EUREKA, Calif. -- Bureau of Land Management workers bustled about the trail head that leads to the Headwaters Forest Reserve Friday, slapping rust-colored paint over the word "Private" scrawled on a metal gate that demonstrators used to chain themselves to and pulling down a "No Trespassing" sign nailed to a redwood.
Today, for the first time, the public will be invited into the forest, home to ancient redwoods and, for more than a decade, battleground for environmentalists and the Pacific Lumber Co.
For the next three months, however, only a hardy few will be able to enjoy the reserve, which lies about 250 miles north of San Francisco. Hikers will be able to enter only on its north end, via Elk River Road, off Highway 101, just south of Eureka.
From the trail head, they will hike a steep, muddy, 5-mile corridor purchased by the government to a cliff overlooking Headwaters grove, where 2,738 acres of old-growth redwoods stand at the headwaters of the south fork of Elk River.
A yearlong public planning process that will shape permanent guidelines for managing the reserve will begin this fall, said Lynda Roush, BLM's Arcata field manager.
Few in Humboldt County believe the purchase of the reserve will end the conflict that has wracked this rugged area over the fate of old-growth redwood trees, the endangered species that live in them and the rivers that run through them.
"I woke up that morning, heard there was a deal, and said to myself: OK, what's next?" said Humboldt County Sheriff Dennis Lewis.
Earth First! activists have for years scaled redwoods marked for cutting and lived in them, sometimes for months, to protect them from being felled. At least three are living in trees at the moment, and none has decided to come down as a result of the Headwaters deal.
"The tensions that exist in Humboldt County are the result of an unsustainable, liquidation-oriented timber company," said Kevin Bundy, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Information Center in Garberville. "That industry has not changed as a result of this deal and I think that the tensions will remain."
Over the years, EPIC has filed suits against Pacific Lumber and various state and federal agencies, challenging the timber companies logging practices. Bundy said the nonprofit organization also is considering filing suit over the Headwaters agreement.
Pub Date: 3/15/99