> Timber interests, local
> leaders criticize Earth First!
> over tactics
> Sep. 28, 1998
> By MIKE GENIELLA
> Press Democrat Staff Writer
> When Elizabeth Rieke and other nationally
> known experts on environmental issues are
> asked to peek behind the redwood curtain,
> express amazement at how intensely longtime
> foes practice ritual combat.
> "Few places experience that level of
> environmental issues, and the absolute
> some of the parties to deal,'' said Rieke,
> director of the Natural Resources Law
> the University of Colorado School of Law.
> Rieke in the early 1990s led a federal team
> successfully mediated a landmark three-year
> agreement on water quality standards for
> Francisco Bay and the Delta.
> Rieke, and others like her who have played
> major roles in national environmental
> are deeply troubled by the Sept. 17 death
> 24-year-old Earth First! follower in the
> redwoods of Humboldt County.
> They feel the fallen redwood that crushed
> "Gypsy'' Chain shattered an illusion that
> combatants in the state's longest running
> environmental controversy were merely
> in a war of words. The young Texan's death
> the first fatality in a decade of
> Not since "Redwood Summer'' of 1990 have
> tensions run as high in timber country and
> sunk so deep.
> "It's a terrible time. I think we all
> worst was behind us,'' said Claudia Lima,
> runs a North Coast logging company with
> husband, John.
> Chain, an Earth First! recruit from Austin,
> fatally crushed by a falling redwood after
> other activists trespassed onto Pacific
> Co. timberland and attempted to disrupt a
> logging operation in a remote area adjacent
> Grizzly Creek Redwoods State Park.
> Chain's family is to arrive today on the
> Coast amid an angry chorus of
> about who's to blame for his death. Since
> young man was killed, combatants have been
> relentless in their attempts to sway public
> to their viewpoints.
> Despite activists' outcry that local law
> enforcement and Pacific Lumber can't be
> to honestly investigate Chain's death,
> Attorney General Dan Lungren has refused to
> step in and conduct an independent
> "We have full and complete faith in the
> County Sheriff Department's ability to do
> job,'' said Lungren spokesman Matt Ross.
> Earth First! organizers are under fire from
> timber industry, and from local community
> political leaders, for encouraging
> antics in the woods that critics feel
> lives of young followers, of timber workers
> of local law enforcement officers forced to
> with increasingly sophisticated protest
> But activists place blame for Chain's death
> timber companies. Although they have
> no proof for their assertion, they contend
> corporate bosses have encouraged logging
> crews to recklessly fall trees in the
> intruders in hopes of scaring them away.
> Earth First! leaders justify disruptive
> dangerous logging sites by arguing the
> needed to draw public attention to their
> that state and federal regulators aren't
> adequate job of protecting the environment.
> Chain's death, and the controversy that has
> erupted since, has cast a shadow over Gov.
> Wilson's signing of legislation to complete
> purchase of Headwaters Forest, the last
> significant grove of ancient redwoods left
> private ownership, and impose the strictest
> environmental standards ever on a
> timber company.
> Two days after Chain's death, Wilson and
> Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., publicly
> acknowledged the tragedy. Both said they
> acquisition of Headwaters and 6,000 acres
> surrounding redwood timberlands would be a
> major step toward resolving an epic
> environmental battle that's achieved
> Despite the landmark Headwaters agreement,
> however, radical environmentalists persist
> protests. They claim the government deal is
> giving Pacific Lumber a "license to kill''
> endangered wildlife species, and threatens
> Coast fisheries.
> With Chain's death, the focus has shifted
> disputed terms of the Headwaters purchase
> Earth First!'s controversial tactics on the
> Coast and across the West. It also has
> media spotlight on Pacific Lumber's sharply
> accelerated logging during the past decade
> the corporate ownership of Texas financier
> Charles Hurwitz.
