Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: THURSDAY, August 18, 1994                   TAG: 9408180115
SOURCE: Associated Press
DATELINE: SCOTIA, CALIF.                                LENGTH: Medium


DOUG THRON HIT THE ROAD to publicize the loss of 2,000-year-old trees.

Deep in an ancient forest where ocean fog drapes rugged peaks, Doug Thron discovered a horror he believed would shock America.

Sneaking past ``No Trespassing'' signs, diving into the bushes when he heard the rumble of approaching logging trucks, the college student took photographs. Hundreds of photographs.

Then he abandoned his senior year and took to the road with a devastating slide show of ugly bare patches where loggers had cut down stand after stand of old-growth redwood trees, some as old as 2,000 years.

Over recent decades, more than 90 percent of the rare giants had fallen.

``Like most people in America, I didn't know they were cutting ancient redwoods. I was shocked,'' Thron said. ``If people had known, it would have been stopped a long time ago.''

One night, Thron's audience included Rep. Dan Hamburg, a freshman Democrat from Northern California. Hamburg promptly wrote a bill that would authorize federal purchase and preservation of the remaining 3,000 acres of majestic redwoods in the Headwaters Forest on California's remote north coast.

``There is no way you could see his slide show and not be very affected,'' Hamburg said.

The bill, which has more than 140 co-sponsors and the support of the Clinton administration, is expected to come to a vote this month. If passed, it will cap a remarkable one-man campaign against this harvest of ancient redwoods.

Climate-sensitive redwoods are found only in southern Oregon and Northern California, where extensive stands are preserved in several California parks and in Redwood National Park.

But some redwoods are held by timber companies, such as Pacific Lumber Co., which routinely harvest second- and third-growth trees for such uses as decks and picnic tables, or by private owners. In one private stand along U.S. 101, tourists can drive, for a fee, through a tunnel carved through a giant redwood.

In the Headwaters Forest 200 miles northwest of San Francisco, young redwoods are growing back in the older clear-cuts. Some already stretch 100 feet high. But the forest remains scarred, its streams still thick with silt. And the ancient trees, the ones that were saplings around the time of Christ, are gone.

These are the redwoods Thron wants to save, the ones that soar 300 feet from the forest floor. Pacific Lumber tried to stop him, demanded his photographs, even threatened to file trespassing charges. The company has since backed off and is awaiting action on Hamburg's bill, said spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel.

As a student at Humboldt State University in nearby Arcata, working part-time at a gas station, Thron became curious about the steady stream of logging trucks.

He began sneaking into the forest in 1992, taking his camera along. Impassioned by what had become a crusade, he left school and with his fiancee, Lucy, now his wife, drove around the country in a battered old car to show their slides.

The U.S. Forest Service estimates the value of the timber on the 3,000 acres covered by Hamburg's bill at a minimum of $500 million. The measure also would allow the government to buy an additional 41,000 acres of surrounding forest. Pacific Lumber says it would shut down without the lumber from tens of thousands of acres of the 195,000 acres it owns in Humboldt County.

Thron, 24, is no hero in Scotia, the company-owned town of 1,200 people that depends on the forest. The lumber mill provides 1,300 jobs in the region.

``People are mad at Doug. He's not an expert on forestry, though he's trying to represent himself as that,'' said company spokesman David Galitz.

Although the fate of the Headwaters Forest remains uncertain, Thron says his work will not be over when the issue is decided.

``There's always more forest to protect,'' he says.

 by CNB