FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 1999
Last Minute Negotiations Seal Headwaters Deal
Following a weekend of private negotiations with state and federal officials,
Maxxam Corporation and Pacific Lumber Company agreed late last night to
consummate the controversial Headwaters Forest agreement. Details
have not yet been released, but federal agency representatives reportedly
made concessions to the company, including a dramatic increase in the amount of logging allowed under a state-level Sustained Yield Plan (SYP)
during the next ten years.
"Secret, back-room negotiations aimed at undermining protection of water,
fish and wildlife have characterized the Headwaters deal from the
beginning," according to EPIC spokesperson Kevin Bundy. "It appears that government officials have at the very least exploited the loopholes in an
already flimsy agreement."
Maxxam rejected the deal last Friday, claiming that the SYP would only
allow the company to log 136 million board feet of timber per year.
the weekend, federal agencies "reinterpreted" the restrictions outlined in a Habitat Conservation Plan, promising that the company could harvest 180
million board feet per year instead.
"Federal negotiators seem to have given a wink and a nod to the company, promising that the plan's loopholes can be used to justify an unsustainable level of logging," observed Bundy. "Every additional board-foot will come at the expense of protection for our native fisheries."
The Habitat Conservation Plan prepared as part of the deal gives Pacific
Lumber a 50-year permit to kill endangered species and destroy habitat
should otherwise be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Under the law, such permits may not threaten the survival and recovery of endangered fish and wildlife. In the opinion of some top scientists, however, Pacific Lumber's plan may do just that. A "No Surprises" guarantee further shields the company from responsibility for any additional conservation commitments over the life of the plan.
"If this deal is any indication, HCPs may prove to be recipes for disaster
on a region-wide scale. Killing endangered species in order to save
makes little sense, especially when today's political decisions will be locked into place for decades no matter what," said Bundy. "Fish and wildlife don't negotiate. They can't compromise. But they will bear the brunt of our mistakes, even to the point of extinction. This deal may prove to be just such a mistake."
Local community members fear that Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz will take
the cash provided by the deal and run, leaving Pacific Lumber--and hundreds
of local workers--twisting in the wind. "It seems highly unlikely
that any of that money will even stay with Pacific Lumber, much less end
up in the pockets of timber or restoration workers, where it truly belongs,"
observed Bundy. According to some estimates, Maxxam has siphoned
$2 billion from the Humboldt County economy since acquiring Pacific Lumber
in 1985. PL's debt load is now even greater than it was immediately
takeover, and many locals fear that Hurwitz will allow PL to slowly go bankrupt.
Conservationists, many of whom opposed the deal since its inception
more than two and one-half years ago, point to numerous biological and
Last-minute compromises allow Pacific Lumber to propose changes that weaken protection for salmon at any time * Basic information about watersheds on company lands will not be developed for several years, although it should have been presented for review prior to plan approval * A so-called "watershed analysis" process could lead to significant decreases in the width of buffer zones along streams and allow logging in areas prone to landslides
Cecelia Lanman, EPIC's Programs Director and a twelve-year veteran of
efforts to protect Headwaters, concluded that "It took more than a decade
of litigation and protest to gain some measure of protection for the marbled murrelet and the old growth redwoods. It may take ten more years
to bring about protection for our native salmon and steelhead--if we're not already too late."
The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
P.O. Box 397
Garberville, CA 95542
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