SUSAN WOOD photo by DOUG THRON
When Dianne Feinstein's telephone rang Tuesday at 2 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the U.S. senator from California as if wincing with negative anticipation told the crowd of officials and journalists she "thought it was all over."
Indeed, it was in some respects. The government was the proud owner of a new park in Humboldt County, Ms. Feinstein.
In a suspenseful twist reminiscent of a high-stakes card game, the Pacific Lumber Co. agreed late that Monday night to a $480 million deal that turns over a 7,500-acre parcel of the Headwaters Forest to the public and governs the logging company's other 200,000-plus acres of timberland for the next 50 years.
On Friday, PL officials had announced they could not accept the government's final offer. Some newspapers over the weekend proclaimed the Headwaters deal "dead."
But the patient was revived following a meeting of the minds between federal, state and logging company officials just minutes before the midnight deadline of Monday, Pacific Standard Time. This was when the $250 million in federal appropriations was due to expire. The state's portion is $230 million.
"What was interesting about this process for me was that those who participated in it believed in it more and more (as time went on)," Feinstein said joint press conference carried by telephone from Washington, D.C., the following morning.
Feinstein, involved in the explosive issue since 1989 when she first ran for Senate, brokered the deal in September 1996. She pointed out that "every effort to save the Headwaters had failed" beforehand. Given its history, the task was difficult, she said.
But in the last days leading up to the decision, the home of ancient redwood groves including the 3,000-acre Headwaters Grove, and a complex web of streams nestled between Eureka and Fortuna east of U.S. Highway 101 took second fiddle in the negotiations.
The last major sticking point revolved around the land transfer's accompanying habitat conservation plan intended to manage the Scotia-based logging company's remaining property. PL insisted the plan's logging caps, as estimated by the California Department of Forestry, were too restrictive to meet its financial obligations.
CDF originally set the cap at about 138 million board feet a year, said David Hayes, a U.S. Department of the Interior aide, adding the state agency "was in error." PL pushed for an allowable 210 million. The "compromise" ended up settling in at about 177 million, but no one really knows exactly how many trees that entails, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt said during the press conference.
"The bottom line is, the agreement is biologically critical," Babbitt said, echoing Feinstein's characterization of the plan deemed the best for the environment and economy.
When all was said and done, PL President John Campbell referencing recent layoffs thanked the players on behalf of his employees and pledged his company's support to follow the habitat plan. (Campbell also participated in the telephone conference from his office in Scotia.)
The state on Friday reinstated PL's logging license, which was revoked months ago for violations of the Forest Practices Act, just three days before the deal was finalized.
The accord followed Monday's 18 percent plunge in the stock of Houston, Tex.-based Maxxam, Inc., PL's parent company, amid word talks were collapsing.
Closer to home than the financial markets, the deal was met with skepticism and mixed reactions from the environmental community.
"The crucial piece of this (deal) is going to be the follow up that it will be enforced as written," Sierra Club representative Kathy Bailey said in a telephone interview from Sacramento minutes before the governor's own press conference. "Nothing ever stops on one day."
Bailey commended state officials, in particular Gov. Gray Davis, for standing tough in the last days of negotiating conditions in the habitat conservation plan. She's pleased streamside buffers were kept in place, in addition to the public ownership of the Headwaters region.
However, Bailey balks at the public lining the pockets of Maxxam chief Charles Hurwitz, for years the environmental community's nemesis. She points to Hurwitz' 1985 leveraged buyout of PL from millions of dollars in junk bonds owed to taxpayers.
"Trees really don't belong to anybody," said local environmental activist Doug Thron, who has for years launched a photography crusade to save the Headwaters Forest. Thron has hiked in the region every weekend since 1992.
Though he believed it would eventually happen, the Arcata man is dissatisfied with the deal. He wanted the government to hold out for public protection of 60,000 acres in the biologically sensitive area.
Thron said selecting just one isolated area of the six-grove region is like determining who in a family of six can be saved from a burning house or sinking raft.
"I would say all six or nothing," he said.
The six groves in the Headwaters Forest include its namesake, Allen Creek, Elk Head Springs, Shaw Creek, All Species and Owl Creek.
EarthFirst activist Darryl Cherney agrees to a certain extent. With mixed emotions about the buy, Cherney believes it's "unconscionable" for the government to "cave in to the demands" of Hurwitz.
Still, it's nice to advance in "baby steps" to the next level of activism, Cherney admitted.
"While I'm glad we don't have to preserve the Headwaters Grove anymore, we still have to work to preserve the other groves," he said.
A Eureka woman and two teenage girls, missing since taking a holiday sightseeing trip weeks ago, are feared dead, the FBI announced this week.
As days go on, FBI spokesman Nick Rossi said the chances of finding Carole Sund, 42, her daughter Julie 15, and a 16-year-old foreign exchange student from Argentina, Silvina Pelosso, alive have "diminished." But the authorities haven't given up hope.
The focus of the investigation has shifted from the possibility the three were victims of a car accident, with the FBI scaling back the "massive, coordinated" search effort around Yosemite National Park.
Instead, the FBI is "operating on the assumption a crime was committed," Rossi said. He added the federal agency has developed a few theories based on this criminal hunch but declined to give details as to what they are.
The investigative team has gravitated to Modesto, where Sund's wallet insert was found in the middle of the street.
Potential sightings are still being checked out, but at press time authorities could only confirm the three were last seen just west of the park entrance at a lodge in El Portal on Feb. 15.
Two days later, Sund's husband, Jens, reported them missing because his wife didn't show up for prior engagements the following day. He and his family have offered a $250,000 reward for anyone with information leading to their safe return, "no questions asked."
Those with any pertinent information are asked to call the FBI hotline number at 800-435-7883.
A memorial service will be held Sunday, March 7 from 2-4 p.m. at Trinidad Town Hall for Charles Fulkerson. The Humboldt State University professor emeritus of music died Sunday at age 80.
The event is intended to be a celebration of his life. Those attending are encouraged "to bring instruments and good spirits. Banana splits will be served."
Fulkerson was born in Eureka and raised in Bullwinkel (now Crannell), While attending Arcata High School, he worked making ice cream at Varsity on the Plaza in Arcata and shared banana splits with friends ever since.
He attended Humboldt State University and graduated from San Jose State. He became a professor of music at HSU from 1941 through 1977 and conducted the Humboldt Symphony for more than 30 years.
He and his wife Jean, who preceded him in death, often hosted informal musical gatherings in their home which later grew into the Chamber Music series at HSU. He also co-founded the nationally acclaimed Summer Chamber Music Workshop at the university.
He is survived by his son, Tom Fulkerson of Trinidad, and his daughter, former Humboldt County supervisor, Julie Fulkerson of Arcata.
The state of the Eel River will be the topic of an all-day workshop to be held from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 6 at the Redway School on Humboldt Street in Redway.
This is where California Fish and Game is putting on the public forum as a brainstorming session designed to look at ways of bringing back the windy, long river from its damaged state. The river, once a thriving habitat for salmon and steelhead , has depreciated over the years from use.
But Fish and Game Habitat Specialist Scott Downie said the southern Humboldt river has the "greatest propensity for recovery" than any other major river in the state.
"We can turn this river around," Downie said, adding it won't happen overnight. "(But) it'll never happen if we don't do anything."
The forum will look into the effects of erosion, mining and diversion of the flows on the river as well as its connection between the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the ambitious salmon restoration plan recently proposed by the Clinton administration.
Eelswap II, as it's called, will assemble participants from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the federal Environmental Protection Agency, along with Cattlemen's Association members and landowners. Much of the area around the Eel River drainage is privately owned, Downie confirmed.
Organizers hope to gather the input to be included in an Eel River Basin plan.
Despite the California Faculty Association rejection of a contract offer from the California State University Board of Trustees, Humboldt State University faculty are not expected to strike.
The statewide faculty union last week voted 2,330-1,748 against the agreement, primarily over merit-pay concerns. At HSU, the vote was 75-70 in favor of the contract.
"(Humboldt's) was one of the closest votes in the system," CFA chapter President Ken Fulgham said from the Arcata campus this week. Still, he wasn't surprised by the overall outcome across the system, emphasizing growing concern expressed by the union that the proposed merit-pay plan would slight many faculty members.
