Time running out for redwoods deal
September 27, 1996
Web posted at: 4:45 a.m. EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- If the U.S. government can't make a
deal with a private timber company, thousands of ancient
northern California redwood trees will start coming down
Charles Hurwitz, a Texas financier, agreed to delay the start
of logging for two weeks in a virgin 3,000-acre portion of
the Headwaters Redwood Forest in northern California, the
nation's largest privately held tract of redwoods. But if no
deal is reached by Monday, logging will begin in earnest.
The prospect of thousands of trees falling to the wayside has
rallied environmental activists throughout the region.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Deputy Interior Secretary
John Garamendi and California State Resources Secretary Doug
Wheeler have been negotiating in earnest to find a reasonable
exchange that will make Hurwitz abandon his plans to sell the
trees as lumber.
Even former California Gov. Jerry Brown got into the debate,
offering his own radical suggestion to save the trees. "You
plant 100 marijuana plants in the Headwaters and you know
what the federal government would do -- confiscate the
forest. So you know what to do," he said.
But the government only has until Monday. Once the September
29 deadline passes -- no agreement, no more holding back.
Fueled by their passion to save the trees, sympathizers in
the north have strung themselves across the canopy of 200-
foot-tall trees in hopes of stopping the chainsaws.
For many, the Headwaters and the redwoods represent the heart
and soul of the environmental movement; this round of legal
maneuvering represents their last glimmer of hope.
Earlier this month, 897 people were arrested in one of the
largest one-day mass arrests ever in California.
Other environmentalists are using an unusual legal strategy
to slow down Hurwitz and his company, MAXXAM Inc., by
attempting to freeze his assets.
Hurwitz once owned United Savings Association of Texas, a
savings-and-loan institution that failed, costing taxpayers
"We know that MAXXAM will say that they need to log now to
use profits to pay off the debts," said Jill Ratner, an
Others have suggested that the U.S. government offer to swap
the redwood forest in exchange for forgiving Hurwitz' $1.6
But MAXXAM spokesman Robert Irelan refused to acknowledge a
link between the savings-and-loan issue and the redwoods.
"There is no debt. That is a non-starter as far as we're
concerned," he said.
Still, company spokesmen say they are willing to bargain to
preserve the ancient redwood grove.
There are a number of options, one being that the government
could give the company other less environmentally sensitive
land in return for protecting the redwoods.
"We would swap the Headwaters," Irelan confirmed, "if what we
got in return was just compensation."
But if no resolution is reached Monday, the chainsaws will
fire up -- and the protesters will be there, doing
everything they can to stop them.
Correspondent Rusty Dornin and Reuters contributed to this report.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
Some newsgroups may not be supported by your service provider.