Attacks will discourage investors who want to be good stewards
The Press Democrat
November 20, 1998
One would have expected North Coast activists to welcome the Fisher family of San Francisco, new owners of 235,000 acres of timberland in Sonoma and Mendocino counties.
After all, the previous owner, Louisiana-Pacific Corp., was widely regarded as the most avaricious of timber cutters, often blamed by other companies for giving the industry a black eye.
And the Fishers arrived with a demonstrated record of environmental commitment. Here was a family that gave millions of dollars to environmental causes, a family with one member, Robert Fisher, who sat on the board of one of the country's most influential conservation groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Surely, people committed to environmental protection would give the new company, Mendocino Redwoods, time to prove its stewardship.
"...there is no question in my mind that this new company offers some real positive changes in how these lands are managed," veteran mill operator Art Harwood told staff writer Mike Geniella. "I think we have to give them time to show us what they really can do."
It wasn't to be. Six months later, activists are mounting attacks on the Fishers' business holdings - including the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic stores - because the family won't bow to every last demand.
With this experience, the Fisher family has learned a difficult lesson, which is that too many activists will never cut a timber company - any timber company- an even break.
This is the dogma: Don't bother us with the complexities of timber economics. Don't permit a fair hearing or adequate time to demonstrate commitment. All timber companies are bad.
So it goes. Environmentalists believe that such negative attacks always represent the most effective strategy.
But here's the problem: The next investor interested in managing resources in an environmentally sensitive way is going to think a long time about risking his or her money and putting his or her head on the block.
If the Fisher family takes this kind of public pounding, the next prospective investor will ask, what are the chances that I will get a fair shake?