Headwaters deal gets tougher

  A deal intended to protect the world's largest stand of privately owned old-growth redwoods, the Northern California grove known as the Headwaters Forest, got a makeover in the California Legislature. On Aug. 31, the state Senate voted to require stricter environmental standards on Pacific Lumber's surrounding private land.

The Headwaters Forest has been at the center of a nationwide controversy for over a decade. In September 1996, President Clinton and Charles Hurwitz, the Texas corporate raider who took over Pacific Lumber in 1986, struck a deal: For $380 million, the federal government and the state of California would buy the 3,000-acre Headwaters grove from Hurwitz.

As part of the bargain, the company agreed to complete a Habitat Conservation Plan for 200,000 acres of its private forest land.

Environmentalists said the plan, released in July, was severely inadequate, especially in its protection of endangered coho salmon runs. In a vote of 29-5, the state Senate supported significantly tougher protections for the private land, says Jeff Shellito, consultant to the Senate committee on Headwaters.

The bill requires several changes to the plan, including 100-foot buffer zones along salmon streams, before the state will chip in its $130 million share of the buyout. The Senate also allocated $100 million to purchase another 9,500 acres of Pacific Lumber redwoods, including groves known as the "lesser cathedrals," and $15 million to offset the economic impact of the buyout on Humboldt County.

*Michelle Nijhuis

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