Editorial: A win for redwoods
San Francisco Chronicle
April 7, 2008
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is sending the right message to a Texas bankruptcy court considering the fate of Pacific Lumber: It’s time to remove a corporate raider as king of 200,000 acres of redwood trees.
The governor doesn’t have a direct role in deciding the fate of the financially ailing company, the state’s largest supplier of redwood lumber. But his recommendation that a next-door timber firm, the Mendocino Redwood Company, is best suited to take over is a powerful sign to a federal bankruptcy judge.
If the governor’s wish becomes reality, it would turn the page on a long-running dispute in Humboldt County. Corporate raider Charles Hurwitz used junk bonds to buy Pacific Lumber in 1986, but the debt demands led him to step up timber cuts. Protests led the state to cut a deal with Hurwitz: For $480 million he would sell a prized redwood grove and agree to timber cutting restrictions on the rest of his holdings.
But Hurwitz was still unable to make money, leading to the present bankruptcy. The governor’s action -based on a concern for future timber cuts, logging jobs and the fate of local creditors – could clarify the case, which is anything but a typical bankruptcy.
The move also settles a political choice facing Schwarzenegger over whether to back the Mendocino firm, owned by billionaire Fisher family who are political donors to him, or former Gov. Pete Wilson, who was leading another bankruptcy bidder.
The governor’s choice remains the right one. It indicates that his administration is fed up with Hurwitz’s management and wants an end to the endless battles over timber cut plans. Also, on its own merits, the Mendocino company bid fits the governor’s guidelines in finding a new operator: a responsible owner that will harvest trees sustainably, keep locals working in forests and mills and even reduce greenhouse gases through future tree growth.
If the federal court agrees, the end could be in sight for a painful saga in redwood country.
This article appeared on page B – 4 of the San Francisco ChroniclePosted in PALCO | Tagged HRC, MRC |