In a rare show of solidarity, 10 diverse environmental groups have joined forces to pressure Pacific Lumber Co. to follow a series of guidelines when drafting its habitat conservation plan for Headwaters Forest.
The environmentalists are urging state leaders to hold off voting on a plan for the purchase of Headwaters until the habitat plan is released by PL for review.
In a letter to leaders of the Legislature, the environmentalists also ask that funding of Headwaters be opposed should the habitat plan "fail to meet minimal standards for protection of endangered species" as outlined by state Sen. Byron Sher and Assemblywoman Carole Migden. The letter was signed by leaders of environmental groups that in the past have sharply disagreed on conservation issues.
"What I think is fairly significant is we were able to get conservative groups" to reach a consensus, said Paul Mason, president of the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville.
From the letter it should not be construed that EPIC has changed its position on the Headwaters deal, Mason said. The organization still opposes the number of acres set for preservation and the $380 million purchase price. But, Mason said, if there is going to be a habitat conservation plan and state funding, "at the very least" Pacific Lumber should be following "sound scientific" practices.
The state's share of the Headwaters deal is $130 million, which the Wilson administration wants to include in an $800 million bond measure for parks that would go before voters in June.
Historically, the Planning and Conservation League has been an advocate for park bond measures, Mason said. But EPIC feared the league would "roll over and say it's fine and advocate for the bond" even if PL's habitat plan was found woefully inadequate by other environmental groups.
But the league agreed with EPIC's position and joined in urging state leaders to protect fisheries and marbled murrelets by prohibiting commercial timber harvesting "within occupied and potential marbled murrelet habitat, including the groves of ancient redwood contained in the so-called 'lesser cathedrals' and other remnant and residual tracts of old growth forest."
The other organizations that signed the letter were the California League of Conservation Voters, Greenpeace, the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, the Headwaters Sanctuary Project, the Rainforest Action Network, the Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society and the Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment.
Pacific Lumber's habitat conservation plan is at the heart of the battle to approve the Headwaters deal, which calls for preservation of a 7,500-acre ancient redwood preserve on the company's land in Southern Humboldt.
State and federal regulators, Pacific Lumber foresters and wildlife experts hired by the company were immersed in talks late last month and reportedly made some progress in reaching agreement on the conservation plan, although it was unclear how much progress was made.
Mason said the habitat plan might be available within weeks, but he acknowledged that EPIC did not expect PL to meet the environmentalists' requests. But at least when the plan is announced "there will be united opposition rather than haphazard opposition," he said.
Pacific Lumber Co. officials could not be reached for comment. But the company has said it wants to cut remaining virgin groves outside the 7,500-acre preserve to keep its old-growth timber mill in operation. And company President John Campbell conceded to The Press Democrat last month that negotiators were still far apart on the fate of the old trees outside the Headwaters agreement.
The National Endowment for the Arts and California Council for the Humanities have both awarded Dell'Arte Inc. in Blue Lake grants to expand the annual Mad River Festival performance series.
The NEA grant -- $125,000 which Dell'Arte is sharing with eight other theater ensembles across the country -- supports expenses of each troupe when members travel to another theater group's stage to perform. In Blue Lake, the grant is being used to bring three theater ensembles from Pennsylvania to the Mad River Festival this summer.
The Bloomsberg Theatre Ensemble, Touchstone Theatre of Bethlehem and Independent Eye Ensemble of Philadelphia will perform in July.
The Council for the Humanities awarded Dell'Arte $10,000 to support a "lively" lecture series during the festival, Co-artistic Director Michael Fields said.
The Mad River Festival runs June 16 through July 19 in Blue Lake.
Suicides and drug-related deaths continue to plague Humboldt County, according to statistics released through the county Public Health Department.
The suicide rate is nearly 69 percent higher than the state average, while the number of drug-related deaths per capita is second only to San Francisco.
From 1992 to 1994, the last year statistics were available, there were 41 drug overdoses in Humboldt County. Thirty of the victims were men and the drugs of choice were heroin and stimulants, a category which includes methamphetamine and cocaine.
From 1993 to 1995 there were 79 known suicides in Humboldt County, the majority of which were firearm-related, according to the statistics. Forty-nine men and six women took their own lives using primarily handguns.
While hospitals in the Santa Rosa area are scrambling to keep up with a flu season that's being referred to as epidemic, medical providers in Humboldt County say they have not seen an increase in colds or viral infections.
"As far as what we've seen in our patient census and our employees calling in sick, this is just a very normal season so far," said Myrna Weburg, a registered nurse at Mad River Community Hospital in Arcata.
"We are having pretty much of a normal flu season. We haven't had the increases like the Santa Rose area or Los Angeles have," said Margaret Abels, a registered nurse in the emergency room at General Hospital in Eureka.
In Northern California influenza outbreaks have been sporadic and confined to small regions, according to the state Department of Health Services. A new strain of flu, Sydney type A, has shown up in the Santa Rosa area, but no cases have been reported in Humboldt County, according to the Public Health Department.
