Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998 00:18:42 EST
Subject: Boston Globe article on Redwoods 11/8/98
In California, cause of saving redwoods gaining
By Yvonne Daley, Globe Correspondent, 11/08/98
EUREKA, Calif. - The Earth First activists, mostly young people who go by
names like Dirt and Residue and Raven, crawled from soggy tents and bed rolls
to survey the remains of their kitchen, ripped asunder and drenched by the
One by one, they trudged barefoot through mud and duff to check the condition
of a makeshift shrine spread across the base of a massive redwood tree.
``All's right with the world,'' said John McCowan, a spokesman for the 50
activists staying at the Earth First base camp, as he surveyed the photos of a
smiling David Chain, a martyr of the cause, displayed amid soggy bouquets and
Chain, 24, of Austin, Texas, was killed Sept. 17 during a protest at Grizzly
Creek Redwoods State Park when he was struck by a Douglas fir felled by a
Pacific Lumber logger, A. E. Ammons.
Unresolved questions about the circumstances surrounding Chain's death have
brought national attention to the dispute between environmentalists and the
logging industry here in Humbolt County.
At issue are the practices of Pacific Lumber and other large timber companies
operating in more than 300,000 acres of private land that includes old-growth
redwood forests and habitats considered essential to such endangered species
as the marbled murrelet, the spotted owl, and the coho salmon.
Along the way, the controversy and the Earth First protests have also exposed
a surprising complexity in the attitudes of the people of Humbolt County.
Members of the radical environmental group have been taunting loggers,
climbing ancient redwoods, chaining themselves to log skidders, and getting
arrested here on a routine basis for several years now, with minimal support
and often open disdain from the locals.
But longtime observers say more and more landowners - and even some of Pacific
Lumber's millworkers and loggers - have begun questioning the company's
practice of clear-cutting, in which essentially all trees are removed from
At the Scotia Inn, located in the heart of Scotia, one of the last company
towns in America, bartender Penny Whitehead has heard all the arguments since
moving from Wyoming five years ago.
``Loggers want their kids to continue on in the woods, but they're starting to
see the environmental impacts of clear-cutting'' said Whitehead. ``They don't
like the Earth Firsters and never will, but they're worried about their jobs.
If all the trees are cut, they'll be out of work just as easily as if the
environmentalists shut down logging.''
``It used to be the Earth Firsters out there protesting by themselves,''
Humbolt County Supervisor John Wooley observed at a public meeting in nearby
Freshwater last month. As a sign of how much things have changed, that meeting
was attended by more than 300 ranchers, retired businessmen, fishermen,
lawyers, and other members of the valley community who had gathered to discuss
legal ways to limit Pacific Lumber and to lobby state and national officials
to review the company's logging practices.
Wooley said average citizens had become more sympathetic to the Earth Firsters
as they began to notice ``the impact of clear-cuts on steep slopes on their
land, as private homes and property were being eroded or buried under runoff,
and silt destroyed the rivers where the coho salmon spawns. There's been about
a dozen community and private lawsuits against Pacific Lumber filed in the
past few years.''
The highlight of the meeting came when the group talked by cellular phone to
two local men who had adopted an Earth First tactic to protest Pacific
The day before the meeting, Roger Levey, 44, a 21-year resident of the region
who owns a 160-acre organic farm on the Mad River, had climbed to the top of a
150-foot-tall redwood, where he had spent the stormy night in a cargo net. He
was joining Nate Madsen, a woodworker with no history of activism who had
climbed a different tree, a 1,000-year-old redwood, five days previously.
Madsen, 25, told the crowd: ``When you go into the air, you can see that at
least half this watershed has been cut.'' He described how he had been
intimidated by loggers who had cut trees near him and frightened during the
torrent the previous night. ``But if I do nothing, if you do nothing, it's
deforestation without representation,'' he said.
Residents here are concerned because Pacific Lumber plans 28 separate logging
operations in the Freshwater watershed alone.
Pacific Lumber president John Campbell, who came from Australia 29 years ago
as a sales trainee for the company and says he fell in love with the redwood
forests, said the polarization stems from the area's increasing urbanization.
``This is Pacific Lumber's 130th year of continuous operation. Freshwater was
logged extensively at the end of the last century and beginning of this
century,'' Campbell said.
``Today, the trees have grown back and are ready for harvest, but people have
moved to the fringes of the forest. That's why there's so much controversy,''
he said. ``But Pacific Lumber is just doing its job, harvesting the crop it's
been growing all these years, doing business.''
And while affected landowners want more restrictions on Pacific Lumber, some
residents worry about the effect on the economy.
``It's tying up our court system, costing us taxpayers' money, hurting the
local economy,'' observed shopkeeper Arnold Gray of Redway. ``I hope that when
this Headwaters deal is done, they'll just pack up and leave us alone. They're
talking about saving trees; we're talking about saving jobs.''
Gray was referring to the Headwaters Forest Agreement, which President Clinton
and outgoing California Governor Pete Wilson helped negotiate in an effort to
resolve these issues. First signed on Sept. 28, 1996, the agreement calls for
public acquisition of 7,470 acres of the 60,000-acre Headwaters Forest, the
largest old-growth tract still in private hands, for $250 million in federal
money and $210 million from California.
Public hearings are under way on the deal, which supporters consider a rescue
mission for Headwaters and a model for how costly litigation can be avoided.
But opponents consider the plan a travesty that would allow Pacific Lumber to
clear-cut more than 35,000 acres, including more than 2,500 acres of uncut
old-growth forest, and substantially log another 54,382 acres over the next
Looming over the environmental arguments is the death of David Chain.
The Earth Firsters have called Chain's death murder and have released a
videotape of a logger who resembled Ammons swearing and threatening Chain and
other activists the day of the incident. On the video, the logger screams:
``Get outta here! Otherwise, I'll (expletive) make sure I got a tree coming
Campbell, however, called Chain's death ``a most unfortunate accident'' and
said Ammons had not heard or seen the trespassers for about an hour before he
felled the tree.
The incident is under investigation by the Humbolt Sheriff's Department, but
Chain's mother, Cindy Allsbrooks of Coldspring, Texas, and the activists have
asked for independent investigations by the California Attorney General's
Office and the Department of Justice.
In Del Rio at Mingos, a bar and bowling alley where Pacific Lumber workers
hang out, drinking beer, playing pool, and generally ignoring California's ban
on smoking in public places, mill workers and loggers were trading jokes about
Chain's death and defending Ammons.
``He's a friend of mine. He would never kill anyone. He was just doing his
job,'' said Pacific Lumber scaler Nick Volk, 48, who came here from upstate
New York because ``ever since I was a little kid I wanted to be a logger. I
love the forest. It means everything to me. Pacific Lumber replants as it
cuts. We're not stupid.''
As the night wore on, Volk became angrier about the Earth First activists.
``They're hurting my paycheck and their hurting my future and I want to kick
their butts,'' he said to the chorus of loggers who drank to that sentiment.
``Loggers die in the woods all the time and no one tries to make a hero out of
them,'' said Brian Moore, 41, a logger whose father worked in the forest for
40 years and who hopes his sons can work timber also.
Still, Moore says: ``There's no future in logging. My attitude is get it done
and make your money while you can. I don't like clear-cutting, but I don't
like the Earth Firsters more. This is dangerous business, and they're foolish
if they think people aren't going to get hurt playing cat and mouse with us in
This story ran on page A10 of the Boston Globe on 11/08/98.
c Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.
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