Hours before the final deadline, Pacific Lumber agreed to accept federal and state funds totaling nearly a quarter billion dollars in exchange for the Headwaters Forest, over 10,000 acres including the largest unprotected grove of ancient redwoods in the world.

After many years of tough negotiations, protection is ensured in Humbolt County, California for 7,500 acres of redwoods in the Headwaters Forest and 4,500 acres more as a “buffer” zone. Included is about 3,000 acres of old-growth redwoods, many of which are more than 1,000 years old and more than 300 feet high.

In addition, a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) establishes conditions which Pacific Lumber must comply with when it logs on 210,000 acres of nearby land. Those restrictions will include a ban on logging in 12 so-called “lesser” cathedrals, which include about 8,000 acres of old-growth redwoods. Pacific Lumber will also be restricted from logging in “no-cut” buffers on streams.

The HCP, developed in compliance with the Endangered Species Act, protects a number of endangered species, including the marbled murrelet, a small bird which nests in old-growth redwoods, and the coho salmon of the streams, although some environmental scientists would prefer stricter water quality standards to further benefit the Salmon.

The Sierra Club characterized the deal as “a big step forward in protecting the ancient forests,” and it praised the efforts of Governor Gray Davis and senators in the state that helped to raise $100 million to buy additional lands.

Pacific Lumber, whose stock rose almost 24% after the announcement, said it was given “assurances” that it could remain viable as a local business and employer of 130 years. “Years of work went into this agreement but, it was worth it,” read their statement, which described the deal as “truly a compromise.”

Secretary Bruce Babbitt thanked the U.S. Congress for “having the foresight” to provide $250 million dollars for “this gift to future generations.” President Clinton praised the work of Davis, Senator Diane Feinstein, and the “tireless efforts” of the negotiators for enshrining the “majesty and awe of the Headwaters… and the web of life it sustains.”

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