College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

Ushering out tree-sitters, forestry alum ushers in a new era in Humboldt County

September 24, 2008

CNR Forestry alumnus Mike Jani has had a big transition on his hands this summer as the Mendocino Redwood Company took possession of the holdings of the bankrupt Pacific Lumber Company (PALCO) in Humboldt County, Calif. Jani is president and chief forester of Mendocino Redwood and its new subsidiary, Humboldt Redwood Company.

Among the issues handed over by PALCO were the last two tree-sitters living in the giant redwoods of Nanning Creek grove. The activists were part of a 20-year battle to protect old-growth redwood giants from PALCO's aggressive harvesting practices.

As reported by the Associated Press, the protesters agreed to come down after Jani hiked into the woods to meet the tree-sitters.

"I went out, looked at the trees, looked at the stand of trees that were around them and I explained to them that under our policy, we would not be cutting those trees," said Jani, a 35-year veteran of logging companies.

Protecting old-growth trees was part of the plan that Humboldt Redwood, largely owned by Don and Doris Fisher of The Gap Inc., submitted to acquire Pacific Lumber in bankruptcy court. It also pledged to avoid cutting down trees in vast swaths, or clear-cutting, a practice that the timber giant had aggressively practiced under its previous owner, Maxxam Inc.

Since the owners of Humboldt Redwood had a track record... environmentalists are cautiously optimistic that it will do as it promises, including sparing any redwood born prior to 1800 with a diameter of at least four feet.

So for weeks, the tree-sitters at the Nanning Creek and Fern Gully groves, where Pacific Lumber timber harvest plans had ancient trees on the chopping block, have been clearing out their encampments, removing their platforms and figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives.

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