Nossaman Plays Key Role in Historic Headwaters Deal

Nossaman News Release
Seven minutes before the midnight deadline last night (when the federal funding would have expired), the County Recorder of Humboldt County recorded the deed transferring ownership of the Headwaters Forest from The Pacific Lumber Company to the United States of America. Nossaman, Guthner, Knox & Elliott, LLP represented The Pacific Lumber Company in this historic environmental transaction that in the words of Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior ranks with the establishment of Yosemite. Simultaneously, the state and federal governments transferred $300 million to Pacific Lumber and additional forest land which they acquired from Elk River Timber Company.

The agreements involve precedent-setting environmental protection for 210,000 acres owned by Pacific Lumber and will help protect the jobs of the 1,500 men and women who work for the Company. This transaction protects the largest grove of old growth redwood trees remaining in private ownership. The state also entered into purchase agreements with the Company to purchase two other groves for another approximately $100 million.

I am proud that our law firm played a major role in making this deal happen, said Rob Thornton, Nossaman’s Managing Partner. This was a massive deal that was not simply a real estate transaction. It involved the development of a habitat conservation plan (HCP) for Pacific Lumber’s timber holdings. The habitat conservation plan provides more protection for salmon than is provided in any other private land habitat conservation plan.

The agreement's federal funding, which Congress had approved, was scheduled to expire at midnight PST last night, which is why negotiators on both sides talked all day yesterday and into the evening to secure the deal. It was finalized at 11:56 p.m. PST. The negotiations involved Senator Diane Feinstein, Governor Davis, California Secretary of Resources Mary Nichols, representatives of Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Secretary of Commerce William Daley, and lawyers spread between Irvine, Eureka, Sacramento, Ukiah, Washington D.C., New York and Houston. Rob Thornton of Nossaman negotiated with the government on behalf of Pacific Lumber, while Nossaman attorneys were in Eureka to close the real estate transaction.

President Clinton commented on the agreement with Pacific Lumber and its parent company, MAXXAM, Inc., saying in a statement that this ancient forest, and the web of life if sustains, are now saved for all time. President Clinton described Headwaters as a natural treasure, as much a part of our legacy as the world's great libraries and cathedrals. . . . I am truly grateful that we are able to bestow this priceless gift on generations to come.

We are grateful to Nossaman for their skillful work in closing this deal, said John Campbell, President and Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Lumber. Had it not been for Nossaman, I’m sure we would not have been able to complete the transaction.
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