Some crimes cannot be forgiven. There's Harvey Weinstein's sexual assaults, the Sackler family's (alleged) opioid proliferation and, for Humboldt County, Michael Milken's junk bonds.
So when President Trump pardoned "Junk Bond King" Milken for his criminal offenses last week, the message to Humboldt was clear: No matter how many ancient forests you plunder, it's an admirable undertaking — as long as it makes money.
Milken's felonious financing was a primary cause for Maxxam's massive clearcutting of big redwoods in the 1980s. Maxxam used Milken's junk bonds to leverage a hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber Co. But junk bonds have huge interest rates because they're deemed risky investments and the exhausting interest on those takeover bonds was repaid with the hard currency of ancient trees.
When Milken started using investment bank Drexel Burnham Lambert to create the financial underpinnings for forest destruction, Humboldt was already reeling from nearly a decade of Enviro v. Logger politics. The attitude toward forests was tearing apart the social fabric of Humboldt County at the time. It was a one-industry economy, logging, and it was tanking. Jobs were scarce. The community grew polarized. The factions got violent. It got bloody. Entire watersheds were denuded.
Enviromentalists were in fist fights with loggers in Eureka's streets. The timber industry, backed by Humboldt State University and the Times-Standard, was promoting giant clearcuts. In the name of "silviculture," clearcuts were followed by dropping napalm for controlled burns after logging, then helicopters spraying the components of Agent Orange – 2,4,5-T (until it was banned) and 2,4-D. The herbicides' aim was to kill all wide-leaved vegetation before it could compete with the next softwood cash crop.