>Date: Mon, 15 Dec 97 09:18:50 PST
>Subject: Bee Headwaters Op/Ed
>Reply-To: Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee <HFCC@lists.montara.com>
>List-Software: LetterRip 2.0.1 by Fog City Software, Inc.
>Beyond the Headwaters
>By Tom Philp
>Sacramento Bee Editorial Writer
>(Published Dec. 14, 1997)
>SCOTIA, Humboldt County-- The Headwaters forest seems like its own
>universe. The 3,100-acre forest, California's largest remaining
>privately owned stand of old-growth redwood and the subject of a long
>environmental battle, begins near a ridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean
>and the civilian landscape of Fortuna. As you enter Headwaters, the
>distant sounds of the Carlotta sawmill fade with each step. The ground
>becomes a nearly impenetrable thicket of salal and huckleberry. The
>forest grows dark as the sun disappears behind the trees, some nearly
>300 feet tall and nearly 800 years old. As the light and sounds fade,
>you understand why people fight to preserve this forest.
>Yet the irony of the politics here is the fight over the future of
>Headwaters no longer centers on this magnificent forest, but on less
>impressive timber patches like one roughly two miles away on Yager
>Creek. There stands an untouched stretch of redwoods roughly 300 acres
>in size. The slope of the creek has been so steep, its ridge so remote,
>that loggers for more than a century have opted to cut elsewhere.
>Surrounded by previous logging and dirt roads, this island stand and
>others like it feel like remnants of a forest, not the forest itself.
>While federal and state agencies are more than halfway towards finding
>the $380 million needed to purchase the Headwaters, the agencies and
>Pacific Lumber are engaged in a fierce, behind-the-scenes battle over
>how many of the ancient trees in isolated stands outside the Headwaters
>can be cut.
>To environmentalists, these islands are the "Lesser Cathedrals." To
>Pacific Lumber, they are an enormously valuable financial resource
>awaiting harvest; they amount to twice the acreage of the Headwaters. To
>the government, the issue boils down to a threatened bird, the marbeled
>murrelet, and whether its tenuous hold to life atop the remaining tall
>trees in Humboldt County hinges on the Lesser Cathedrals.
>The government's proposed buyout of Headwaters comes with two
>conditions: that the company devise a plan that conserves habitat for
>endangered species on all its land, roughly 300 square-miles of forest,
>and a program to log it in a sustainable fashion.
>THE COMPANY'S initial proposal to meet those conditions, in the form of
>a draft that is now beginning to circulate in public, dropped like a
>bombshell. The company seeks to clear-cut nearly all its old growth
>outside the Headwaters on the grounds that the Headwaters would still
>exist. And though it commits itself to sustained forestry for more than
>a century, the company wants to cut down more trees and hire more
>workers during the first 10 years than in any of the next seven decades.
>"That has been deemed unacceptable by the state and federal
>governments," said Douglas Wheeler, chief of the state's Resources
>"We're pretty much at an impasse right now," said Phil Detrich of the
>U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
>The fight over these redwoods resembles a chess-like game of wildlife
>biology, politics and finance.
>The environmental question is how many of these redwoods, if any, can
>Pacific Lumber harvest without endangering one of three known California
>populations of the marbled murrelet.
>But the political question may be bigger: Will the Headwaters plan begin
>to unravel if the public becomes outraged that the deal means killing
>two ancient trees for every one it saves?
>"It has gotten to the point where it is just impossible to rally a
>significant number of the public behind this deal," said Kathy Bailey, a
>Sierra Club activist who supports the concept of buying the Headwaters
>but opposes the logging plans outside the grove.
>President Clinton in November gave considerable momentum to the purchase
>of Headwaters by signing a bill that sets aside $250 million to buy
>3,100 acres of Pacific Lumber old growth in the Headwaters plus 4,400
>surrounding acres. State legislators must come up with the remaining
>$130 million. And this money won't come so easily. They want more
>details than did Clinton, details such as Pacific Lumber's cutting plans
>on the rest of its property.
>"I am determined that the Legislature have a fair opportunity to review
>the matter before we sign off on anything," said State Senator Byron
>Sher, D-Palo Alto, who is chairman of a Headwaters legislative
>WHETHER THE Lesser Cathedrals are vital to the survival of the marbled
>murrelet is still an open scientific question.
>"In some of the fairly small stands, the birds are still seen there,"
>said Detrich of the Fish and Wildlife Service. "The thing we're not sure
>about is whether they are successfully breeding there."
>In the Lesser Cathedrals, the threats to the murrelet are other birds
>that prey on its eggs, birds such as ravens and jays. These birds rarely
>venture into the Headwaters, making the grove safer for the murrelets.
>But they thrive in the open landscape neighboring the isolated stands of
>But when it comes to understanding the life of a murrelet, biologists
>have more theories than facts. The bird flies up to 65 miles an hour. It
>spends most of its time at sea, where it can be observed the best. When
>on land, it is usually nesting at least 100 feet above the ground, where
>it is typically heard, not seen.
>"Most of what we're working on is the judgment of experienced biologists
>than sound statistical information," said Detrich.
>That leaves considerable room for debate.
>"There's disagreement among the different members of the scientific
>community on how to develop a population viability," said John Campbell,
>Pacific Lumber's president.
