Ex-Official wants logging suspended

By Mike Geniella
The Press Democrat
December 2, 1998

Ukiah - Former Mendocino County Supervisor Norman de Vall wants the new owners of former Louisiana-Pacific Corp. timberlands to mothball local sawmills, lay off hundreds of workers and "let the land heal itself."

De Vall was a leading liberal on the county Board of Supervisors for 16 years until he stepped down in 1994.

His comments Tuesday drew immediate fire from current board members, including his successor, and representatives of the new ownership, who complained the former supervisor and a cadre of coastal activists continue to misrepresent the issues.

"What can I say?" I hope other people in the county might feel differently, "said Mendocino Redwood Co. President Sandy Dean about De Vall's comments.

Dean is a partner in an investment group led by San Francisco's Fisher family that bought L-P's lands in July and formed the new company based in Ukiah. Mendocino Redwoods employs 450 mill workers. An estimated 300 more timber fallers and truck drivers work for the company under contract.

On Tuesday, de Vall chastised Dean and Fisher representatives for failing to sufficiently scale back future timber harvest operations. He defended coastal activists' national campaign against the Fisher family's Gap clothing store chain, which was launched Friday.

De Vall denounced as a ruse the new owners' promises of long-term stewardship of the heavily cut timberlands, contending that in reality the new company is continuing L-P's timber harvest practices.

"It's all a farce, " de Vall said.

Noting that the old L-P timber holdings are made up of more than 1200 legally separate parcels, de Vall said, "This is the biggest coastal real estate deal since the Sea Ranch. After the trees are gone, they're going to sell it off piece by piece.

But de Vall's comments were disputed by his successor on the board and other county and state representatives.

Supervisor Charles Peterson said his former political associate is way off base.

"Mendocino Redwood Co. is promising to do all the things proponents of better logging practices have advocated for years. We need to give them a chance, "Peterson said.

Peterson said until the Fisher family entered the bidding for L-P's lands, "None of the options were good for Mendocino County."

Supervisor John Pinches criticized de Vall and coastal activists for continually "raising the ante" on forestry issues.

"They won't be satisfied until every last tree is off limits. It doesn't matter to them that this new company offers an opportunity for the county to finally have its timber resources managed for the long term, " Pinches said. "We need those jobs."

Richard Wilson, state director of the Department of Forestry, said Tuesday that Mendocino Redwoods should be applauded for its announced plans to cut at a rate advocated by proponents of strict local logging rules in the early 1990's.

Wilson, a long time Mendocino County rancher and timberland owner, said only time will tell whether Mendocino Redwoods can deliver on it promises to cut in balance with new tree growth, and retain jobs. "

But I do know they're saying the right things, and I honestly believe we should be thankful that we have a new company willing to take the risks associated with long-term investments," Wilson said. "I think Mendocino County people need to give them time and encouragement."