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Former head of Pacific Lumber

October 30, 2008|times staff and wire reports

John A. Campbell, 67, the mayor of Fortuna, Calif., and a former president of the Pacific Lumber Co. during a monumental battle between loggers and environmentalists, died of cancer Oct. 19 at his Fortuna home.

Born in 1942 in Leura, New South Wales, Australia, Campbell served in that country's army before touring Europe and landing in New York in the early 1960s. He worked at the Australian Consulate in 1963 and 1964 before heading west.

Campbell started working for Pacific Lumber in 1969 as a sales trainee and rose through the ranks to become president in 1989, three years after the Maxxam Co. of Houston acquired the logging firm and the surrounding Headwaters Forest.

At the time of the sale, Maxxam's president announced his intention of tripling the rate of logging in the forest, triggering 12 years of protest and controversial government regulations to protect trees and wildlife habitat.

The uproar led to the 1999 Headwaters Forest deal in which the state and federal government bought about 10,000 acres of North Coast forest for $480 million in an arrangement with Pacific Lumber.

The accord also set strict new guidelines for protecting water quality and wildlife habitat on more than 200,000 acres of surrounding forest that remained in Pacific Lumber's hands.

Campbell was replaced as president and chief executive in 2001 but stayed on the board of directors as Maxxam slashed jobs and cut operations.

Pacific Lumber went bankrupt in 2007.

He was elected mayor in November 2006 and continued to attend City Council meetings until August.

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