‘Scorched Worth’ the case against SPI was more about SPI’s bank balance


PREMO Member
Engel compels the conclusion that the case against SPI was more about SPI’s bank balance than its culpability. State and federal authorities can’t profit from a lone arsonist, but shaking down the second-largest lumber producer in the country promises rich rewards. (At the time, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, a.k.a. Cal Fire, diverted settlement money into an off-the-books slush fund used to buy goodies for the department.) Many companies prefer to pay the authorities to go away, so a few fudged reports need not be an impediment.

Rather than settle, SPI preferred to fight. The company’s patriarch is one Archie “Red” Emmerson, an octogenarian self-made billionaire who could well be the backwoods version of Hank Rearden. A child of the depression, Emmerson took the reins of a failing mill from his unreliable father and built it into a thriving enterprise through diligence and risk.

At first, the industry operated by buying logging rights to federally managed forests. When the environmental movement began restricting access to timber on public lands in the 1970s, Emmerson had the foresight to buy up a portfolio of private forests that now stands at some two million acres, allowing him to grow as competitors fought over meager government rations. (The spotted owl crisis that vexed the logging business in the 1980s accrued to Emmerson’s benefit, driving up prices at a time few others could profit from it.) Ol’ Red is not the sort of man who likes to pay for something he didn’t do.

‘Scorched Worth’ Tells The Story Of How Some Bureaucrats Just Want To Watch The World Burn