ARCATA — About 400 environmentalists gathered Sunday in a chilly mist to denounce a new cash-for-land pact aimed at protecting nearly 7,500 acres of ancient redwood forests.
"No deal! No deal!" protesters shouted, contending that the accord brokered by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein favors Texas financier Charles Hurwitz at the expense of the Headwaters Forest. Hurwitz controls Scotia-based Pacific Lumber Co., which owns land in the Headwaters, roughly 300 miles north of San Francisco.
The $380-million pact between Hurwitz, the Clinton administration and state officials would turn 7,500 acres in the Headwaters over to the public for use as a wildlife and recreation preserve. The land includes the 3,000-acre piece in which Pacific Lumber had planned to begin salvage logging today--an operation that is now on hold for at least 10 months. But it leaves vast areas of the 60,000-acre forest open to logging as early as this week.
In return for relinquishing the property, Hurwitz would receive $250 million from the federal government and $130 million from the state in cash, land or other assets. The agreement requires both legislative and congressional approval.
The agreement, which was reached late Friday after weeks of closed-door meetings in Feinstein's office, would place about 3,000 acres in the Headwaters Forest and 425 acres in nearby Elk Head Springs under public protection. Some 4,000 acres in a surrounding "buffer zone" would be included in the public preserve.
Hurwitz, along with Feinstein and other federal officials, praised the agreement, saying it struck a balance between economic and environmental concerns. "It's a very good deal," Hurwitz said in an interview. "It shows we can preserve old trees and continue to log in an environmentally sound manner."
But environmentalists said the pact fails to protect the entire 60,000-acre Headwaters Forest Complex, and that even salvage logging--which involves extracting dead, dying and diseased timber that has already fallen--would hurt the forest's environment.
"This deal can best be described in three words--'smoke and mirrors,' " said Daryl Cherney, co-founder of the Earth First! environmental group.
Cherney said rallies were planned today at Pacific Lumber's headquarters in Scotia, about 30 miles to the south.
The Headwaters Forest Complex, the last privately owned stand of virgin redwoods, contains a half-dozen old-growth redwood groves.