By Jake Rossen
By Jesse Marx
By Michelle LeBow
By Alleen Brown
By Maggie LaMaack
By CP Staff
By Jesse Marx
In exchange for giving back their contracts to log ancient forests in nesting habitat of the marbled murrelet, the timber industry was given the rights to cut an equivalent amount of volume from less controversial tracts of forest. These sales had been halted by a court injunction. As a result, the companies (some of which had been investigated for timber fraud) get the logs they want without pesky contentions over the murrelet, and with the support of the White House. The timber will still be old growth, but because it will be on less productive sites it will require perhaps twice as many acres of forest to be clearcut to get the "equivalent volume" promised the timber companies.
Clinton claimed to be saving the old-growth trees from the chainsaws, but he failed to mention the reason for their plight: a bill he signed into law last July called the salvage logging rider, which doomed old-growth on the national forests and exempted the timber companies from compliance with federal environmental laws. This sleight of hand prompted Michael Donnelly, an environmentalist from Salem, Oregon, to proclaim at the Portland rally, "Clinton saved the old growth the way Reagan balanced the budget."
§ As exultant as the timber companies in Oregon is Charles Hurwitz, owner of the Headwaters Grove in Northern California. The administration is now prepared to settle pending claims against him for the looting of the United Savings Association of Texas. In exchange, Hurwitz would turn over the core of the Headwaters grove and a small buffer area, probably no more than 5,200 acres. The remaining 55,000 acres of magnificently handsome 1,000-year-old redwoods will be shredded to make lawn furniture.
In early September, the speculator holed up in a San Francisco office building with Senator Dianne Feinstein and Deputy Interior Security John Garamendi, who assured him that a favorable deal would go forward. Feinstein emerged from the meeting to denounce a demonstration against Hurwitz scheduled to take place in the mill town of Carlotta the next day. "Threats and intimidation and that kind of thing [aren't] going to solve this problem," she declared.
Nearly 8,000 people ignored her advice and showed up to demand that all 60,000 acres of the Headwaters forest complex be taken into public ownership; more than 1,000 people were arrested, including singers Bonnie Raitt and Don Henley and former Congressman Dan Hamburg.
After the rally, Hurwitz upped the ante. He summoned Garamendi to a meeting in Washington, D.C., where the corporate raider said that if the administration didn't come forward with an even better deal in a week, he was going to order the cutting of the ancient redwoods. "This is America," Hurwitz boasted. "We paid for this forest. We paid taxes on it. The government needs to pay us not to log them." The government folded. Hurwitz is to receive $380 million in cash and federal properties in exchange for turning over to the federal government only 4,200 acres of the 66,000 acre Headwaters forests. Moreover, the Clinton administration agreed to give Hurwitz's company an exemption from the Endangered Species Act so that the remaining stands can be clearcut with legal impunity. The company is now logging in the remaining stands of old growth redwoods.
To be fair, Clinton has never made a strenuous effort to offer himself as the heir to John Muir. The president's favorite view of nature is whatever sight can be glimpsed through the golden arches of his favorite fast food chain. Chalk these deals up to Al Gore, the Teflon veep and supposedly nature's friend. So far, he's led a charmed life. In whistle-stop politics, the press bus rarely returns to the scene of the crime.