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FEATURE Who Killed David Chain? BY JEFFREY ST. CLAIR AND ALEXANDER COCKBURN David “Gypsy” Chain, originally from Pasadena, was killed on September 17 of last year on Pacific Lumber land, near Grizzly Creek off Route 36 in Humboldt County, California, because he formed part of the last line of defense in a battle plan fatally betrayed by Democratic politicians and environmental executives cringing before a corporate predator from Texas. A.E. Ammonds, the 52-year-old faller who put the tree down on Chain, crushing his skull, was the party immediately responsible for the young man’s death but if Am monds ever has to face charges of involuntary manslaughter, the people who put him in the woods that day should bear the full brunt of penalties consequent upon a wrongful death. The terrain where Chain died forms part of the Headwaters Forest, owned by Pacific Lumber, taken over some years ago by Houstonbased Maxxam, owned by Charles Hurwitz. As is well known, Headwaters is the largest private holding of old-growth redwoods in the world. When Hurwitz announced a few years ago that his crews would start logging, the most resolute plan against the tycoon was to have the U.S. government penalize Hurwitz for his looting of a Texas savings and loan, by taking Headwaters from him as compensation for his $2 billion heist. But this plan fell by the wayside, derided by the establishment enviros as far too extreme. Next came a well-conceived plan by former California Congressman Dan Hamburg to have the U.S. government buy out 40,000 acres of the entire 63,000-acre watershed for a substantial, albeit defensible sum. Although it was helped forward through Congress by two of the craftiest manipulators on the Hill Vernon Jordan and Tommy Boggs, working for Hurwitz the bill failed in the Senate. Then came a well-conceived strategy by the Environmental Protection Information Center, an enviro group based in Garberville, California, to tame Hurwitz by rigorous application of federal and state regs. Thousands of acres would be put off limits to the chainsaw in order to protect dwindling habitat for the marbled murrelet, the northern spotted owl and the coho salmon. Given the ravaged condition of Pacific Lumber’s holdings after a decade of Hurwitz’s onslaughts, the mandatory protections for these species would put most of the land out of Hurwitz’s reach. E.P.I.C. put its strategy into play with a series of lawsuits and petitions under the Endangered Species Act, and the strategy began to take effect. At this point Hurwitz raised the stakes, announcing that in the face of these regulatory inhibitions, he was going to file a “takings” suit against the federal government, suing it for hundreds of millions for preventing him from enjoying the rights and ravages of private property. The Clinton administration and large environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society took this threat as the signal for immediate retreat. Hurwitz, they quavered, might have a chance of victory in such a takings claim, which would encourage further “hostage-taking” by corporations. So, they argued, the prudent course was to give Hurwitz more than he had ever dared dream when he had sent Jordan and Boggs up to Capitol Hill to work for the Hamburg bill. A David Chain North Coast Earth First! Enter California Senator Dianne Feinstein. She successfully lobbied Clinton to announce a deal whereby the feds and the state of California would pool money to acquire the mini mal core area of Headwaters less than 10,000 acres of the entire watershed. Of that, only 3,500 acres are composed of old growth redwoods, for which the government offered to Hurwitz the astounding sum of $480 million. One story going around Washington and Sacramento is that Hurwitz had argued that the acres were worth $900 million, roughly what he paid for the entire company, and the Department of Justice countered with a valuation of $20 million. At which point Tommy Boggs reportedly said, “Why not split the difference?” By any measure this is surely one of Hurwitz’s greatest financial FEBRUARY 19, 1999 18 THE TEXAS OBSERVER