Gaither said.
Pacific Lumber President John Campbell said environmentalists "don't seem
to understand that what they are demanding will put us and every other
timber company out of business. Maybe that's what they are really after."
The hearings move to Eureka on Nov. 10. The entire Headwaters agreement
faces a March 1 deadline.
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