Feinstein praised for pushing forest deal

Mar. 14, 1999

Press Democrat Staff Writer

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has yet
to make her first visit to
Headwaters Forest, but in the
minds of state and federal
officials like Rep. Mike
Thompson, the day she does
will truly mark the completion
of a deal more than 10 years
in the making.

"Had it not been for Dianne
Feinstein, this historic
acquisition would have never
happened. It's as simple as
that,'' said Thompson, D-St.

Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt agreed, saying that
Feinstein acted as a "stern
taskmaster'' over negotiators
representing state and
government agencies, and
Pacific Lumber Co.

"She was willing to crack the
whip if necessary, and at
crucial times she did,'' said

After years of political
wrangling, Feinstein over a
several-day period in
September, 1996 brokered a
$380 million Headwaters deal
with Pacific Lumber on behalf
of the Clinton administration
and the state of California.

For the next 30 months,
Feinstein and her staff
devoted hundreds of hours to
keeping the fragile deal
alive. As time dragged on, the
issues grew more complex and
the purchase price soared to
$480 million.

"But she stuck with it. Sen.
Feinstein never gave up hope
that the deal could be done,''
said Pacific Lumber President
John Campbell.

On several key occasions, the
Headwaters agreement
threatened to collapse.

Feinstein, however, is
credited with breathing new
life into the deal at those
critical moments.

Vicki Campbell, a federal
biologist who came under fire
in December from company
representatives for insisting
on tougher environmental
restrictions, said Feinstein
never once lobbied for easing
the federal demands.

"She really cared about the
biological integrity of
government management plans
that were part of the
Headwaters deal. But she also
helped us to understand how
great the concern was for the
long-term economic viability
of the company,'' said Vicki

The biologist said that what
Feinstein pushed for was an
understanding between
government scientists and
company representatives on how
to best integrate the
competing concerns into an
agreeable final document.

"She was extremely clear about
how important it was for
everyone to understand the
fundamental issues at stake. I
came away very impressed,''
said Vicki Campbell.

Vicki Campbell and others
agree that the worst moments
for the Headwaters deal
occurred during the weekend
before the March 1 deadline
for taking advantage of $250
million in federal money
allocated for the purchase.

In a recent interview,
Feinstein described the final
day as one of the most
stressful in her long
political career.

"The deal had been in a free
fall all weekend after Pacific
Lumber announced it wouldn't
accept the revised government
terms,'' she said.

Government representatives,
prodded by Feinstein, Thompson
and the White House, scrambled
to provide the company
clarifications of proposed
environmental restrictions it
said were needed. The most
critical "clarification''
related to how much timber
Pacific Lumber could take off
its 200,000 acres of
surrounding forest lands while
still meeting
environmental restrictions
sought by state and federal

As the deadline neared,
Feinstein and Thompson worked
the telephones, urging both
sides to come together.
Feinstein called Pacific
Lumber representatives and
urged them to accept the
revised Headwaters agreement
despite their lingering

"I kept saying that at some
point you're going to see that
you're better off accepting
the revisions than going back
to square one, returning to a
war in the groves and very
costly litigation,'' said

As the night wore on,
Feinstein went to her
Washington, D.C. home to get
some sleep, aware that
negotiators had until 3 a.m.
Eastern time to make the deal

Finally the call came at 2:50
a.m. that company directors
had voted in California to
accept terms of the deal.

"I was so excited I couldn't
get back to sleep,'' said

1998 The Press Democrat

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