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River Views

by Malcolm Macdonald, January 8, 2013

Mendocino Redwood Company, the largest timberland holder in Mendocino County, has applied for permits that would run for eighty years. History stands in opposition to this corporate pipedream.

Mendocino Redwood Company has submitted thousands of pages of documents, charts, and maps in an effort to obtain a Habitat Conservation Plan from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service under provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act, a Natural Community Conservation Plan from the California Department of Fish and Game, as well as tendering their Programmatic Timber Environmental Impact Report to the California Department of Forestry.

If all those plans sound like gobbledegook, welcome to the bureaucratic world of forestry and conservation. Generally, the bureaucracy (national and state agencies like those listed above) have little realistic grasp of what happens day-to-day on the ground along the rivers, streams and forests they ostensibly manage. Such agencies have even less practical knowledge about what happens on private timberlands like the more than two hundred thousand acres Mendocino Redwood owns in this county. How do I know, one might ask? I live on and manage a family timberland ranch; other than MRC the Macdonald ranch is one of the very few sizable, privately owned timberland holdings between the town of Albion and the Comptche Road at Tom Bell Flats along the main branch of the Albion River.

My ancestors have seen Mendocino Redwood Company’s predecessors come and go. None of them retaining ownership for even half the length of the proposed eighty year permits Mendocino Redwood Company is requesting. MRC was preceded by Louisiana-Pacific Corporation which owned more or less the same acreage from the mid 1980s through 1997. A holding company called Timber Realization owned the property for about three years in the early 1980s. That bridged the gap from the ownership of Masonite Corporation, which ran roughshod over the same quarter million acres from the late 1940s to the 1980s. Southern Pacific Land Corporation managed the acreage while mills shut down throughout much of the 1930s and 1940s. From the summer of 1907 until the late 1920s the direct predecessor-in-interest to MRC was Southern Pacific, which used much of its old growth redwood logging to make ties for a railroad across Mexico. Southern Pacific bought into the timber business from Miles Standish and Henry Hickey, who ran the Albion Lumber Company from 1891 to 1907. Unlike the Fisher family or any of the other corporate owners who followed them, Mr. Standish and Mr. Hickey spent significant amounts of their personal time here in Mendocino County. Incidentally, Miles Standish was the eighth Miles Standish, dating back to his Pilgrim forefather; the odd man out in the triangle that included Priscilla and John Alden.

Miles Standish managed the Albion mill for Henry Wetherbee while the latter owned the timber business from 1880 to 1891. Previously, Wetherbee had been a partner with Alexander Macpherson from the mid 1860s through the end of the 1870s. Mr. Macpherson in turn started the first mills along the Albion and Noyo rivers in the 1850s and was the original predecessor-in-interest of Mendocino Redwood Company.

Any grade school child could do the math and tell us that none of these ownership cycles lasted anywhere near eighty years. That reason alone should be cause for circumspection amongst the bureaucrats in charge of handing out lengthy permits at our national and state agencies. Readers might be interested to know that this longtime, geographically close neighbor of Mendocino Redwood Company and its immediate predecessors has never been approached by any of the aforementioned agencies.

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