State permits Headwaters Hole area for logging

By Don Thompson The Associated Press
Wednesday October 24, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Pacific Lumber Company began logging in the Hole in the Headwaters area of Northern California Tuesday, days after state regulators gave it final permission. 

The company on Tuesday rejected proposals that it sell the land to the state or federal governments so it could be permanently preserved. 

Pacific Lumber began cutting what it said would be primarily second-growth, roughly 80-year-old redwood and Douglas fir on 595 acres within the Headwaters Forest area. 

The state purchased the Headwaters area of Humboldt County with its old-growth redwoods for $480 million nearly three years ago, but Pacific Lumber retained a 705-acre site in the middle dubbed the Hole in the Headwaters as part of the agreement. The company will not log 110 acres of the site under its state permit. 

The company received final permission to begin cutting Thursday from the State Water Resources Control Board. That ended a 2 1/2-year legal and regulatory battle, but the company said it expects environmental activists to attempt to block timber cutting. 

“It’s a damn shame. It’s an area that clearly should have been part of the original (Headwaters) acquisition,” said Paul Mason, executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center. 

The company, in a statement, said it is not interested in selling land it was allowed to log as partial compensation for selling other holdings under the Headwaters agreement. It said it already has invested tens of thousands of dollars in preparing to log the site but had been blocked from cutting a single tree until Tuesday. 

While Mason said the logging disrupts the Headwaters watershed, the company said a ridge separates the area from the most of the Headwaters Reserve. 

Mason also said objected that state regulators should have required the company to install water quality monitoring equipment before beginning logging.  

Water quality readings that will be required starting Dec. 1 could be tainted by erosion from logging operations until then, he said. 

The state water board rejected that option Thursday when it set the December deadline for Pacific Lumber and its affiliated Scotia Pacific Lumber Co. to begin monitoring the south fork of the Elk River. 

Company officials said they amended their plans over the last 2 1/2 years to add environmental protections beyond those required by state law. 

Cut trees will be airlifted by helicopter to an existing loading area, and the company’s permit bars new road construction until spring, when water quality monitoring equipment will be in place. The company also will repair more than 60 erosion problem spots along existing logging roads.