Eric Brazil
The San Francisco Examiner
November 18, 2000

Mendocino Redwood Co., under fire from environmental activists since acquiring 232,000 acres of North Coast timberland in 1998, has received certification of its forest management practices from an independent evaluator so tough that even Greenpeace likes its findings.

The Forest Stewardship Council of Washington, D.C., said that Mendocino Redwood's evaluation by teams of independent scientists and forestry experts meets the timber industry's highest standards.

Just two other major California timber firms - Collins Pine of Westwood and Big Creek Logging of Davenport - have been certified by the council. Mendocino is the largest of the three.

When Mendocino Redwood acquired the property from Louisiana-Pacific, it pledged to attempt sustainable logging practices - the opposite of L-P's oft-criticized penchant for clearcutting.

But it has been under steady criticism nevertheless from activists in the Albion River watershed, in part because it is owned by the Fisher family, which also owns the Gap. Activists have demonstrated at the Gap's Market Street stores against Mendocino Redwoods' logging practices.

Activist leader Beth Bosk of the Watershed Group was unimpressed by the certification. "They're no better than L-P, but they're cagier," she said Friday. "They're using herbicides and tearing up oak as fast as they can," causing unnecessary damage to the Albion River watershed and imperiling endangered coho salmon, Bosk said.

But Mike Roselle, a founder of Earth First who now works with Greenpeace in Washington, D.C., on forest issues, said that despite some initial mistakes "they've reduced the harvest level and rejected clearcut forestry. . . . I think this is an attempt at sustainable forestry, but it depends on how it's implemented and how carefully managed. It's still going to be a working forest. I would have preferred a national park and restore it to its natural state. But that never was an option here."

Seven other environmental organizations, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness Society and CalTrout have acknowledged Mendocino Redwoods' certification.

Mendocino Redwoods is producing some 40 million board feet of timber a year from its land, Chairman Sandy Dean said. "Certified wood" figures to fetch a premium in the market, because some large-scale buyers, such as Home Depot, have indicated that they will stop selling items made of wood from forests that have not been certified.

Dean also noted that Mendocino Redwoods has begun a pilot program to experiment with carbon sequestration on 300 acres, wherein producers of carbon dioxide will pay a forest owner to retain trees to soak up excess carbon and thereby retard global warming.

The problem, Dean said, is that "it's a little bit of a chicken and egg thing. We don't yet have a buyer for the carbon credits." Nevertheless, Mendocino Redwoods has signed a formal memorandum of understanding with a firm called Carbon Trading and Trust that obligates it "to manage this specific piece of property in a manner that will maximize carbon sequestered."