By Ucilia Wang
The Press Democrat
December 16, 2000

For 13 years, the residents of Comptche have wanted to save a piece of forest outside their windows.

Just in time for Christmas, they've finally gotten their wish.

Under a deal announced this week, the Mendocino Redwood Co. has permanently given up logging rights to 90 acres of forest that form a scenic backdrop for this Mendocino County town.

``It's so close you can almost touch it,'' said Judy Garratt, a Comptche resident, gazing at the forest from her home. ``We are beyond happy. It's a significant gift.''

Under an agreement with the Santa Rosa-based Pacific Forest Trust, the company will retain ownership of the forest but will give the conservation trust the rights to timber harvesting and development on the property.

``We hold those rights to ensure that they won't be used,'' said Laurie Wayburn, president of the forest trust.

The conservation plan also will be in place no matter who the future property owners are.

The forest of redwood and Douglas fir stands on a steep hillside on the southern edge of downtown Comptche, which is composed mostly of a post office, church, school and market. The town's population is 500.

The forest hasn't been logged since the early 1900s, and the Albion River, a salmon spawning ground, runs through part of the land.

Garratt, who also is the president of the Comptche Land Conservancy, and other townspeople began the campaign to preserve the land 13 years ago.

The conservancy first worked with Louisiana-Pacific Corp., which owned the forest, and hired the Pacific Forest Trust as a consultant.

Garratt said Louisiana-Pacific was receptive to the conservancy's bid to buy some of its land, but the two sides took a long time to negotiate the details of an agreement.

© 2000 The Press Democrat