Pacific Lumber Plans Thrown Out by Court (Fwd)
kmorrisd at aol.com
Mon Mar 15 22:26:05 EST 1999
This is from the Activist list. KMD
March 14, 1999
366 California Ave. #7
Palo Alto, CA 94306
Contact: Adam Miller 650-851-1147
Michael Evenson 707-629-3679
For Immediate Release:
PACIFIC LUMBER LOGGING PLANS THROWN OUT BY COURT
Judge Blasts Department of Forestry for Abuse of Discretion
Following close on the heels of the government's acquisition of the
Headwaters Forest from the Pacific Lumber Company, a Humboldt County
Superior Court Judge ordered the California Department of Forestry (CDF)
to rescind approval of two Pacific Lumber Company timber harvest plans
in Northern California.
On March 9, Judge W. Bruce Watson ruled that CDF's approval of plans to
clearcut nearly 200 acres of old growth Douglas-fir above Sulphur Creek
in the Mattole River watershed, violate state law. Watson wrote in his
decision "CDF's failure to meaningfully analyze, evaluate, consider, and
use the comments, opinions and recommendations of other public agencies,
experts within their fields, as the law requires is prejudicial abuse of
Serving as his own attorney, Michael Evenson, 53, filed the two lawsuits
in the summer of 1998. Evenson is a rancher who lives at the mouth of
the Mattole River near Petrolia, California (population 100), the
westernmost point in the continental United States.
"It's like David and Goliath," said Bob Martel of the Humboldt Watershed
Council. "A lone citizen, without a lawyer, prevailed in court against
an opponent as menacing as Pacific Lumber's owner, Charles Hurwitz, with
his legendary platoon of lawyers. These THPs would have affected the
entire community downstream. Homes and productive farmland would have
been washed away. This is a victory for everyone."
"Not only did these THPs threaten wildlife habitat, they threatened our
property." said Ellen Taylor of Petrolia, a grandmother of 56, who was
arrested, along with 20 other protesters, in August for blocking Pacific
Lumber's logging in the proposed THPs. "You don't need a Ph.D. to see
what happens when you log steep slopes: you get landslides. These
landslides are why our river is so full of gravel and silt. The salmon
can't spawn and the riverbanks are being undercut, which imperils our
The Mattole Valley is in the most seismically active terrain in the
country. The exceedingly steep slopes, highly erosive soils, and
rainfall of up to 200 inches make sustainable logging by clearcut
In his 18 page ruling, Judge Watson also said the cumulative impacts
assessment in the THPs as approved by CDF appear inadequate. "Both
[THPs] encompass a large portion of a small watershed that has been
seriously degraded, most likely due to cumulative adverse impacts caused
by a variety of land use practices [logging]," wrote Judge Watson.
This information has been known to CDF since at least 1990..." His
ruling confirms CDF does not have the expertise to make biological
decisions, and Watson's decision will likely affect approval of other
timber harvest plans in areas where the risk of landslides is a concern.
The agencies were unanimous in their determinations that the area is
extremely unstable, and that logging on slopes as steep as 80% increased
the likelihood of landslides that would, in turn threaten the dwindling
populations of the endangered coho salmon. Watson cited the objections
raised by state Department of Fish and Game, National Marine Fisheries
Service, North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, Environmental
Protection Agency and US Geological Survey.
Watson wrote "CDF is mandated by law to consider the concerns expressed,
and address those concerns, by either finding they are without
foundation, which appears unlikely given the record, or account for
concerns, which accounting is supported by the record. In [these THPs]
CDF did neither, that failure is an abuse of discretion."
Attorneys for both CDF and for Pacific Lumber claimed that the Habitat
Conservation Plan accepted as a condition of the Headwaters acquisition,
would provide adequate protection for Sulphur Creek, and that it
included higher standards of protection than existing state law
Judge Watson did not agree. He wrote: "Irrespective of the [HCP]
agreement, however, given the substantial concerns expressed by the
other agencies, CDF would have been remiss in approving [the THPs] in
Judge Watson ruled in favor of Evenson on all counts, and awarded court
"After a decade of liquidation logging, Pacific Lumber doesn't have any
old growth forest left to cut that doesn't endanger species and
downstream residents." said Evenson. "There's nothing to cut but the
steepest, most landslide-prone slopes."
"CDF can no longer rubber stamp THPs, disregarding the concerns of the
regulatory agencies." Bob Martel explained. "They should defer to the
determinations of wildlife agencies charged with the protection of
public trust values."
"This decision isn't just a victory for salmon and neighbors." said
Evenson. "It's also a victory for Pacific Lumber employees who's very
future is jeopardized by unsustainable logging practices. Every
hillside they've logged surrounding these THPs is riddled with
landslides. Trees don't grow on landslides. Judge Watson reminded us
that the law has the future of timber workers in mind."
"You can't have sustainable timber jobs without practicing sustainable
forestry." said Evenson.
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