>Date: Tue, 02 Dec 97 09:42:58 PST
>From: kathy.bailey@sfsierra.sierraclub.org
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>Subject: SJ Merc Article
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> Fight over redwoods splinters Humboldt County
>Published Tuesday, December 2, 1997, in the San Jose Mercury News
> Fight over redwoods splinters Humboldt County
> Mercury News Staff Writer
> EUREKA -- The escalating fight over the redwoods has turned this
>isolated corner of California inside out.
> Times are tough. The local economy stinks. Commercial fishing has
>sunk. And the logging industry, once the proud vessel of local
>heritage, has been whittled down by dwindling supplies and
>government rules, fueled in part by an in-your-face save-the-trees
> That cracking noise rippling through Humboldt County these days is
>not just falling timber. It's the sound of a community under strain,
>wrestling over its own splintered soul, breaking apart with the dull
>distant snap of a Sequoia spine.
> Even before a nationally publicized pepper-spray face-off between
>cops and protesters, the tension in Humboldt County could have been
>cut with a chain saw. Old-timers hate the young interlopers hanging
>around the Earth First! office on Third Street. Cops hate the press
>for making them look like big-lumber goons. Loggers hate the federal
>policy-pushers who make it harder than ever to lay a vertical tree
> ``There's a feeling among residents that for years the federal
>government has been out to get Humboldt County,'' says Wes Reed, the
>soft-spoken head of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce. ``And there's
>just as high a level of frustration with the environmentalists. They
>say they want to save the redwoods, but they won't be satisfied
>until they have everything we own.
> ``People see this as our community and logging as our livelihood,''
>he says, ``and it's like, `You're coming in and you're trying to
>take our livelihood away.' ''
> Last month, the world got a glimpse into Humboldt's angst, through
>the peephole of the nightly news: a video of Humboldt sheriff's
>deputies swabbing pepper spray into the eyes of four young logging
>protesters. To neutral observers, the clip's equation was clear:
> Tree-lovers good. Cops bad.
> What the world did not see were 100 other pieces of the puzzle this
>Northern California county has become. The incident, taped during
>the Oct. 16 takeover of the Eureka office of Republican Rep. Frank
>Riggs, was a flashy excerpt from a subplot far more knotty that the
>TV image would suggest.
> ``The world sees a 10-second video, but we've been living with
>harassment from environmentalists for 10 years, violating our rights
>to live a peaceful existence,'' says Mary Bullwinkel, spokeswoman
>for the Pacific Lumber Co. in Scotia. ``Our employees have shown
>incredible tolerance, but we've had them in our face for years, and
>they've been getting increasingly aggressive.''
>Myriad battle lines
> Battle lines cover Humboldt like blackberry vines. From the small
>shops of Arcata to the sawmills of Fortuna, and in the letters to
>the editor of the Times-Standard, everyone's got their own take on
>the troubles. Many residents agonize over the loss of their
>birthright to cut down trees. They're overwhelmed by the loss of
>their past, but unsure of who their enemy really is. So they settle
>upon the most visible suspect.
> ``These environmentalists are out of control,'' says Charles
>Hansen, who since 1946 has been selling the wire rope loggers use to
>yank severed redwoods from the forest. ``We get these kids coming in
>here raising hell, saying they wanna save the last redwood tree. But
>people don't understand: Redwoods grow like weeds. You cut 'em down,
>they grow right back. You can't kill the damn stuff.''
>Ragtag romantics
> Many of the protesters are ragtag romantics, middle-class
>expatriates out to rescue the giant redwoods. They think of the
>groves as cathedrals. They ``tree-sit'' to thwart chain-saw crews,
>camping out on platforms they've built 80 feet in the air. They lie
>down in front of logging trucks, then lock themselves to the drive
>shaft for hours. They espouse non-violent civil disobedience, but do
>it with the fervor of a jihad. And having God on your side of the
>holy war, of course, makes for some grand obstinacy.
> ``We have to put our bodies on the line,'' says Vernell ``Spring''
>Lundberg, a 17-year-old protester pepper-sprayed by police during a
>Sept. 25 sit-in at Pacific Lumber's headquarters. For environmental
>activists, including those who march under the banner of Earth
>First!, the firm's owner and Texas financier Charles Hurwitz is
>public enemy No. 1. ``We're resisting the beast of America's
>greed,'' says Lundberg. ``There is violence going on to the forests
>behind the Redwood Curtain. We're here to draw that violence to
> Those are the extremes. In between, tangled up in this polemic net,
>are working folks who find some logic in both arguments. Stranded in
>the middle ground, they watch helplessly as the logging industry
>slowly fades away. Of the 11,000 logging jobs in the mid-1950s, only
>about 4,000 remain.
> Those lost jobs aren't just statistics. They are fathers and aunts,
>bowling partners and the hairdresser's brother-in-law. Steve Morris
>in Arcata, son of a logger, has spent half his 50 years building up
>his log-trucking business, only to see it threatened by an uncertain
>marketplace. He can't plan for the future because nobody knows what
>future is left in logging.
> Like others, Morris has come to realize the only way he'll stay in
>business is if logging interests and the environmental lobby can
>find common ground and moderation in harvesting techniques.
> ``Old-time loggers are the best environmentalists of all,'' says
>Morris, ``because our livelihood has always depended on treating the
>resource with respect. But now practicality is gone. You have
>radical factions on each side, and the moderates like us suffer in
>the middle.''
> Another subculture suspended in Humboldt's limbo are the
>back-to-earthers like Richard Gienger who fled big cities in the
>'60s for Utopia. Now in their 50s, they, too, see compromise as
>their last chance to salvage the wooded wonderland that brought them
>to Humboldt in the first place. They are calling for a new way of
>cutting trees at a rate that would ensure survival of both forests
>and logging jobs for decades to come.
> Gienger and others see Humboldt's dilemma as far more complicated
>than Earth First! vs. loggers. ``This economy was dead by the end of
>the '60s, so to blame it on the protesters is simply incorrect. The
>problem here,'' he says, ``is a shortage of resources, not an
>overabundance of environmentalists.''
>Police officers fed up
> