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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Headwaters Land Swap

Air Date: Week of

The Clinton administration is hailing its land deal with the Maxxam Corporation to save 7,500 acres of redwood forest in northern California. But some environmentalists say it's a raw deal for the public. Steve talks with Cecelia Landman, project director of the Environmental Protection Information Center which has spent the last decade fighting to prevent logging in the headwaters.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. After months of talks negotiators for the Clinton Administration say they have a tentative agreement with a corporation that's intended to prevent logging in parts of California's Headwaters Forest. Under the deal, 7,500 acres of redwood forest will be acquired by the government for protection. In exchange, Maxxam Incorporated, which owns the land, is to receive cash and government forest worth roughly $380 million. The Headwaters contains about 3,500 acres of old growth redwoods in northern California, the last remaining such forest held in private hands. It's also home to 3 endangered species including the marbled murellet. The Headwaters has been the site of many angry, often violent confrontations between loggers and conservationists. While Clinton Administration and company officials are hailing the pact as a win-win deal, others are calling it a sell-out. Among them is Cecelia Landman. She's project director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. The group has spent the last decade fighting to prevent logging in the Headwaters. Ms. Landman, the Department of the Interior says it's protecting as much land as it can under the Endangered Species Act. But you say this is not a good deal for the public. Why?

LANDMAN: Well, we don't like the deal because at this time, the deal will simply put a 10-month moratorium on 2 of the growths that are threatened with logging. And as we've worked to protect this area we found that all these areas, all the groves, are important for saving the endangered species that live there. For a number of years environmentalists have promoted protection of these virgin groves, all 6 of them, in addition to a larger area, to create an ecosystem preserve that would enhance and recover the species. And we feel that the Department of Interior has the duty and the mandate to recover species, and we feel that they should be looking at a much larger area to protect.

CURWOOD: So you're saying that this deal only covers 2 out of 6 groves that you think should be protected.

LANDMAN: That's correct.

CURWOOD: In order to protect the other old growth forest, how many acres of Maxxam's land would you set aside?

LANDMAN: Well, we've estimated that at least 12,000 acres, which really isn't that much more, need to be protected in order to begin to stop the logging of their nesting areas. And then we feel that in order to reverse the trend of destruction there needs to be a restoration plan to help bring the fish back into our streams and give the workers jobs to create an economic transition in our community.

CURWOOD: And you're also saying that this deal only works for 10 months? I understood that this was a done deal in terms of these 2 groves, that if the land swaps are approved by Congress and the legislature there in California, that at least those 2 groves are protected. That's not so?

LANDMAN: Well, the way the deal stands now, the groves that they have identified would only be traded for permanent protection in the event that the Federal Government and the state can agree with Charles Hurwitz, the owner of the company, on the way that he can manage his lands for up to another 100 years. This planning process would be condensed into a 10-month period, where they would come up with the plan and then the public would have a very short time to review this plan. And if Hurwitz likes the plan, then he would go through with the deal. Otherwise, the whole deal could be called off on as much as 2 weeks notice.

CURWOOD: So you're saying there's not really a deal here. This is simply a delaying tactic that buys 10 months time for these 2 particular groves?

LANDMAN: That's correct. A lot of old growth redwood is still being cut down. And they are logging in areas that should be protected for the marbled murellet. Maybe I should explain for a minute what the marbled murellet is. It's a very small seabird and it spends a great deal of its time on the sea, but it nests in the tops of old growth forest that grow along the coast.

CURWOOD: What do you think the government should be doing here? Two parcels and a 10-month moratorium is not enough? What do you think will be sufficient?

LANDMAN: Well, right now the Federal Government has the authority to enforce the Endangered Species Act, and if they were doing so to the letter and spirit of the law, they would be looking at these other areas that are threatened with logging. They're touting this planning process as being the ultimate means by which they can save this endangered species, but unfortunately in the meantime the nesting areas are being cut down, and we're very afraid that by the time the planning process is over, there will be very little habitat left.

CURWOOD: The government has not done a good job of negotiating here as far as you're concerned?

LANDMAN: Well, for one thing these negotiations took place behind closed doors, and the parties to the negotiations did not include members of the public or people who work in the community here, but I do believe that in an effort to find a politically expedient solution, that they have really missed the boat.

CURWOOD: Cecilia Landman is project director for the Environmental Protection Information Center. She spoke to us from her home near Garberville, California. Thanks for your time today, Ms. Landman.

LANDMAN: You're welcome.



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