By Cameron Scott
San Francisco Chronicle
August 25, 2008
With the sale of Pacific Lumber Company to Don Fisher's Humboldt Redwood Company, the longstanding and fabled tree-sits of Humboldt County--home to some 40 percent of all remaining old-growth redwood forests--may be ending.
Humboldt Redwood Company has promised to embrace sustainable logging practices, and has engaged in direct talks with the current generation of tree-sitters. Logging is one of the most explosive environmental issues there is, pitting workers who may not have any job opportunities other than logging against environmentalists whose idealism sometimes becomes impractical intransigence. (The current emphasis on green-collar jobs stems from attempts to heal this rift.) So the rapprochement between the conservative Fisher family's company and the tree-sitters is an historic development.
It's also noteworthy that Humboldt Lumber made no attempt to publicize their efforts to win over the environmentalists, which the LA Times reported as a reason that the greens were persuaded of the company's sincerity. Those who push for companies to go greener are no longer fooled by cheap "greenwashing" PR attempts.
Sustainable logging is still a controversial undertaking. It's not easy to know how much wood companies can take from forests without seriously disrupting the ecosystem, and it's also difficult to verify that companies play by the rules in remote wildlands. The industry-backed Sustainable Forestry Inititative battles in the marketplace with the greener Forest Stewardship Council certification program. The debate surrounding sustainable logging is as good a barometer as any of the emergence of business practices that balance basic needs, like that for wood, with environmental sensitivity. And, yes Virginia, in most cases it is possible for logging companies to work sustainably and still turn a profit.