This is a letter to Charles Hurwitz, CEO of Maxxam Corp., which owns part of the Headwaters Forest, the largest stand of unprotected ancient redwoods on Earth. The federal and state governments have tentatively agreed to buy 7,500 acres of the Humboldt County forest for $380 million.

Dear Mr. Hurwitz:

Maybe 30 years ago, I was on one of my first band tours. We were in the Pacific Northwest, between somewhere in Washington and some other where in Oregon. The road took us to the lip on a ridge, from where we could see around us for many miles in all directions. To the west, we could see a weather front moving high clouds in from the Pacific. To the north and south, where the front came parallel with us, we could see a mist rising up from the forested foothills all around us, and when this mist joined with and seeded the clouds passing overhead it turned to rain and snow, which then fell on the mountains to our east. Scientists call this regular phenomenon evapo-transpiration. I wish you could have seen it.

It was breathtaking to behold, but as we watched, we had a firm realization that we were witnessing something even more beautiful than our eyes could ever take in. We saw how the rain falls to Earth, where it mixes with sun, soil and air; and there rises the grandest of all life forms - the forest, awesome in its size and complexity. the forest, in turn, holds the moisture until the next storm front comes through, when again the mist will rise, the clouds will seed, and rain will fall. Life causes life. Heaven and Earth dance in this way endlessly, and their child is the forest.

And so there we were, epiphanously watching that grandest and most glorious dance of life - of which we are just a tiny part - awed by a magnificence without beginning, without end...

Until a couple of years later, when we were making the same trip, and we came to the same place, but the forest was gone; now the land lay bare. The same weather patterns move through, but now no mist rises up to seed the clouds, and the rain no longer falls so much on the mountains to the east. I was still pretty young, but it seemed altogether wrong to me that we should destroy something so big, so far beyond our understanding. What unimaginable arrogance!

I also realized then and there that weather is a life form as well. So is the Earth. Our culture tends to overlook this because they are far too big to understand or control, but our Native American forbearers knew quite well when they turned their gaze to the sky that they were looking at the face of God. They knew that below their feet lay the mother-goddess Earth. They knew that heaven and Earth are our grandparents, and that we are children of the forest; it was there our species originated.

Now you own, and intend to destroy, the last and best of these ancient forests. Like Shakespeare's Shylock, you have a legal right to extract your pound of our mother's flesh, in board feet. But the legality doesn't make it right; not nearly. This policy toward our environment is disastrous. And so, we the people of the society you live among, must call on you to stop this practice. Can you hear us?

Do the right thing. Sell to the American people the 60,000 acres that make up a sustainable, viable forest at a reasonable price, or just give it to us. You can afford it, even benefit by it. The goodwill you'll generate from such an act will come back to you many times over.

Perhaps you should go and sit for a while in one of your clear-cuts, and think this over as you listen to the desolate sound of the wind as it blusters unhindered past your ears, bereft of the trees that once tamed it. Then go and spend some time in the magnificence of the ancient forest you plan to destroy and perhaps you will hear that voice much older, wiser, deeper and gentler than ours - it's there.

I hope to hear back from you soon on this.

Respectfully, Bob Weir

[Bob weir was a rhythm guitarist and vocalist for the Grateful Dead for 30 years, and now leads a band called Ratdog. He has been an environmental activist with a special interest in rain forest and forestry issues for more than a decade.]

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