p. A5

State closes in on deal to buy
old-growth forests
By Tyche Hendricks
OF THE EXAMINER STAFF

Tuesday, May 12, 1998



Budget surplus may save
Headwaters

With a windfall of unexpected revenue,
Gov. Wilson has moved the state a step
closer to buying and protecting 7,500
acres of old-growth redwood forest,
including the Headwaters Grove, from
Pacific Lumber Co.

Wilson proposed Monday to use $130
million of a budget surplus generated
by California's robust economy to
purchase the forest from Texas
financier Charles Hurwitz, owner of
Pacific Lumber. Congress has already
approved the $250 million federal
share of the $380 million purchase
price negotiated in 1996.

In January, Wilson suggested the state's
contribution be raised with a bond
measure, but there was no guarantee
voters would approve it.

"This is a day to celebrate," said Jim
Youngson, assistant secretary of the
California Resources Agency. "It helps
assure the Headwaters preservation in
a much simpler fashion."

The Headwaters money is part of more
than $400 million in surplus funds that
Wilson wants to direct to several
natural resource protection projects,
including state park maintenance, air
and water quality protections and flood
control projects. The Legislature must
still approve the appropriation with a
two-thirds vote as part of the regular
budget process this summer.

"With our economy performing at
record levels and revenues exceeding
expectations, we have an opportunity
to invest in California's future," Wilson
said.

As part of the Headwaters deal,
Hurwitz and the federal government
must also agree on a habitat
conservation plan to govern the use of
Pacific Lumber's more than 200,000
acres in Humboldt County. Under the
plan, four of five additional virgin
groves remaining in Hurwitz's hands
would be protected from logging for
the next 50 years.

But environmental groups are critical
of the deal and said Wilson's
announcement only moves endangered
species, such as the marbled murrelet
and coho salmon, a step closer to
disaster.

"It looks like the governor is preparing
to write Hurwitz a blank check," said
Kathy Bailey, forest conservation chair
for the Sierra Club of California.
"Right now the deal virtually assures
that salmon will become extinct in
coastal California."

Bailey said the habitat conservation
plan being negotiated doesn't adhere to
federally recognized standards for
protecting salmon spawning streams.
For example, she said, the plan
proposes 30-foot stream-side buffer
zones, whereas federal standards call
for 300-foot buffers.

The Sierra Club met recently with state
and federal regulators, Bailey said,
and argued for more stringent
environmental standards.

"They appeared to recognize that we
had some serious grievances," she
said. "We're hoping they'll act on our
concerns and make some
improvements."

Kevin Bundy, spokesman for the
Environmental Protection Information
Center in Garberville, Humboldt
County, agreed that the conservation
plan is inadequate, and complained
that the public has been shut out of the
negotiating process.

"The governor is asking the legislature
to fund something it can't even reveal,"
he said. "The habitat conservation plan
has not been made available for public
review."

In addition, Bundy said, the
Headwaters agreement is likely to set a
precedent for future habitat
conservation plans with other timber
companies.

"It's insufficient to protect endangered
species, but it's going to become the
rule," he said. "Our position has
always been to advocate for the
integrity of the ecosystem. From that
perspective, we can't support this
deal."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who
helped negotiate the Headwaters deal,
issued a strong statement Monday
encouraging state legislators to vote
for the $130 million appropriation.

"Those who want to use the state's
funding to force a renegotiation of the
proposed federal habitat conservation
plan should be aware that voting
against funding the state's portion of the
Headwaters agreement will effectively
kill the entire effort to save
Headwaters," she said.

Assemblywoman Carole Migden,
D-San Francisco, said she wouldn't
vote against the budget to protest the
Headwaters deal, even though she had
lobbied Deputy Interior Secretary John
Garamendi in March to strengthen the
conservation provisions. "Some of us
would have prefered more protections,
but politics is a process of
compromise," Migden said. "I think
ultimately it will be a good deal and a
good thing for California."

1998 San Francisco
Examiner






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