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At Pacific Lumber, Environmental Villainy Finally Has an Address and an Embodiment

September 02, 1990

I was saddened by Michael Parrish's coverage of Pacific Lumber Co.'s logging activities in California, "Western Environmentalists' Enemy No. 1" (Aug. 19). Although it is obvious Earth is being decimated by countless environmental ills, it is often difficult to point a finger at a specific cause. As global warming increases, rain forests disappear, drinking water is polluted and the air becomes unbreathable, we vainly point fingers at nebulous corporate culprits.

But Parrish's article on Charles E. Hurwitz, chairman and chief executive of Pacific Lumber's parent, provides a stark example of a real-life villain, of a man who profoundly exemplifies what is wrong with the nation and, to some extent, the world.

It illustrates the ugly side of capitalist success and the shortsighted struggle to get more and more, which has led to a quality of life for many of less and less. How can a man confidently proclaim that he will double the logging rate on some of the last remaining acres of old growth redwoods? How can he say that redwoods that took a thousand years to attain their majesty are a crop to be harvested like corn in an Iowa field?

I think Hurwitz's current actions are emblematic of much which has occurred in the last decade--a decade under the Reagan Administration in which greed and short-term profit were proclaimed virtues. It is no coincidence that Michael Milken, the fountainhead of junk bonds, leveraged buyouts and "greenmail," raised much of Hurwitz's purchase price for Pacific Lumber. Nor is it surprising that Hurwitz uses the hired gun of the new Wild West, the lawyer, to smash any opposition with the expense of modern civil litigation.

As Earth becomes smaller and smaller, our view of her must change. There is no more endless expanse of wilderness to defeat. We must preserve these last small pieces of wilderness for our children and ourselves. And where are our leaders? They are professional politicians like George Bush, who fraudulently obtained my vote by proclaiming himself the "environmental President," but who effectively overruled his own scientists' decision that old growth timber must be preserved to save the northern spotted owl from extinction.

It is estimated that the last Pacific Lumber redwood will be felled in the year 2008. Hurwitz is probably hailed by many as an entrepreneur, a tough, hard-charging businessman. But future generations will view him simply as another in a long line of robber barons and land rapists.

JOHN S. MUMFORD

Beverly Hills

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