Officials from the chancellor's office shared disappointment in the vote.
"It's unfortunate that a relatively small percentage of faculty can vote down pay raises and benefits for 20,000 people," CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said in an issued statement.
Members turned down a 3 percent general salary increase retroactive to Oct. 1, 1998. The average salary for CSU faculty, of which 30 percent are union members, is $61,209.
The resources professor said he doesn't expect the move will spur a strike. But quite possible are more moderate dissentions, such as refusals to serve on faculty committees, he said.
The union leadership plans to meet this week to review points brought up in the collective bargaining, mediation and fact-finding phases of negotiations.
"The feeling is there's no real desire or rush to go into imposition," Fulgham said.
In the meantime, the CSU board has issued another extension to the contract term in negotiations. The trustees' committee on collective bargaining may vote on a resolution, possibly cafeteria-style, to initiate faculty salary increases and some employment conditions, if no agreement is reached by March 17.
Fulgham described the year-long dispute as "unprecedented times for both the CFA and CSU."
The Yurok Tribe is opening the door to a destination lodge for tourists visiting the redwood country.
"The jewel in the crown," as it's called, may be modeled as a small-scale, sprawling version of the internationally known Awhanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.
The lodge would serve as a staging area for activities in the Redwood National and State parks region. The idea of a lodge of this kind came up while the park service developed its general plan update. The overall blueprint for planning, designed to take the parks into the next 20 years, is still being mapped out.
The tribe has formed a committee to explore the possibility and earmarked $100,000 for a three-tiered plan aimed at selecting the site, designing the lodge and estimating the cost of the project. The funds consist of half federal grants and half from tribal coffers.
Six locations are being given "serious consideration," tribal Planner John Van Etten said. They include the Wilson Creek area near Klamath, both sides of the river near the mouth, Davidson Ranch near Orick, the Orick rodeo grounds and on the area on the west ridge of the small town on U.S. Highway 101 north of Freshwater Lagoon.
"All have their advantages and disadvantages," Van Etten said. They all fall within Yurok country, he added.
In the best case scenario, Van Etten hopes the tribe will break ground on the lodge plan in two years. It should take about a year to complete construction, he added.
Katherine Harestad, 43, has mixed feelings when she saw the new film "Message in a Bottle" starring Kevin Costner, Paul Newman and Robin Wright Penn.
"Everyone else was crying," she said during a dream sequence. But Harestad cheered because Costner's character wife was wearing pegnoir set that she had designed.
The movie, based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, is a story about love and grief.
The film's costume director contacted Harestad, an Arcata lingerie designer, when he spied a unique dress of hers in a Los Angeles boutique, she said.
The woman, who has operated White Rose Designs in Arcata since 1985, sells her garments in hundreds of shops around the globe. The gown used in the film is featured in at least 33 Neiman Marcus stores, she said.
Harestad began her interest in costume design as a young, "serious" Barbie owner, dressing the popular doll in a collage of scantily clad designs, she quipped.
This film isn't Harestad's only brush with fame. Her designs have been used in television shows such as "Beverly Hills 90210" and "Northern Exposure," she said.
She designed to spec the dress used in this film, keeping in mind that water would be poured on it, she said. No more secrets here.
Keeping in line with other California regions, housing prices showed an increase in the last quarter of 1998 in Humboldt County.
Statistics estimated by the Humboldt Association of Realtors show the median selling price in all areas of the county as $124,305. Last year's wrap-up figure shows a slight increase from $118,000 in the third quarter, $116,560 in the second and $115,000 in the first.
According to the Realtors board, housing prices experience a usual drop in the first and second quarters every year.
"Holidays make it go pretty flat," said Keith Condon, a Century 21 agent who's sold real estate for nine years.
Condon's theory revolves around the notion that prospective buyers tend to "escape" to go looking in the last two quarters. The highest median home price in San Francisco from October to December 1998 was $325,800, a recent national report indicated.
That was followed by Orange County at $264,500; San Diego at $214,900; Los Angeles at $189,400; Sacramento at $127,600; Riverside at $121,500.
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