Logging prompts boycott of stores

Sacramento Bee
November 27, 1998
Logging prompts boycott of stores
Gap owners call effort misguided

Bee Staff Writer

What might have been another local round in Mendocino County's timber has grown into a national boycott of clothing stores - The Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy - as environmentalists try to pressure the new owners of 350 square miles of timberland.

Today, the heaviest shopping day of the; year, environmentalists plan to Pro t how the family that founded The Gap manages land it bought just four months ago from Louisiana-Pacific Corp.

Organized rapidly in cyberspace, boycott will include a rally in front of The Gap store in San Francisco's Union Square and pickets from Santa Rosa to Chicago to New York. North Coast environmentalists say they want the Fisher family, founder and major shareholder in The Gap Inc., to swear off herbicides and clear-cutting and to harvest fewer trees.

But the family says it bought the land and two sawmills in part to show that a timber company can be environmentally sensitive. The Fishers say they intend to have their logging practices certified 1 as sustainable by an independent team of experts.

State regulators call the company "a breath of fresh air."

"From the signs I'm seeing, they're trying to cut back and run responsible operations," said Rodger Thompson, deputy chief of forest practices along the North and Central coasts for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "Our field people on the ground are liking what they're seeing." At the same time officials with the Fishers' Mendocino Redwood Co. urge consumers to call with concerns and read their Web page (http://www.mendocinoredwoodco.com) boycott organizers say they've found an audience for their Web site (http://www.elksoft.com/gwa) from England to India to Japan.

"They love the redwood, forest," said Mary Pjerrou, president of the Redwood Coast Watershed Alliance, "and they're shocked to learn that anyone is cutting redwoods at all. And to find that their favorite store is doing it is even more shocking."

Pjerrou accuses the Fisher family of perpetuating the worst logging practices of Louisiana-Pacific Corp., practices that bury coho salmon spawning beds in sediment, trigger landslides and wreck wildlife habitat. In particular, activists want the company to shun herbicides and clear-cuts, halt winter logging and slow the pace of logging overall.

The Fisher family said it intends at least for the next couple years, reduce harvest levels 15 percent from what Louisiana-Pacific Corp. planned. Some herbicides and clear-cutting are necessary to help Douglas fir and redwood take hold again among stands of tan oak, they say. But those practices, as well as winter logging, will be done with care that goes beyond state forestry rules, said John Fisher, general manager of Sansome Properties, the investment arm of the Fisher family and owner of Mendocino Redwood Co.

"Because we're a family, we can take a much longer perspective," said Fisher. "We don't have shareholders to please, we don't have quarterly profits we have to demonstrate. That allows us to do many things differently."

The company's critics, he said, seem to want no logging whatsoever.

"If we tomorrow said we're not going to cut another tree," said Fisher, "there would be 650 people out of work and we don't believe that would prove anything about how to operate a timber company sustainably."

Albion resident Linda Perkins said she wants the Fisher family to give the land a rest.

"They can make money by just sitting on their hands because these are productive lands and they will grow trees and make money." said Perkins. "In the long term, they could make more money."

In July, Sansome Properties bought 235,000 acres, sawmills in Fort Bragg and Ukiah and a distributing center from LouisianaPacific. Only 18 of the acres had never been logged, said Fisher.

Initially, North Coast environmentalists said they had high hopes for the Fisher family, whose Gap stores sell khaki pants, jeans and flannel shirts popular with college students and yuppies. One of the sons of the founder of The Gap sits on the board of directors of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

But Perkins said that from what she's seen in timber-harvest plans and learned from long talks with Mendocino Redwood President Sandy Dean, the company seeks too much timber from already depleted forests.

"They're over-cutting in my river," she said. 'This is happening literally in my back yard. Why should 1, when I can see what they're doing now, believe it's going to be different in the future?"

Mendocino Redwood officials say they intend to log about 2.5 percent of their inventory, or roughly 40 million board feet a year, for the next two years. A greater share could be cut after that.

Before it sold the property, Louisiana-Pacific filed long-term plans with the state showing it intended to log an average of 60 million board feet a year for the next 10 years.

The company will use some herbicides and clearing of forest to control tan oak and madrone trees so that redwood and Douglas fir can once again dominate the Mendocino forests, said Dean, the company president.

Tan oak, naturally part of the understory of coastal forests, shot up after conifers were first logged. They've shaded out redwoods and Douglas fir.

Tan oak, for example, can grow 6 feet in the time it takes a redwood to grow a foot.

"When we bought these lands they were heavily harvested and depleted," said Fisher. "We do hand application of herbicide bush by bush, and we do it to inhibit the growth of tan oak."

"We're trying to be open and honest about what we're trying to accomplish," he said. "It's up to our neighbors in Mendocino County to decide whether they want us to be their partner. I think that when they look at what we're trying to accomplish and compare that to others, they'll find that we are a great partner."

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