Humboldt County, CA - In the home state of Maxxam, INC., the slogan is "don't mess with Texas." When it comes to their dealings in the Redwood country of Northern California, Maxxam's slogan is "he who has the gold rules." Maxxam CEO and billionaire Charles Hurwitz is a man of few words, but speaks loudly through his wicked logging plans. |
Bad logging and clear-cuts are pretty "run of the mill" for The Pacific Lumber Company (PL), a once friendly local timber operation turned county scourge after Texas financier Hurwitz and his Maxxam Corporation took the reigns in 1986. But now and again, the Maxxam controlled PL drafts a logging plan so arrogant and destructive that even the most callous cynic shudders at the thought of it.
By all appearances, Maxxam is attempting to extirpate the Marbled Murrelet, a seabird dependent on old-growth forests, while the company itself threatens to go the way of the dinosaur. Specifically, PL (under control of its multi-billion dollar parent company) is threatening bankruptcy due to a log shortage - the cause of which is a high logging rate imposed by Maxxam. Local residents, who've recognized Maxxam's pattern of taking over other companies (like Kaiser Aluminum) and driving them into the dirt, have predicted the PL bankruptcy for years based on breakneck logging that has turned the coveted Redwood forest into a land sliding, muddy mess.
Much of PL's 211,000 acres have already been converted from trees into cash. Now at the end game, Maxxam is targeting the most visible and valuable old-growth redwoods left in PL's holdings, which unfortunately are crucial for the survival of threatened and endangered plants and animals. Maxxam's latest scheme, called "Bonanza", is one such plan.
The 250-acre "Bonanza" Timber Harvest Plan, or "THP 05-097," is located one mile east of the PL-owned town of Scotia. 192 acres (or 77%) of the THP are occupied by the federally listed threatened bird. The old growth redwood groves, which biologists call the Nanning Creek Murrelet Complex, fill a small canyon from one ridge to the next straddling an un-named tributary of Nanning Creek which flows into the Eel River.
In the late '90's, nine unprotected Murrelet complexes were given a rating from lowest to highest quality based on their value to the Murrelets. The Nanning Complex rated the highest. That means the Nanning Creek Complex - Maxxam's "Bonanza" - is the largest, contiguous, unprotected occupied Murrelet stand left on PALCO land. And PALCO owns the largest unprotected Murrelet stands left on Earth.
Oddly, the largest threat to the continuation of the Marbled Murrelet is government agreement to habitat destruction. According to the Evaluation Report of the Five Year Status Review of the Marbled Murrelet in Washington, Oregon and California by the Forest Service, government deals with private parties seeking the "removal of hundreds of acres of suitable Murrelet habitat... encompasses the largest percent of habitat that would be lost or modified over time." Only 4,598 Murrelets exist in California according to the Review. Murrelet population suffers an annual 4-7% population decline due to low reproductive success, increased predation, oil spills, and habitat loss.
To be sure, the coming PL bankruptcy (if the threats pan out) will be a welcome opportunity for Northern California to be rid of the controlling reigns of Maxxam and allow PL to reorganize itself in a sustainable manner. But if Maxxam is allowed to destroy the Nanning Creek Murrelet Complex, the Murrelets will have no such opportunity to regain their numbers following the inevitable financial collision course set by Charles Hurwitz.
The California Department of Forestry is accepting public comment letters on Maxxam's "Bonanza" through July 8, 2005. Letters can be sent to:
Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection 135 Ridgeway Avenue Santa Rosa, CA 95401 ATT: Forest Practice
Include in your letter: "Re: THP#1-05-097HUM"
Or visit EPIC's website for a sample letter.
See Past Lawsuits I Maxxam's License to Kill Murrelets I About Murrelets