Only 2 percent of the original virgin redwood forest is in protected parks
is the largest untouched virgin redwood wilderness remaining outside state and federal parks. The 3,300-acre grove contains ancient redwoods up to 2000 years old and over 300 ft. in height, and provides habitat for a number of rare or endangered species. It is named for its location at the headwaters of several rivers and streams about 10 miles southeast of Eureka, California.
In 1850 there were two million acres of virgin Coast Redwood forest in the world, all in a narrow coastal band in Northern California and a short way into Oregon. In the past 145 years, over 96 percent of the redwood forest has been logged, mostly by clearcutting and burning. Only 2 percent of the original virgin forest is in protected parks.
The Headwaters Forest Complex includes five other groves of ancient redwoods, second growth forest and recently clearcut lands which connect them. For nearly a decade efforts have been made to prevent the logging of Headwaters by federal acquisition. Headwaters is on land owned by Pacific Lumber Company (PL) of Scotia, California.
Pacific Lumber, once a locally-owned model of conservative forestry, was the target of corporate raider Charles Hurwitz and his Houston-based Maxxam Corporation. After a 1985 hostile takeover financed by selling over $750 million in junk bonds through the felonious Michael Milken and the infamous brokerage firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert, Hurwitz raided the PL employee pension fund and nearly tripled the rate of logging to pay off the acquisition debt. PL has cut over half its old-growth forest since the takeover, according to Senator Barbara Boxer. Hurwitz had used a Texas savings bank which he controlled to purchase many of the junk bonds issued by the brokerage. The taxpayers later picked up a tab of $1.6 billion to bail out Hurwitz's bank.
Late Friday afternoon, San Francisco Federal Judge Maxine Chesney issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping cutting under PL's three salvage logging exemptions, which cover 186,000 acres of PL's timberlands in the Headwaters complex. The TRO lasts a week, until a hearing on a longer-term injunction. The issue before the court is whether PL should be allowed to get around normal regulation of logging by using a salvage exemption to the Forest Practice Act Rules to take all the fallen trees plus up to 10 percent of the standing trees in virgin redwood forest without submitting a timber harvest plan and without any inspection, regulation, environmental or wildlife review by state agencies.
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