Forest ALERT and UPDATE
from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters
May 16, 2007
1 >>Pacific Lumber Bankruptcy
2 >>Judi Bari Day May 24
3 >> Endangered Oaks in Berkeley
4 >>Threatened Marbled Murrelet Under Legal Attack
PACIFIC LUMBER BANKRUPTCY PROCEEDINGS STAY IN TEXAS
Federal Judge Richard Schmidt ruled on April 20 against noteholders and creditors of bankrupt Pacific Lumber who were arguing for a move to California bankruptcy court, keeping the case in Corpus Christi, Texas, where Pacific Lumber (PL) and its subsidiaries filed on January 18 of this year. While this ruling does not bode well for the workers, creditors, and many people and business that have an interest in how the corporation is reorganized, the proceedings are still in early stages. The judge’s opinion, however, seemed disturbingly biased. He quoted PL directly from their arguments, citing “regulatory burdens”, and the negative impact of litigation, without mentioning that litigation was usually the result of non-compliance with law. The judge questioned the motives of those arguing to move the proceedings to California, while finding legitimate Maxxam’s creation of a “new business” in 344 sq. ft. of office space in Texas seven months before filing bankruptcy, apparently for the sole purpose of having a foothold to file in Texas rather than California, where, of course, PL has its assets and does business.
Judge Schmidt also ruled in April that Scotia Pacific, the company created through refinancing of PL that owns the approx. 200,000 acres of forestland does not meet the legal definition of a “Single Asset Real Estate” debtor (SARE), which would have allowed the timberlands to be separated and handled independently from the rest of the bankruptcy proceedings. The SARE argument was brought by the bondholders (different from the shareholders) who own the $714 million debt that has as collateral the timberlands. It was inability to pay an interest payment on this $714 million debt in January that brought the company to bankruptcy court. Excuse me. I should say it was 20 years of over-logging, asset liquidation, the vast river of profit and dividend money flowing to Houston and Maxxam design that brought the once sustainable Pacific Lumber to bankruptcy court.
While workers’ severance packages and the future of Humboldt county’s economy are on hold, corporate reorganization will take place, at least for now, in the Corpus Christi court. The state of California could appeal the venue decision, in the interest of agencies like the Water Quality Control Board and the Dept of Forestry who oversee logging operations, which continue while reorgnization takes place. Meanwhile, community leaders in Humboldt county are exploring paths to a positive outcome. First and foremost, we need to get HurMax out of the driver’s seat, and this is not guaranteed. In some bankruptcies, companies’ assets are liquidated and sold, some proceedings forgive a portion of the debts to allow business to continue; other options include a comprehensive restructuring that allows for continued operation with new managers in control and a new board of directors. If the bondholders-investment companies from all over the country) wind up holding the reins, they could manage the land or sell it, but in any event are unlikely to recoup their investment in toto. While they have made noises about wanting to see the company operate sustainably and have submitted strongly worded, and decidedly critical of HurMax papers to the court, it remains an unfortunate reality that the best return on land investment money is in development, not sustainable timber operations. At least short term. If you don’t live there. And if you don’t care about potable water, fisheries and a livable environment. Pacific Lumber, ScoPac and the rest will submit to the court a reorganization plan (written by HurMax, for sure) by September CHECK and Judge Schmidt’s response to that will inform efforts on the North Coast to scare up investment capital to advance a community forestry model.
Further information can be found at:
Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment: http://www.asje.org/PL_Bankruptcy.html
Creditors’ Law Firm’s Clearinghouse with legal filings: http://plbankruptcy.com/
US Courts, Bankruptcy Basics: http://www.uscourts.gov/bankruptcycourts/bankruptcybasics/chapter11.html
JOIN US ON JUDI BARI DAY: MAY 24
Judi Bari Day was declared by the City of Oakland to commemorate the day in 1990 that a pipe bomb planted in Earth First! activist Judi Bari’s car exploded, nearly killing her and injuring her passenger and comrade, Darryl Cherney. Every year since 1990, we observe that day by remembering Judi, remembering to never give up the fight, and celebrating our 2002 phenomenal legal victory against the FBI and Oakland Police, finding that they violated the Constitutional rights of Judi and Darryl when they blamed them for the bombing, and carried out a smear campaign against Earth First! the FBI also never conducted a real investigation to solve the bombing case.
Join us as we gather for a brief time at the site of the bombing: Park Blvd in Oakland at the intersection of E. 33rd (across from Oakland High School), near where MacArthur Blvd. And 580 cross Park Blvd. We will gather just before 12 noon, when the explosion happened. Hope to see you there.
TREE SITS IN THREATENED BERKELEY OAKS AT 165 DAYSŠAND COUNTING!
Activists remain perched in the branches of oak trees in the threatened Memorial Oak Grove on UC Berkeley campus, where the campaign went skyward on Dec. 2, 2006. An amazing coalition of people have been doing whatever it takes to ensure this grove will not be leveled for the University’s ill-advised high tech sports stadium. Alternative sites exist and community support for the grove is tremendous. Three lawsuit filed months ago to stop the destruction of the grove will ultimately be heard in court, probably after the summer. The delaying of the oaks’ day in court means the campaign to protect the grove must dig in for the long (er) haul. Watch for public events, and join the email list or check the website for updates at www.saveoaks.com. Contributions to the cause are always needed, and you can also help by cooking a dinner for the tree-sitters. Call 510-938-2109 to sign up to bring a meal to the grove.You can visit the grove on Piedmont Ave., one block north of Bancroft Way.
BUSH AND TIMBER INDUSTRY FILE TO DELIST MARBLED MURRELET
The diminutive and secretive marbled murrelet has become as iconic a symbol of the north coast’s ancient redwoods as the coho salmon, dependant as it is on old growth forests for nesting habitat. Its habitat in California has been dramatically reduced with accelerated logging on private timberlands like Pacific Lumber’s and its populations are also threatened in Oregon and Washington, where more of its nesting habitat is found in national forests. On March 27, the Bush administration’s new regulations that would radically undermine the Endangered Species Act surfaced, 2 weeks after a lawsuit was filed by a timber industry lawyer trying to force U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove threatened status from the beleaguered murrelet. The funny thing is, the lawyer filing the murrelet lawsuit was Mark Rutzick who is a former Bush official, and the lawsuit is based on draft regulations not yet implemented and at the time of the industry lawsuit, not yet public. Enviro groups including EPIC, the Center for Biological Diversity and Audubon responded with filings of their own.
The marbled murrelet was listed as a threatened species in California, Oregon and Washington in 1992, and in 2004, demographic models indicated that the population could go extinct within 50 years. That is without de-listing, which would open the door to more logging of its habitat. When and if this turns into a letter writing opportunity, you will hear from us.
For more info, see www.earthjustice.org
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)
2530 San Pablo Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94702
phone: 510 548 3113
- Bay Area issues
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- fact sheets
- Green Diamond
- Headwaters Forest
- Humboldt Redwood Co. (HRC)
- Judi Bari
- Mattole Forests
- Mendocino Redwood Co. (MRC)
- Other North Coast Forests
- Pacific Lumber
- Pacific Lumber Bankruptcy
- Richardson Grove
- Save the Oaks Campaign
- Smith River/Hwy 199 expansion
- Willits Caltrans Bypass