Albion Monitor /News

Last Stand for Headwaters?

by Bruce Haldane

After protests and publicity, the company backed off from cutting late last March

HUMBOLDT COUNTY -- Headwaters Forest still stands. But despite its defenders' best efforts in the courts and on the ground, the outlook for the world's largest privately-owned stand of old-growth redwoods remains gloomy.

Pacific Lumber/Maxxam (PL/M) now has open season and is cutting in the smaller, isolated groves of ancient trees scattered throughout the nearby Blanton and Yager Creek watershed areas.

As well, PL/M has a salvage exemption which allows it to build a road into the heart of Headwaters and take out up to 10 percent of the trees, those it designates as diseased, insect-infested or fire-damaged (redwoods are practically impervious to disease, insects and fire). After protests and publicity, the company backed off from cutting late last March, pledging not to start cutting until the official end of the marbled murrelet nesting season, Sept. 15. The endangered murrelet, a small seabird, nests only in the giant trees and its natural habitat-the ancient redwood forest-is fast disappearing.

"Yager and Blanton Creek are lost." That's the candid assessment of EPIC's Cecelia Lanman. EPIC (the Environmental Protection Information Center) lost a last-ditch appeal July 21 for a court-ordered stay of a timber harvest plan (THP) covering 225 acres in Yager Creek. That means that cutting on that and successive THPs can go on and there is slim hope that further litigation could stop it in time.

"We're fighting these things one THP or one area at a time," says Lanman, "when we ought to be able to establish something behind them all, something that encompasses the entire forest-use issue."

In the case Marbled Murrelet v Pacific Lumber, EPIC won a permanent injunction against cutting at nearby Owl Creek watershed. The February 1995 injunction should apply to Yager and Blanton as well, says Lanman, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Forestry (CDF) are proceeding with "business as usual" by not applying the Owl Creek reasoning to those similar areas.

Call is out for massive legal demonstrations beginning Sept. 15

The judge handling the case praised EPIC for its thoroughness and competence, reprimanded PL/M for its arrogance, and awarded EPIC $1.1 million for legal fees and expenses. PL/M is appealing that decision.

But the court removed the USFWS and CDF from the case, which allows those agencies to sit back and do nothing as the giant trees fall. EPIC is appealing that removal, and also suing to stop any salvage logging in Headwaters.

The other arm of the forest defense is direct action on the ground. With cutting in Headwaters postponed, activists focused on Yager Creek. Ongoing blockades delayed the logging crews and led to the arrest of 13 protesters June 22.

After the Earth First! rendezvous, protesters blockaded three more gates July 5, according to forest activist Judi Bari. They held up scores of vehicles, leading to multiple arrests, then invaded the CDF offices in Fortuna with 150 people, bringing on a pepper spray assault by the cops, more arrests and a confrontation when, in response to rough treatment by police, demonstrators surrounded the paddy wagons. Direct actions, involving nonviolent civil disobedience, were continuing at press time.

The call is out for massive legal demonstrations beginning Sept. 15, with planning meetings scheduled for mid-August. Bari notes that "only with a truly huge turnout will we be able to save Headwaters."

This article first appeared in News for a People's World

Albion Monitor August 19, 1995 (

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