May/June 1999 | Volume 50, Issue 3
This just occurred in March 1999, when the Maxxam Corporation of Houston was paid $480 million by the federal government and the state of California for 10,000 acres of ancient redwoods in Humboldt County’s Headwaters Grove. John Steinbeck called Sequois sempervirens , our Pacific Coast redwoods, “ambassadors from another time.” Unfortunately, the sad fact is that 130 years of logging have eliminated 95 percent of California’s giant coastal redwoods, which are a prize luxury timber because they don’t rot. The March deal did not save Humboldt County’s redwoods; it created a “tree museum.” By allowing Maxxam to continue speed-logging in adjacent property, the deal failed to protect the wildlife habitat of such endangered specics as murrelcts, spotted owls, coho salmon, and Pacific giant salamanders. The rape of Humboldt County continues because the government purchased only 10,000 acres of the Maxxam Corporation’s land; the remaining 211,000 acres will eventually meet the buzz saw. Disparage its members as tree buggers if you like, but Earth First! and the Environmental Protection Information Center are correct about the need to save what Jack London deemed “the most unthinkably glorious body of timber to be seen anywhere.” Currently these magnificent trees are being speedlogged so the Japanese can enjoy redwood decks, lawn furniture, and home saunas.
On November 12, 1980, just a week after losing his hid for re-election. President Jimmy Carter sent Congress the most sweeping environmental legislation in U.S. history. “Americans will never see a huffalo herd again,” Rep. Morris K. Udall (D.-Ariz.) declared in support of the hill, “and if we are not wise today, our grandchildren will not be able to see a caribou herd. This is the test of our congressional careers. This will be the most important vote we cast.” The Alaska lands bill, signed into law on December 2, more than doubled the size of America’s national parks and wildlife refuges and almost tripled the amount of U.S. land designated as wilderness. It also protected twenty-five tree-flowing Alaskan rivers in their natural state, doubling the size of the wild and scenic river system. The legislation was hailed as a miracle by many environmentalists. Carter considered the Alaska lands bill and the Clamp David Accords two of his greatest accomplishments as President. The historian Roderick Nash, in his brilliant Wilderness and the American Mind, deemed the bill “the most expansive action ever taken for wilderness and associated values at any one time in world history.”