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Timber Co., Gov’t Reach Forest Deal

March 2, 1999

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) _ Pacific Lumber Co. and government authorities agreed late Monday on a $480 million plan to create a public preserve of ancient redwoods _ a dramatic reversal of the timber company’s decision just three days earlier.

The deal was struck two minutes before a midnight deadline. ``We have a deal,″ said Interior Department spokesman Tim Ahern.

The intense negotiations involving Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, state resources officials and company executives and lawyers. The talks took place in Eureka, Scotia, Houston and via telephone conference calls between California and Washington, D.C.

On Friday, Pacific Lumber rejected the plan. But late Monday, it changed its mind.

Company officials had feared the plan’s restrictions on logging near streams and wildlife habitat would ruin their business. Those concerns appeared to have been alleviated, at least in part.

The original deal would have had Pacific Lumber and another logging company sell 10,000 acres of the Headwaters Forest _ including about 5,000 acres of old-growth redwoods _ to the United States and California. Some of the trees are 1,500 years old.

The federal appropriation _ and the state money as well _ was to have disappeared at 11:59 p.m. Monday without a deal. Before that, Vice President Al Gore said the government wasn’t backing off the terms it proposed as part of the deal.

``We think what was proposed is good for the American people, good for California, good for the environment and good for this company,″ he said during his visit to Oakland.

Pacific Lumber and its corporate parent, Maxxam Corp., have been the object of lengthy court fights and demonstrations _ including the nation’s largest forest rally, a 1996 environmental protest in which more than 1,000 people were arrested.

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