> As if to underscore the turmoil around
> guests this past week on a Humboldt County
> radio talk show debated whether Chain is
> casuality of a "war'' that clearly has no
> Earth First!'s tactics have been the
> controversy on the North Coast since
> Summer, when an unsolved car bombing
> the late Judi Bari and organizer Darryl
> on the eve of massive anti-logging protests
> Mendocino and Humboldt counties. Since
> Pacific Lumber logging crews have had to
> regularly cope with road blockades, people
> sitting in trees targeting for cutting, and
> using sophisticated devices to lock
> logging equipment on site.
> Costs to the company, and local taxpayers
> the past decade have been staggering.
> County authorities believe it costs the
> treasury at least $200,000 a year to police
> activists. Pacific Lumber says it's
> now tops $800,000 annually.
> Similar protest tactics are used by radical
> environmentalists across the West. In
> Earth First! activists have hung themselves
> teepee-like devices to block roads and keep
> loggers out of a national forest. Most
> carload of activists traveled up and down
> miles of dirt roads in Wyoming cutting
> wire fences in an escalating battle with
> ranchers over the fate of federal grazing
> About the combat there, the New York Times
> on Sept. 20 proclaimed, "It's Cowboys vs.
> Radical Environmentalists in New Wild
> Seldom, however, have radicals anywhere
> waged a battle with such intensity and for
> as they have fighting North Coast timber
> "Those kind of heated conflicts have pretty
> subsided, although there are a few here and
> there,'' said Ed Marston, publisher of High
> Country News, a Colorado weekly that's
> national recognition for its environmental
> But on the North Coast, the story is
> Nearly 10 years after tactics during
> Summer first triggered controversy, Earth
> organizers Cherney and Karen Pickett defend
> the continuing practice of sending young
> like Chain into the woods to conduct
> "cat-and-mouse'' games with loggers. In
> games, intruders try to slow down the pace
> logging by darting through the trees,
> themselves to logging equipment, or
> platforms in towering redwoods and defying
> loggers to cut the occupied trees. Julia
> Arkansas woman who saw her first redwood
> two years ago, has occupied one giant
> near Stafford since last December.
> Pickett and Cherney say recruits like Chain
> Hill are first trained in non-violent
> being sent out to the woods. Their goal is
> logging, while attempting to engage timber
> workers in conservation. But more times
> not, loggers react angrily to the
> view their presence as a threat to their
> livelihoods. Pickett and others blame
> Lumber managers for promoting a campaign of
> violence and hostility against the youthful
> But critics contend Earth First! tactics
> definition of non-violence.
> Arun Ghandi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi,
> said he's troubled by how American
> easily lay claim to non-violent principles
> famous by his grandfather. Since 1991, Arun
> Ghandi has been director of the non-profit,
> non-sectarian M.K. Gandhi Institute for
> Nonviolence at Christian Brothers
> Memphis, Tenn.
> "To be true to the teachings of Gandhi is
> adhere to a practice of seeking solutions
> creating confrontations or bitterness,''
> Gandhi said.
> He said his grandfather believed
> nonviolence could expect to lose their
> resisting oppressors. But he said the
> generally arisen from passive resistance to
> authorities, rather than actively engaging
> "Deliberately sending people into a danger
> is troubling. I don't think that's right.
> be alternative ways of dealing with such a
> situation without losing a life,'' he said.
> Gandhi said he has only received sketchy
> information about Chain's death in the
> "I'm hesitant to pass judgment without
> more, but I fear his life may have been
> wasted,'' Gandhi said.
> Elizabeth Rieke, in her role as an adviser
> government agencies and an instructor, has
> studied environmental conflicts across the
> country for nearly 30 years.
> She said for there to be hope for
> the North Coast, environmental activists
> timber companies must be willing to step
> from dangerous confrontations like the one
> led to Chain's death.
> "There are no easy solutions when valuable
> natural resources are at stake, and vast
> differences in values and deep-seated
> exist among combatants,'' Rieke said.
> Rieke said solutions arise only when
> are willing to come to the table and start
> "At that point, leadership is crucial. And
> leadership is usually homegrown. People
> be willing to take risks, to listen to the
> person and find a common ground. It's not
> It's not often successful. But it can be
> "For this dangerous period to end, people
> North Coast must come to the table. There
> other way,'' Rieke said.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644
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