Maxxam/Pacific Lumber (PL) is trying to begin clearcutting the second largest intact stand of lowland old-growth Douglas Fir in California - Rainbow Ridge in the Mattole River watershed of the Lost Coast. Rainbow is among the ten largest areas of privately-held ancient forests in the entire Pacific Northwest. This logging would fragment 3,000 acres of ancient forests by clearcutting nearly 350 acres in over 30 units spread throughout the North Fork Mattole basin. This is the first of the so-called "sacrifice zones" in which PL is allowed, under the terms of the Headwaters Deal Habitat Conservation Plan to ignore the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Despite the ESA exemption, the devastation of this old-growth forest is illegal on numerous grounds.
The North Fork Mattole is home to Coho salmon and steelhead trout, river otters, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, pacific fishers, and a small rural community. It is a pristine, remote, very steep and rugged mix of forest and prairie, and receives an average of 100 inches of rainfall annually, much in concentrated deluges. It is also one of the most seismically active regions in the US. Continuing landslides occur from 1985 clearcuts, generating enormous quantities of sediment into this impaired river system. The Mattole provides habitat for the only chinook runs still using coastal streams between the Sacramento and Eel rivers. Dozens of runs have been extirpated over the last forty years. This makes it even more critical that the Mattole chinook stocks survive. Without them, the possibility of restoring runs to other streams in California is very unlikely.
This year seven Timber Harvest Plans (THP's) have been making their way through the bureaucracy for logging on and around Rainbow. Although several of these plans are contiguous, both Maxxam and the California Dept. of Forestry (CDF) are dealing with them individually, as if there are no cumulative effects to clearcutting hundreds of acres ancient forests on steep slopes in earthquake country. Surprise, surprise.
Approval of these illegal plans was virtually guaranteed following a January 18th meeting with Susan Kennedy, (Governor Gray Davis' Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff), Maxxam DC lobbyist Tommy Boggs (who netted a $30 million commission for greasing the skids of the Headwaters Forest Deal), PL Exec. VP and General Counsel Jared Carter, and the Directors and key Deputies of the CDF and Cal. Dept. of Fish & Game. At that meeting Kennedy and Maxxam told the agencies to "bend over backwards" to approve these clearcuts and "back off" attempts to protect fish and wildlife according to the dictates of state law, (See PEER's report at http://188.8.131.52/press/124.html). Gov. Davis has thus shown how he backs up his campaign pledge to ensure that "wetlands are preserved, rivers are clean, and all old-growth trees are spared from the lumberjack's ax."
The first of the seven plans - THP 1-99-475HUM - was approved in early September, but temporarily stopped in court by EPIC, the Petrolia-based Lost Coast League and the Humboldt Watershed Council. Unfortunately, that temporary stay was lost in early November, and on Nov. 10th, Columbia Helicopter employees, under contract to Maxxam/PL went in to begin logging. However, the Columbia workers (mostly from Oregon), were rather surprised to be met deep in the woods by over a dozen local forest defenders. At the end of day, after tired sheriffs had been trudging up and down the hills trying to catch the spry forest defenders, only one tree had been cut. However, two valiant activists, Soma and Iguana, had suffered at the "hands of justice" when the sheriffs pepper sprayed them in the face for attempting to engage the workers in dialogue. Although loggers were expected throughout that weekend, as is the Maxxam-style of PL management, none showed.
Around twenty Mattole community members rallied at PL's Monument Gate early Monday morning Nov. 13th, awaiting the arrival of the timber fallers. As dawn was breaking, the skies opened and rain and hail began falling. No fallers showed that day either. By the end of that day, the 20+ defenders now in the woods, were camped out among 4 inches of freshly fallen snow. Forest defense in the woods has continued to grow, despite the incredible hike into the area and the extreme weather conditions for this part of coastal California. (How well would those tough Wild Rockies guys do in the damp cold of the Coast?!) On Monday, Nov. 20th, another 35 people waited at Monument Gate, this time, PL's head security goon, Carl Anderson was there with a few sheriff's deputies, but still no fallers.
We continue to pray for rain, as neither Maxxam nor the sheriffs can use the seasonal roads on Long Ridge and Rainbow Ridge for timber operations until 48 hours after the last rains (or snow!). Columbia can airlift their guys in, but they can't even drive around on ATVs once they're out there. So far, they haven't resorted to airlifts, although it certainly does not seem beyond Maxxam's MO.
Meanwhile, the other timber harvest plans are still in the pipeline. 00-218 proposed salvaging 33 acres that were illegally cut in 1998, when the courts told Maxxam three times they could not remove the logs. It was approved on 9/19 and has since been completed. This plan also included a 1/2-acre clearcut, the same area that forest defenders protected in 1998, clearly a "spite cut" on Maxxam/PL's part.
THP's 00-020 and 00-031 were approved recently and are currently held up in court. Approval is likely to happen soon on 98-260, with 00-309 and 00-342 following closely behind. All of these plans combined will badly damage this beautiful stand of old-growth Douglas fir.
Community members are working to protect this forest on many fronts: in the woods, in the courts, and finally, by buying it outright. The long-term vision for Rainbow is to purchase the 14,000-acre North Fork Mattole lands from PL to protect the ancient forests and other areas of high conservation value, while managing the cut-over lands and rangelands in an ecologically responsible manner. This acquisition is unique in that it is proposing to keep the land private (not giving it to the feds), for long-term community management.
For more info and regular alerts, check back regularly. If you can help the woods, call the Mattole
Forest Defenders hotline at 707-441-3828, actions will likely be happening
all winter, unless a voluntary moratorium is offered.
POB 117, Petrolia, CA 95558.