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U.S. EPA REACHES SETTLEMENT WITH SIMPSON ON TEHAMA FIBER FARM

Release Date: 10/29/1996
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA, (415) 744-1578 Ed Brennan, U.S. Attorney's Office, (916) 554-2766 Sylvia Quast, U.S. Justice Dept., (202) 514-1806 Donna Hummel, U.S. FWS, (916) 979-2710

     (San Francisco)--  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice today announced that they have reached a settlement with the Simpson Timber Company that will protect vernal pool wetlands while allowing Simpson to continue planting and harvesting eucalyptus trees at the 12,000-acre Tehama Fiber Farm near Corning, California.

     "This settlement is a win for both the environment and the local economy," said Felicia Marcus, Regional Administrator for U.S. EPA's western region.  "It demonstrates that we can achieve solutions that recognize the importance of the Tehama Fiber Farm's continued operation, while at the same time securing long- term protection for vernal pool habitats and creeks in the vicinity."  

     "This settlement is significant because it accomplishes two
goals:  protecting the environment and preserving jobs," said Lois Schiffer, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Environment and Natural Resources Division.  "This agreement shows that ecosystem protection helps industry, and benefits wildlife and the people of California."

     "We prefer that these issues be resolved administratively and during the permitting process.  However, when that process fails we are committed to initiating and vigorously pursuing an appropriate enforcement action.  Fortunately, with this settlement, the parties have reached an environmentally beneficial solution and will avoid protracted and costly litigation," said United States Attorney Charles J. Stevens.

     "This settlement, which provides for the protection of vernal pool wetlands while allowing for continued production at the Tehama Fiber Farm, is an example of what can be accomplished when the public and private sector work together to resolve conflicts," said Joel Medlin, Field Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento.  "Simpson has cooperated with all the agencies to operate in an environmentally responsible manner including compliance with the Endangered Species Act."

     According to the terms of the settlement, Simpson has agreed to preserve at least 3,500 acres of land containing vernal pool wetlands near the Tehama Fiber Farm, perform two environmentally beneficial projects worth a total of $200,000, and pay a $30,000 penalty.  The consent decree settles alleged violations of the wetlands provisions of the federal Clean Water Act, and satisfies Simpson's obligations to protect federally-listed fairy shrimp under the Endangered Species Act.

     In the first of the environmental projects, Simpson has  given $50,000 to the Nature Conservancy for purchase of an 80- acre tract of vernal pool habitat to enlarge the Conservancy's  Vina Plains Preserve in Tehama County.  In the second project, Simpson will permanently grant a conservation easement to the city of Albany, Oregon to use 132 acres of Simpson-owned wetlands on the Willamette River as a public park and wildlife conservation area.
     
     Vernal pools are shallow depressions in some areas of California which, due to an underlying layer of impermeable subsoil, fill with water during the rainy season.  Although these seasonal wetlands look barren in Summer and Fall, they come alive in Winter first with the fairy shrimp and birds that feed on the shrimp and other organisms, and later with uniquely adapted wetland plants which create rings of colorful wildflowers at the pools' edges as the water recedes in Spring.  

     The Central Valley's vernal pools are important because they provide habitat and food sources for migratory birds and many species of California native plants and wildlife that need vernal pools to survive.  California is one of the few places in the world where vernal pool ecosystems can be found.  At least half, and possibly over 80%, of the Central Valley's original vernal pools have already been lost to agricultural and urban development.  

     Under the Clean Water Act, activities that damage or reduce wetlands, including vernal pools, generally require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.  Some agricultural activities in wetlands are exempt from federal regulation, but others are not.  Before changing the land use on any acreage that may include wetlands, landowners should contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service or the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find out if their plans qualify for the exemption.

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