The $380 million agreement to save ancient Headwaters Grove is fine as far as it goes - it just doesn't go far enough...
The crucial omission in the tentative deal to save the Headwaters Grove is four other stands of old-growth redwood trees.
Depending on the outcome of a forest management plan, Charles Hurwitz will be able to devastate those ancient giants with the blessing of the state and federal governments. In the meantime, all that stands between them and salvage logging is Hurwitz's good will.
The deal cut by negotiators last weekend to acquire 7.500 acres southeast of Eureka heads in the right direction - it just doesn't go far enough. It would preserve the 3,000 acre Headwaters Grove plus the smaller Elk Head Spring Grove and surrounding forest. It would pay $380 million in cash and land to Hurwitz's Pacific Lumber Co. And it allows 10 months to work out details, including a forest management plan for the company's remaining 200,000 acres in Humboldt County.
Government negotiators John Garamendi, undersecretary of the Interior, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein were confident they had reached the best outcome possible. Critics from environmental groups such as Earth First! called the agreement a sellout.
One way to look at the deal is as a bird in the hand. Without it, all or part of Headwaters Grove could succumb to chain saws. Another perspective: It's too early to give up.
Hurwitz faces tough court and regulatory challenges before he logs a single tree. Protestors show no signs of surrendering. And public opinion isn't exactly a tide running in favor of the junk-bond financier.
In a contest to win hearts and minds, Hurwitz has ground to make up. One good move: Let him declare a unilateral moratorium on logging in the four unprotected old-growth groves for the next 10 months. Another good move: Let him continue to negotiate the fate of those groves.
Since he's already $380 million ahead, we suggest Hurwitz relinquish control of the four groves for $1. And, we propose that one of them be named Charles Hurwitz Park. It's a great way to be remembered for the next 2,000 years - better than as the greedy despoiler of ancient forests.
(Reprint, The San Francisco Examiner, October 1, 1996 edition)
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