The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate authorized in May $250 million to buy the Headwaters grove from Pacific Lumber Co. and its parent corporation, Maxxam.
Combined with $130 million in state funds, the federal money will meet the $380 million price tag agreed to by Maxxam/PALCO for 5,600 acres of its land, including 3,000 acres of ancient redwood. The company will also receive 7,755 acres of adjacent land, which the feds are obtaining from Elk River Timber Co. in a swap for national forest land in the Sierra Nevada.
While the financial side of the deal moves ahead, the biological controversies are just beginning to heat up. PALCO and federal agencies are negotiating a complex Habitat Conservation Plan that will enable the company to log the rest of its 200,000 acres without running afoul of the Endangered Species Act. A source with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service predicted that the HCP would be presented for public comment by midsummer.
Environmental groups have already flagged objections to PALCO's long-term logging scenario, which includes harvesting all old-growth redwoods outside Headwaters. Also at issue is the pace at which PALCO logs its many second- and third-growth tracts. Environmentalists say the company has harvested much more intensively since its takeover by Maxxam in 1986, damaging watersheds in the process. PALCO's Scotia-based managers defend their land stewardship with extensive data on stream conditions and fish populations.
Those familiar arguments will continue, but a new twist in the debate comes with the "Headwaters Forest Stewardship Plan" which Headwaters defenders are proposing. In addition to the 5,600 acres Maxxam is willing to sell, the plan covers about 55,000 acres of PALCO land which Maxxam says is not for sale.
"We are committed to the long-term future of the company and that would cause us to shed a third of our total property," said Maxxam spokesman Robert Irelan.
But the Headwaters Forest Coordinating Committee calls the proposed Headwaters Preserve a "tree museum," and its members are raising money, hiring scientists, mapping PALCO land from airplanes and estimating timber volumes -- all with the objective of designing a plan to restore the 55,000-acre area while continuing timber harvest.
Proponents are a little vague about how they would implement such a plan on land they don't own, but they believe it's possible. "If we can build ownership of the idea throughout the county, it will move forward with political momentum," said Tracy Katelman of Trees Foundation.
Taxpayers for Headwaters will hold a public forum on the Stewardship Plan June 4, 7-9 p.m., at First Congregational Church, J and Hodgson streets, in Eureka. Call 677-3213 for more information.
Superior Court Judge William F. Ferrogiaro Jr. died May 2 at the age of 62 after a long struggle with cancer. The judge worked as deputy public defender from 1963 to 1966, and he was elected district attorney in 1966, according to his obituary in the Times-Standard. He was appointed to the bench in 1983 by Gov. Jerry Brown.
Ferrogiaro's successor will be appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson. Wilson may exercise the option of moving a municipal court judge up to superior court and appointing a new municipal judge, according to attorney John Stokes, who once served on a state panel to review judicial appointments.
On May 7 Stephan Sosinski, publisher of the Times-Standard, summoned the Eureka police to his office for investigation of embezzlement. On the same day, Controller Lynn W. Johnson's name was dropped from the paper's masthead.
Johnson was booked into the county jail on May 8 and stayed there until May 13 when he was released on his own recognizance pending a June 6 hearing.
Television station KIEM reported the booking, but other news coverage has been scarce.
Capt. Bill Honsal of the Eureka Police Department told the Journal, "Embezzlements are often handled low key; some are fully prosecuted, others are handled quietly to avoid embarrassment to people or businesses."
Honsal said "about $12,000 over a short period of time" was involved.
Coho salmon that spawn in Humboldt County streams and rivers are now protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The April 25 listing of coho -- sought by conservation and fishing groups, opposed by timber companies and other landowners -- may result in stringent restrictions on land uses near coho-bearing streams.
Or it may not. An ESA listing is only one step in the process of enacting and enforcing species protections.
As more species of fish and wildlife have been listed, resistance from property owners has increased, and the federal government has become more interested in cooperation with landowners. "A stroke of the pen does nothing," said one NMFS official. "The people who are managing the resources need to do the work, and the agency is trying to allow that to happen."
That means development of "habitat conservation plans" and "natural communities conservation plans" that allow logging, farming, development and other uses to continue in endangered species' habitat, with some protection measures.
What those measures are, what trade-offs will be made between economics and species protection, and how the conservation plans are monitored now become the key issues. And they'll be decided by federal and state officials, with lobbying and input from the diverse constituencies that have a stake in the issue. "I tell people who are interested in fisheries protection, 'Don't take your eye off the ball,'" said fisheries biologist Patrick Higgins.
Commercial salmon trollers will be advocating hard for tough habitat protections, especially after fisheries regulators issued the toughest restrictions on West Coast commercial salmon harvest in recent memory. "Banning ocean harvest does very little to restore fish if habitat problems on land and in the spawning streams aren't solved," commercial fisherman and habitat specialist Nat Bingham told the Times-Standard.
If you weren't there at the gate to Pacific Lumber Co.'s Fisher Road property in Carlotta last Nov. 15, you can believe Sheriff Dennis Lewis and town police chiefs who say their officers used reasonable force to arrest 76 demonstrators. Or you can believe people who say they were subject to false arrest and brutality.
But it would be tough to be believe both sides.
Lewis, the California Highway Patrol and the police departments of Arcata, Eureka and Fortuna have all been served with legal claims alleging they violated the rights of people protesting PALCO's logging operations. Unless the rights-violation claims are settled, they will be followed by a lawsuit in federal district court, according to attorney Mark Harris of Arcata.
Harris and others say the police violated agreements to peacefully arrest demonstrators as they trespassed. A video that Harris intends to present as evidence "shows these guys acting like stormtroopers for no reason at all," he said.
Lewis, CHP Capt. Mert Baarts and the three police chiefs denied the abuse allegations soon after the Nov. 15 incident. They acknowledged that officers used "pain compliance holds" to move demonstrators, but said to force the officers to carry demonstrators would have caused injuries to the officers.
The U.S. Attorney's Office extended a threatened May 1 shutdown for 90 days, giving California tribes more time to negotiate a gaming "compact" with the state.
At issue are the "house-banked" games that are programmed to take in more than they pay out; the games are illegal in California.
Indian casino operators hope that negotiations between the state and the Pala Tribe in Southern California will yield a compact that can be extended to cover all casinos in the state. If the negotiations aren't successful, tribes may close for a time while they re-configure their slots and video poker to pay out on a shared-risk "pari-mutuel" system.
"The machines themselves may be identical except for the payout structure," said Dale Risling, chairman of the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council, which operates the Lucky Bear Casino.
The legal status of tribal gaming is also much on the minds of Big Lagoon residents who oppose the Big Lagoon Rancheria's casino development. While the legal status of Indian gaming remains tenuous, it's unlikely the stalled project will get the investors the tribe needs to continue building the casino.
Opponents of the casino -- and a second one under construction in Singley Road south of Eureka -- received support last month from the Board of Supervisors, which passed a resolution urging the Interior Department to review the project's environmental impact.
In the May Journal ( "The New Majority"), it was reported that Supervisor Paul Kirk received $13,800 from gravel operators. This figure included $12,000 from timber companies Simpson, ARCO, Barnum and Pacific Lumber all of which mine or have mined gravel. Only $1,800 of the original figure came from companies whose principal business includes gravel mining.
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