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My Word: Best Palco solution would be a compromise by Saul Steinberg

By Saul Steinberg
The Times-Standard
April 28, 2008

For the past 28 years, I have lived the saga of Pacific Lumber Co. as a special education teacher and vice principal of the Scotia Unified School District, and as a resident of Carlotta. I would like to weigh in on the present bankruptcy hearings.

I believe that the best solution is a compromise between the Mendocino Redwoods/Marathon plan and the Nature Conservancy/Save the Redwoods and community forest plans presently on the table before Judge Richard Schmidt in Texas.

The towns of Scotia/Rio Dell, Stanwood A. Murphy Elementary School, and the general Humboldt County community need the stability offered by the Mendocino Redwoods Plan. It maintains the town, the mill and the timberlands in a strategy consistent with the past 100 years.

At the same time, Save the Redwoods League has a long history of preserving old growth forests, and the Nature Conservancy has established itself as a worldwide leader in the ongoing struggle for carbon credits, forestland and landowners’ rights.

The community interests represented by the Mattole Restoration Council, the Humboldt Watershed Council and the Van Duzen Community Forest groups have all spent decades defending the watersheds in which they live.

Presently, the bankers/investors own notes for the forest. It is immoral that Maxxam took $500 million from the federal and state governments and never reduced the loan while cutting over $2 billion worth of timber and devastating communities.

So, where do we stand? Mendocino Redwoods has done an admirable job with public relations. They have defined a situation in which jobs can be maintained, the Scotia community remains intact, the school functions and timber harvesting moves toward a sustainable level without clear cutting or removal of critical old growth habitat.

The sooner that this happens the better, as Pacific Lumber Co. has been harvesting residual old growth from the Van Duzen at Root Creek and Cummings Creek, as well as submitting new plans to CDF to harvest old growth adjacent to the parks near the Avenue of the Giants. Mendocino Redwoods is a very viable option!

Save the Redwoods and the Nature Conservancy also have capital to conserve key ecological forests in the Mattole, the Van Duzen, Elk/Freshwater, especially adjacent to county and state parks. Local community members who know their watersheds can contribute their knowledge to this process, and to sustainability, working community forests and restoration.

Mendocino Redwoods would become the major landowner of the most significant percentage of forestland up to 80 percent. Save the Redwoods and the Nature Conservancy would make purchases of 15-25 percent of the most pristine and vital forestlands. Then we have a working company and a future plan for conservation, preservation and restoration.

Payment could be directed to the creditors, the timber note holders and local companies like Steve Wills Trucking at the highest dollar level. If a half-billion dollars was good enough for Headwaters, another half-billion dollars or so more should put us back on track.

Forget the auction idea of giving the forests to the highest bidder. Who might these bidders be?

This concept is flawed because we’ve already had one horrific owner, and we need dependable stewards for our forests and streams. The concept of a bidding auction also shows a serious neglect for the town and the community of Scotia.

I think that everyone is ready to move on to a new era in Humboldt County history that does not include Maxxam! Lets hope they can reach decisions in Texas to bring positive change to Pacific Lumber Co. for the next hundred years.

Saul Steinberg is a longtime teacher and administrator in Scotia, community coordinator for Friends of the Van Duzen, field manager for the Van Duzen Watershed Project Water Quality Control Board State grant, and ran for Second District supervisor in 2004. He resides in Carlotta.

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