Sacramento - A top staff member for Governor Gray Davis instructed state forestry and wildlife staff to "bend over backwards" to approve logging plans by the Pacific Lumber Company, according to information obtained by California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (California PEER), an employee advocacy group.
Lobbyists for Pacific Lumber dominated a stormy meeting described by one participant as "a public whipping" of the California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) and the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF). The Washington DC lobbyist for Pacific Lumber, Tommy Boggs, along with representatives from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, attended the meeting. Susan Kennedy, Governor Davis' Cabinet Secretary and Deputy Chief of Staff, summoned managers from DFG and CDF to attend the January 18, 2000 meeting at the State Resources Building.
Kennedy's order to the agency managers to "back off" followed a presentation by Jared Carter, Executive Vice president and Counsel for Pacific Lumber, who had a list of complaints about CDF and the Department of Fish and Game. The company contends that the state is taking too long to approve Pacific Lumber's logging plans. The plans are those governed by the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that was part of the Headwaters Forest acquisition deal. State biologists say the delays are due to inaccurate information in the plans, such as failing to identify the presence of federally listed wildlife species, and Pacific Lumber's insistence on interpreting provisions of the HCP in ways that undermine the conservation plan. Wildlife managers who attended the meeting characterized it as "one-sided."
One participant said: "The company came to the Administration and complained, so the Governor's Office beat up on us a bit. Pacific Lumber left the meeting feeling pumped up. Susan was pandering to the company, who went away all puffed up. That's not the way to encourage the people already killing themselves working long hours. Morale is not a concern to the Governor's Office. We could have accomplished the same objectives without being beaten over the shoulders about it."
"Allowing his staff to take a belt to state wildlife managers while industry looks on sends a clear message about this Governor's priorities," commented California PEER Coordinator Karen Schambach. "Governor Davis is willing to sacrifice the state's fish and wildlife resources in order to appease the timber industry."