The majestic redwood forest of California is famous around the world for its towering, 1,000-year-old trees that people can drive cars through. After years of fighting the forestry interests that would cut it down, the U.S. government has given permission for loggers to level 95 per cent of it.

Only a 3,036-hectare island’97or 30 square km’97of the Headwaters Forest along the northern California coast will remain untouched.

Environmentalists were dismayed, since they had said 60,000 hectares was needed to adequately protect this national treasure.

In the end, the government yielded to Charles Hurwitz, the venture capitalist who owns the land. Coincidence or not, it also happens to be an election year, a favourite time for politicians to hand out largesse.

The 3,036 saved hectares did not come cheap. Hurwitz was paid $300 million by the U.S. government in order to preserve this section of the Headwaters Forest, which will be the last unprotected expanse of virgin redwoods forest left in the United States.

The amount works out to $10 million per sq. km. (For purposes of comparison, Crees received $50,000 per square kilometre flooded by the La Grande hydro project.)

Four of the six oldest and largest stands of virgin redwood are now destined for the axe.