Mendocino Humboldt Redwood Company, LLC
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PALCO

Redwood in a storm

By John Driscoll
The Times-Standard
July 28, 2008

Sometime today, God willing, the long brawl over the Pacific Lumber Co. should be over.

For more than 20 years, the timber giant has been stricken with controversy and pain that has radiated throughout our entire isolated community. One need only think back to the incredible and often sorrowful list of events that swirled around PL.

It began with Charles Hurwitz’s takeover, and on it went. Redwood summer. The bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. Endless tree sits. The spotted owl. The pepper spray fiasco and Rep. Frank Riggs. Julia Butterfly Hill. The Stafford slide. David Gypsy Chain. The District Attorney recall effort. The bankruptcy.

Such an incomplete list. PL took heat and dished it out like no other company I ever imagined.

It was one of the great environmental stories of our time, but I never relished any of it. To have so many people locked in conflict for so long with so little hope for reconciliation was devastating. Perhaps it was that the old PL had been so loved as a social and economic engine — a heart of sorts — that it was unacceptable for it to ever be any other way.

That may account for the way PL was seen by those who lived through the transition, those who had children and grandchildren born in Scotia and go on to work in the mill or in the woods, and for those who had dealings with PL in the old days.

But many a newcomer to Humboldt County found himself afloat on the seas that began to boil in 1985. I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes those who entered the public debate just since I’ve been here, and soon found themselves incinerated, spent, and forced to retreat.

That PL even has a chance to retain a portion of itself today is beyond what I thought possible, and indeed some hitch or glitch could upend it all. Twelve months ago, however, I would have said it was more likely the company would be auctioned off in a thousand pieces. I’m not sure if today’s likely outcome is the result of some great wisdom, heroism or plain luck, but maybe it doesn’t matter.

What matters most to many who still work at PL and in Scotia, is that it appears many will still have work in tough times. I wish all of them the best of luck and I hope that their marathon of anxiety comes quickly to an end.

In some way, most of us have been touched by PL, or perhaps by what it represents to us as individuals and to the place we call home. Maybe you know just what that is. I do not, at least not yet. Going onward, we will either learn, or fail to learn, from this long struggle.

If we choose to learn, maybe the first teaching is that hope doesn’t so easily surrender its grip, like a redwood in a storm.

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