Pacific Lumber tries to go back on deal

May 13, 2004


The latest attack on California's environment by big business is being waged right now in Humboldt County.

Five years ago, Pacific Lumber Company signed a historic agreement with the state of California and the federal government to preserve the Headwaters Forest in Humboldt. The core of this balanced agreement allowed the state to purchase 7,500 acres of ancient redwood groves from Pacific Lumber, and placed strong restrictions on logging for an additional 210,000 acres of Pacific Lumber's land.

I was proud to play a part in the original agreement when I authored the legislation to appropriate $240 million toward the purchase of the forest. It was a hard-fought win and a true victory for a national treasure.

Now, Pacific Lumber wants to renege on that agreement. After receiving a fair purchase price for Headwaters, Pacific Lumber is using its own scientists to support its claim that new methods of logging will allow the company to expand logging in sensitive areas beyond the limits agreed upon in the plan.

Pacific Lumber is now proposing to loosen restrictions on 30,000 acres to allow logging on steep slopes, during dangerous wet weather, and near streams and watersheds. It is also proposing changes to road improvement requirements, restrictions in streamside buffers, and to the cost and requirements of future scientific studies.

If adopted, these loosened rules would result in increased sediment runoff in streams, fewer environmental protections and greater danger for already threatened species

These changes come on the heels of four years of steady assault on California's natural resources by the Bush administration which have weakened clean air and clean water, opened up our national forests to expanded drilling and logging, rolled back rules banning mining next to streams and called for amending the historic Northwest Forest plan.

I'm very disappointed that Pacific Lumber wants to go back on its word. Back in 1998 and 1999, we forged the agreement in a way that allowed Pacific Lumber to keep its mills open in an environmentally sensitive and sustainable manner. It also put to bed years of sustained warfare over the divisive issue of how to preserve redwood forests while balancing the needs of our growing state. We had an agreement then, and we should keep it today.

While we should all be insulted by Pacific Lumber's attempt to break its word, our greatest responsibility is to the Headwaters Forest.

The 2,000-year-old trees at stake are far too precious and irreplaceable to be subject to the large-scale logging which Pacific Lumber desires. The Habitat Protection Plan preserved the native habitat for the endangered marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl and coho salmon.

It is important to have regular scientific review of remaining logging operations, which was a part of the original agreement. But any scientific analysis that occurs should be done by an independent, outside auditor, not by Pacific Lumber's own scientists. The Headwaters Forest is an environmental jewel that belongs to everyone and should be treated that way.

We held up our end of the bargain; now I hope Pacific Lumber will do the same.


Informant: Nicholas Wilson


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Mai 2004

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