There is little here to disturb this isolated gove of the world's tallest trees but the sighing of the wind and the pop and snarl of the loggers' chain saws just over the fill.
The wind has always been here, blowing in from the rugged Northern California coast 20 miles to the west and bringing with it the damp fog that nurtues the 350-foot-high redwood giants.
The chainsaws are a more recent addition. Over protests from Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus, top state officials in California and virtually every national environmental group, three big timber companies have begun logging off stands of redwoods on "the worm," land they own here within a half-mile of the 58,000-acre Redwood National Park.
The 8-mile-long, half-mile wide national park is surrounded by private redwood land, which is being cut.
The decision to begin the logging last Friday has raised a storm of controversy from here to Washington. It involves one of the world's best-known environmental symbols and could provide a clue to how the Carter adminsitration will handle the touchy jobs-vs.-environment problem that has dogged it from the start.
On one side are the logging opponents who claim the action by the Louisiana-Pacific Corp., the Arcata Redwood Co., and the Simpson Timber Co will remove redwoods on private land that cannot be replaced for at least another century and threaten the giants in the "tall trees grove' here within the federal park, some of which are 2,000 years old.
Rep. Phillip Burton (D-Calif.), a leader of the opponents, has proposed a congressional bill to purchase 74,000 acres of redwood land around "the worm." Interior Department officials let it be known Wednesday that the Carter adminstration will propose a $350 millin purchase of redwood land which would add nearly 47,700 acres to the national park here.
On the other side are the timber companies and many who live in this region, whose economy is almost entirely dependent on logging and lumber processing. They contend no permanent damage will be dont to the area's forest and that enough redwoods are already protected in the national park system. Without the logging, they said thousands of jobs will disappear from an area that already has an unemployment rate of 15 per cent.
"You've got to strike an economic balance," said Sam Sacco, mayor of Eureka, a coastal city of 24,000 which is the region's only sizable population center and whose skyline is dominated by plumes of white smoke from pulp mills.
"A tree is a crop," said Sacco, a 50-year-old insruance man. "You harvest them the same way you do tomatoes and they grow right back."
Eureka officials expect 10,000 persons to turn out Wednesday when a congressional subcommittee headed by Burton begins field investigation there into his bill to purchase redwood land near The Worm.
Sacco said he planned to lead the march. "We're going to assemble 10,000 people and show Burton a job march like he's never seen," he said.
Officials of the timber companies say their harvest plans were approved by the Interior Department before the Carter administration took over and by state forestry officials.
Last week, after the timber companies rejected a request by Andrus for a 180-day moratorium on cutting near The Worm, the Interior Secretary suggested an injunction to halt the cutting but was told by the Justice Department no legal grounds existed to stop it, an Interior Department spokesman siad today.
"We're fighting for our lives," an official of Arcata Redwood said today. The company would be the most seriously affected of the three timber firms if cutting were halted and the park was expanded. Arcata owns 43,000 acres of timberland in northern California but claims it would lose 11,000 acres and its only sawmill if the park is expanded. "Our lands are not for sale," the Arcata official said.
Logging opponents charge that unless the cutting is stopped erosion from the cut over sections will silt up Redwood Creek and dangerously undermine the tallest tress.
"It's an absolute outrage," said Burton. "They're engaging in a conscious act of desecration."
Burton and other opponents of the logging companies' decision said it could have been made to force the government into a harsty settlement at a higher price for the redwood land.
Robert A. Ferris, Arcata's general counsel, said the possible purchase of the redwood sections was a factor in the decision to start logging.
"The day we agree to a moratorium is the day they get their extra parkland without paying for it," he said. The timber company would lose its bargaining power if it didn't hold on to its land, said Ferris. "Waiting seven years to do this," he said, "was probably the biggest mistake we ever made."