Flu shots do not prevent contraction of Sydney, but they should help prevent people from getting another strain of flu, Wuhan type A, which has also been detected in California. But neither flu has been detected in Humboldt County, said Public Health Nurse Jennifer Richmond.
Dr. Ken Stiver, who works in the emergency room at St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka, said while many patients complain of flu-like symptoms, they are in fact not suffering from influenza.
Stafford residents who sued Pacific Lumber and Barnum Timber companies after a December 1996 landslide destroyed much of their community have won a victory in court.
Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson granted a preliminary injunction Jan. 22 ordering PL and Barnum to remove two basins and dams that were constructed above Stafford in the wake of the massive landslide. The companies must also lower a logging road back to its original grade.
Residents of the community feared the structures might fail under heavy rain and destroy homes still standing in the small Southern Humboldt town.
Watson found that the structures built by the timber companies in October posed an imminent danger to life and property, were hastily designed and constructed, and were actually intended to safeguard a logging road, not the town, attorneys for the Stafford residents said.
The residents also maintained that the manmade structures were only needed after a natural logjam created from the slide was removed for profit.
Attorneys for the timber companies maintained, however, that the structures were safe and necessary to help prevent soil from eroding into the Eel River.
At press time, the logging companies were awaiting Watson's written ruling before proceeding with the court-ordered work.
The residents' civil suit seeking actual and punitive damages from PL and Barnum is pending.
He may have been shut down, but the battle is far from over.
The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors late last month denied T. Great Razooly a permit to sell recreational vehicles at his Tip Top Club overlooking U.S. Highway 101 near King Salmon. A few days later the Planning Commission -- ignoring a staff recommendation -- responded with a resounding no to Razooly's request to open a nightclub featuring topless dancers.
The battle of morals, neighborhood rights and government control has seen many twists and turns -- from Razooly being arrested for allegedly operating a dance club without a permit to the opening of the RV business where topless women were "sales associates" and only plastic vehicle models were sold.
In the aftermath of the county's rulings, Razooly said he was still hoping to open the club. "There's a lot of girls really anxious to work; they're all trained," he said.
Razooly said he has the option of appealing the Planning Commission's decision, but will most likely file a lawsuit instead.
"My attorneys just laugh at what these small-time politicians think they can get away with," he said. "The decisions against us have been so illegal I think we can get some of them overturned even without appealing."
Razooly said he also plans to move forward with his campaign to recall Supervisor Stan Dixon, whose district includes the Tip Top Club.
The Humboldt County District Attorney's Office has been barred from prosecuting the criminal case against former Sheriff Dave Renner.
The state 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in January that a conflict of interest exists because District Attorney Terry Farmer was a personal friend of Renner's who would most likely be called as a witness during the trial.
The appellate court agreed with late Humboldt County Superior Court Judge William F. Ferroggiaro, who in a December 1996 ruling removed the District Attorney's Office from the case. The state Attorney General's Office appealed, arguing that Farmer's entire office should not be removed from prosecuting the case.
The appeal court ruling does not mandate that the Attorney General's Office take the case; it's possible a special prosecutor could be appointed.
Renner, who was sheriff from 1982 to 1994, is charged with eight felony counts including grand theft, misappropriation of public funds, false accounting and using public money for personal gain. He maintains his innocence.
Humboldt County's economy is looking up.
That's what Phyllis Lammers found in compiling the Humboldt County Economic & Demographic Almanac for 1997.
"The number of people employed in Humboldt County is poised to reach a record high in 1997 for the fourth year in row," reports Lammers. And the county's 1997 unemployment rate through November is the lowest on record.
As of November, 58,110 people were employed in Humboldt County, a 7.1 percent unemployment rate compared to the statewide rate of 6.5 percent and the national rate of 5 percent.
Improvements have been slow and steady, said Lammers, a Eureka-based data analyst.
Believe it or not, the number of jobs in the lumber and paper manufacturing industries increased by more than 1,100 jobs in the past five years, according to statistics Lammers obtained from the state Employment Development Department. In 1992 there were 3,700 people employed in these industries, and in November 1997 that number increased to 4,800.
The food production industry is also growing, Lammers said.
Retail sales are also improving. Statistics for 1996, the last year data was available, grew 3 percent. And for the first time in 10 years, sales increased in Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna.
"Statistically speaking, it appears that the softest sectors of the local economy may be motel room sales and construction activity," she said.
Motel room rentals reached a nine-year low in 1996-97, the number of residential building permits issued in the county in 1996 was the lowest since 1983 and the value of nonresidential construction was the lowest on record.
The nonprofit Rainforest Alliance has recognized the city of Arcata for its sustainable forestry practices.
A "Smart Wood" designation has been awarded Arcata by the New York-based environmental organization. Lumber harvested from the forest will now be stamped as "Smart Wood," which could bring a higher price on the open market.
Representatives for the Rainforest Alliance visited Arcata in October to examine the forest and its management plan, praising the city for its forestry practices, including old-growth protection, habitat conditions, road and trail maintenance, and biodiversity.