Friday, September 18, 1998
©1998 San Francisco Chronicle
Toppled Tree Kills Logging Protester in Humboldt
First fatality in decade of activism
Alex Barnum, Chronicle Staff Writer
A young anti-logging activist was struck in the head and killed by a
falling tree yesterday during a protest to block the cutting of redwoods on
North Coast land owned by Pacific Lumber Co.
It was the first fatality in more than a decade of contentious but mostly
peaceful protests against the company's logging of ancient redwoods on its
property in Humboldt County.
David Chain of Austin, Texas, thought to be in his mid-20s, was one of
about a dozen Earth First activists protesting logging near Grizzly Creek,
one of the redwood groves that would be protected under the pending
Headwaters Forest agreement.
Accounts of the incident conflicted. An Earth First spokesman said Chain
and others were trying to dissuade loggers from cutting down the trees when
he was struck and killed in the remote area.
"I'm not saying it was intentional. I'm not saying it was accidental. I
don't know exactly what happened," said Darryl Cherney, the group's
A spokeswoman for Pacific Lumber said the company's tree- felling crew was
unaware that any protesters were in the area when the accident occurred.
The company is "deeply saddened" by "what appears to be a tragic accident
on its property this morning," spokeswoman Mary Bullwinkel said.
"Pacific Lumber has one of the finest records in the industry. But despite
all our precautions, a trespasser was apparently killed by a falling tree
at one of our logging sites on our private property," she said.
Members of the logging crew told Humboldt County sheriff's investigators
that they heard yelling after a tree they were cutting knocked down a
second tree and apparently hit Chain, said officer Janet Held.
"They said they had no idea anyone was there," Held said. Authorities were
investigating the incident, she said.
The area had been the scene of a 12-day protest against the logging of
redwoods near Grizzly Creek, in a ravine near the mill town of Fortuna,
about 300 miles up the coast from San Francisco.
On Wednesday, eight Earth First activists were arrested blocking a logging
truck while protesting what they said was illegal logging in an area
bordering Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
Earth First activists said the company was violating logging restrictions
while surveys were being conducted for the marbled murrelet, an endangered
seabird that nests in old-growth redwoods.
Bullwinkel said the work was being conducted in accordance with a timber
harvest plan approved by the state Department of Forestry.
The area is near Grizzly Creek, one of a dozen ancient redwood groves on
Pacific Lumber land. The grove recently was added to those that would be
protected in the $45 million Headwaters agreement approved by the state
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