Timber Wars Not Dead Yet
Headwaters Agreement Doesn't Effect Many Other Battles
Robert Parker, Luna Media Services
Rumors of the death of the redwood timber wars are greatly exaggerated.
So say the activists of Northern California, many of which are engaged
in campaigns against MAXXAM/Pacific Lumber over numerous issues not resolved
by the Headwaters Forest Agreement. Senator Diane Feinstein, Governor
GRAY Davis and other politicians quick to take credit for "saving" Headwaters
may have well missed the bigger picture: North Coast forest activists are
relentless and sophisticated. They are not going to be lulled into
submission over a compromise of a compromise to rescue a portion of Headwaters
Forest. Consider the following battles with MAXXAM/PL that will continue
regardless of the Headwaters Agreement:
Julia Butterfly Hill and other tree-sitters continue to occupy the upper
regions of ancient redwood trees left unprotected by the Headwaters Agreement
in three different locations. While Hill approaches her 15th month
OF continuos occupation of the ancient redwood Luna, overlooking the Eel
River, Nate Madsen has been residing in a 250' tall redwood for four months
in the nearby Freshwater Creek Watershed. Earth First! activists
have ALSO been occupying tree-tops in a place they have named "Gypsy" Mountain,
adjacent to Grizzly Creek State Park. David "Gypsy" Chain was killed
on September 17, 1998 while defending the grove where these activists now
conduct their tree-sits. "I gave my word to this tree, the forest, and
to all the people that my feet would not touch the ground until I had done
everything in my power to make the world aware of this problem and to stop
the destruction," said Hill.
The family of David Chain may decide to file a wrongful death lawsuit against
PL over the death of the Earth First! activist last September 17. Chain
was killed after being hit by a tree felled by a logger in his direction.
EPIC and the Sierra Club are currently gathering documents finalized at
the time of the Headwaters purchase and will be considering potential litigation
to address legal and biological shortcomings in MAXXAM/PL's Habitat Conservation
Plan/Sustained Yield Plan. EPIC has been at the forefront of monitoring
and filing suit over PL's Timber Harvest Plans. After EPIC documented over
300 violations of the California Forest Practices Act in three years, the
California Department of Forestry suspended PL's Timber Operator's license
"citing gross negligence and willful disregard for the law". The
license was provisionally re-instated last week just before the Headwaters
Agreement was passed. PL has consistently failed to curtail its reckless
logging methods and is under close public and agency scrutiny. It will
not be surprising to anyone when PL loses its timber operator's license
Freshwater, Elk River and Stafford residents have each filed separate lawsuits
against PL for damage done to their homes and/or private property as a
result of over-cutting. Stafford residents watched 7 homes be completely
destroyed by a massive mudslide, emanating from the a PL clearcut on a
hillside adjacent to where Julia Butterfly Hill now tree-sits. About
2 dozen other homes were damaged. Numerous Elk River and Freshwater residents
have incurred damage to their homes by logging-caused flooding. The
Humboldt Watershed Council continues to organize watershed residents to
resist the taking of their land by PL's frenzied, debt-driven logging.
Mattole River Watershed residents filed a lawsuit that may well be dismissed
in the post-HCP universe. Still, the over 4000 acres of Douglas fir
that stands tall in the Mattole and neighboring Bear River drainages (more
old growth than exists in the recently crated Headwaters preserve), are
a precious piece of forest that activists will work diligently to see protected
in some form.
The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS) and the Federal Deposit Insurance
Corporation both have outstanding court actions against MAXXAM. The
combined suits demand that over $1 billion dollars be returned by Charles
Hurwitz and MAXXAM as a result of a taxpayer bailout of the Hurwitz-controlled
United Savings Association of Texas. Activists have suggested that
if the feds prevail, Hurwitz could pay his S&L debt by transferring
currently unprotected redwood groves into public ownership through a "debt
for nature swap." A ruling is expected in the OTS case this fall.
The jailhurwitz.com web site continues to offer a $50,000 reward for information
leading to the arrest, conviction and incarceration of Hurwitz. Hundreds
of documents are posted covering Hurwitz's shady career.
The United Steelworkers of America (USWA) were on strike and are now locked
out by MAXXAM's largest subsidiary, Kaiser Aluminum. Steelworkers
and greens have teamed up to fight Hurwitz. Environmentalists have pledged
to continue helping the USWA in their efforts. Most importantly,
the Steelworkers have an ongoing union organizing drive at Pacific Lumber.
The Native American Coalition for Headwaters is concerned that sacred sites,
fishing rights, artifacts and land title issues have not been addressed
by the HCP. It is exploring the possibility of filing suit.
Pacific Lumber retirees recently filed suit to reclaim the $60 million
MAXXAM liquidated from their pension fund at the time of the takeover.
A 705 acre timber harvest has been approved for an area inside the boundaries
of the now-protected Headwaters Preserve. This plan has been dubbed
"The Hole in the Headwaters." A lawsuit has been filed, though its
status is now in jeopardy with the new HCP. Nevertheless, activists
are astounded that this huge area has been left out of the Headwaters Agreement.
Said Headwaters activist Darryl Cherney, "We don't even have a truce
in the timber wars, let alone peace."