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The Sierra Club Surrender

By Judi Bari - Anderson Valley Advertiser, March 20, 1991

Things got a little out of hand here in the redwood region last year. People chaining themselves to logging equipment, throwing themselves in front of bulldozers, or marching 2000 strong through Fort Bragg shouting "Earth First! Profits Last!" A local grassroots forestry reform initiative gaining statewide support and almost passing (but for the sabotage of the big money men, who are ultimately all on the same side). Lawsuits flying. Yellow ribbons waving. Fellerbunchers self-igniting and burning in the woods. Earth First!ers swimming in Harry Merlo's hot tub. Me getting bombed and not having the audacity to die. It was not an easy year for the timber companies. They managed to get out a record timber harvest, but at the expense of public opinion. Word got out that they are slaughtering the redwoods, and it's become a national, even international issue.

So the timber companies say they want to negotiate. They recognize that timber reform is inevitable, and they want to avoid another "costly initiative." They're afraid to even say the R-word, Redwood Summer, but you can be sure the protests are just as much on their minds. Anyway, in order to appear to negotiate without having to worry about actually changing their greedy timber practices, the money men have chosen Sierra Club State Rep Gail Lucas to represent the environmentalists. Lucas has little support, even among Sierra Club members. She sure doesn't represent the people who wrote the Forests Forever initiative, organized the Redwood Summer protests, or filed the grassroots lawsuits. Lucas' salary as a negotiator is being paid by money man Hal Arbit. And from the results of her negotiations, it looks like Gail Lucas is a better representative of Sierra Pacific then Sierra Club. Here are some of the key provisions of the "Forest Policy Agreement:"

Ancient Forests - This clause essentially allows for the destruction of the remaining ancient forests. The first time an ancient forest is logged, they can take 50% of the trees. The next time they can take 70%. If the forest was unentered before the first cut, they have to wait 25 years to do the second cut. Otherwise, there is no waiting period. But don't worry, our old growth is protected. They have to leave six mature trees per acre.

Sustained Yield - Sustained yield is defined as cutting no more than 2.2% of inventory each year (compared to 2%, as defined by the Mendocino County Forestry Advisory Council). And there is a 10-year "transition period" before these limits take effect, during which L-P and G-P [Louisiana-Pacific and Georgia-Pacific] can finish up and be outta here. Hey, 10 years is older than the average L-P tree! In fact, considering the already depleted state of their timber lands, this rule would virtually guarantee that they'd finish in 10 years. Just like they tried to cut every tree they could as fast as they could to beat the Forests Forever initiative last summer, you can be sure they'd complete their final cut before any sustained yield rules take effect.

Clearcutting - Clearcutting is defined as cutting more than 70% of volume. In other words, any cut that leaves 30% of the trees (even if all the conifers are cut and only hardwoods left) is not considered a clearcut. Clearcuts are allowed in 20 acre blocks, separated by buffers of equal size. No clearcuts are allowed withing 300 feet of county or state roads, where the tourists would see them.

Silviculture - This Agreement talks about volume only, without seriously addressing the silvicultural methods that are now destroying the forest. It allows 85% of the land to be even-age management, with no requirements to protect the diversity of age and species that are needed for the long-term survival of the forest. This Agreement also says nothing about the minimum age at which a tree can be cut, allowing L-P and G-P to continue slaughtering baby trees for chip fodder instead of letting them grow even long enough to be a sawlog. It allows 4-inch trees to be counted as cubic board feet for determining inventory.

And, of course, the Agreement contains no provisions whatsoever for the workers who are being displaced by the timber companies. Not one word. Not even an acknowledgement that all this is causing social and economic devastation in our communities. And it certainly makes no attempt to get the corporations to make reparations. Compare this to the more locally-based Mendocino County Forestry Advisory Committee. They proposed that, during a 5-year transition period to sustained yield, any logging that exceeded sustained yeild rates would be subject to a "stumpage tax" of 20%. This tax would be used to form a relief fund for displaced workers.

Gail Lucas' blindness to the needs of the workers and our community is not surprising, considering her own fat salary and privileged position. But "environmentalists" who show so little concern for such basic social issues make it easy for the timber companies to turn the workers' just fears into hatred of environmentalists. And, as we know only too well, this often translates into vigilante violence.

The Arbit-Lucas Agreement is so bad that even [State Senator] Barry Keene and [State Assemblymember] Dan Hauser won't give it unreserved support - not because they care about the forest, but because they know that such an abject surrender to Big Timber won't do a thing to stop the activism in our area. In fact, the grassroots authors of Forests Forever are announcing today that they are soliciting input for a new initiative. And of course Earth First! won't be deterred by such a transparent sellout.

About this time last year, Bosco, Keene and Hauser, the 3-headed lapdog, met behind closed doors with timber barons Charles Hurwitz and Harry Merlo. They wrote up a "timber pact" on the back of a napkin which they said would settle the timber wars. Of course it did no such thing. And neither will Gail Lucas' backroom deal. Like Karen Smith said in last week's (Anderson Valley Advertiser), you can't negotiate the temperature at which spawning creeks cease to be a viable habitat for salmon or steelhead. The underlying determinant is biology, not economics or politics. And the timber wars will continue until the timber companies stop destroying the forest.

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