>The company clearly has an environmentally friendly side. It has its own
>team of wildlife biologists and its own fish hatchery. Unlike other
>timber companies in the area, Pacific Lumber hasn't logged all its
>old-growth trees, which has made it the target of environmental
>But in the halls of power, Pacific Lumber is no babe in the woods. In
>Washington, it is represented by a renowned gun, lobbyist Tommy Boggs.
>In Houston, Pacific Lumber's parent company, Maxxam, has as its chairman
>one of the famed corporate raiders of the 1980s, Charles Hurwitz. With
>high-interest junk bonds, Hurwitz in 1986 purchased Pacific Lumber
>Company. He then doubled the pace of logging to begin paying off the
>debt to buy the company, according to his own hearing testimony.
>THE FINANCIAL and political environment of the 1980s, however, soon
>changed for Hurwitz in the 1990s. The federal government in 1992, for
>example, listed the murrelet as a threatened species and then the coho
>salmon. Suddenly environmentalists had solid legal ground to challenge
>logging in the old growth, an opening they have repeatedly exploited.
>There is a way, however, for Pacific Lumber to continue logging while
>obeying endangered species laws: It must devise to the government's
>satisfaction a document called a habitat conservation plan. Such plans
>permit incidental taking of endangered animals if the property owner
>takes other measures to manage the land so that critical habitat is
>preserved and the bulk of the population survives.
>Habitat conservation plans have been an option under the Endangered
>Species Act since 1983. In the act's first decade, only 14 property
>owners in the entire country opted to develop such a plan. In the next
>four years, 1992 to 1996, 179 plans were developed.
>"It is a legitimate, valid process," said Dave Kaney, a now-retired
>general manager for Simpson Timber Co. In 1992 Simpson became the first
>logging company on the north coast to develop a habitat conservation
>plan to accommodate the endangered northern spotted owl on its 380,000
>It took Simpson and the government nearly three years to devise a
>conservation plan for the owl, whose behavior isn't nearly as mysterious
>as the murrelet's or as dependent on very old trees. The Headwaters deal
>calls for Pacific Lumber and the federal government to develop a habitat
>conservation within a year.
>Even under the most cooperative of relationships between a private
>landowner and the government, a year "is extremely ambitious," said
>Tharon O'Dell, Simpson's timberland resource manager. "That is
>IN AUGUST, nearly three months after the initial deadline, Pacific
>submitted its habitat conservation plan. There was no plan to conserve
>the Lesser Cathedrals. Within a few decades, they would be nearly gone.
>>From the present landscape of 6,805 acres of old growth outside the
>Headwaters, the untouched stands would shrink to 2,695 acres by 2001 and
>1,531 acres by 2011. Only 374 acres of old growth would remain in a
>"The plan is insufficient," said Interior Department Deputy Secretary
>John Garamendi. "If (Pacific Lumber) does not have a plan that protects
>the creatures, then it is not acceptable. We will not approve it."
>To Campbell, Pacific Lumber's president, the Headwaters deal did not
>compensate the company for preserving any other stands of old growth. By
>the calculations of his firm's wildlife biologists, the number of
>murrelets in question amount to a few percent of the species' population
>at the most.
>"Part of the difficulty is getting the federal government to understand
>the extent of (existing) regulation and how effective it is," said
>Campbell. "California has the most restrictive set of forestry
>regulations in the nation."
>To Wheeler, the state Resources chief, the goal of developing a habitat
>conservation plan for all of Pacific Lumber's land "is the more
>significant element of this transaction." "I don't think the public
>understands it," he said. The negotiations process "is proving to be
>Pacific Lumber's hardball strategy has its risks. If it gets its way in
>negotiations and gets government permission to clear-cut most of its
>ancient redwoods outside the Headwaters, then it has to sell the plan to
>the Legislature or public, which must approve funding for the buyout.
>That hurdle will come when the state tries to find the $130 million it
>needs to finish its part of the $380-million Headwaters purchase. The
>Wilson administration has two options that both involve the state
>Legislature -- either appropriate the money in next year's budget or ask
>lawmakers to place a Headwaters bond measure on the ballot.
>Wheeler said a bond measure on the June ballot is the more likely of the
>two scenarios, a measure packaged with preservation efforts elsewhere,
>such as an ambitious restoration plan for Lake Tahoe.
>"Recent polling tells us that (the Headwaters) is a quite popular
>acquisition target," he said.
>THEN AGAIN, public attention has focused almost exclusively on this
>single grove, not the rest of the old growth that may get logged under
>the deal. If public attention switches to a dismantling of the Lesser
>Cathedrals, any deal runs into trouble.
>Wheeler seems prepared to defend a Pacific Lumber plan that removes
>some, but not all, of the remaining old growth. "The scientists tell us
>there is a middle ground," he said. "The environmentalists would have us
>protect every last thing plus everything else."
>Because of the uniqueness and lasting effects of the negotiations
>between Pacific Lumber and the government, talks are understandably
>intense. Once the government blesses a habitat plan for the company and
>allows clear-cutting of old growth, it cannot turn around and stop the
>logging if the murrelet population starts plummeting.
>Habitat plans can remain in effect for a half-century, even longer. The
>legal challenges typically used by environmentalists no longer apply.
>"It is particularly difficult because most of the old trees are gone,"
>said Garamendi. As far as how many more must go to save the Headwaters,
>it will be a question of science as much as politics. Not even
>negotiators like the Fish and Wildlife Service's Detrich dare predict
>the future of the Lesser Cathedrals.
>"It is pretty uncertain right now," he said.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644
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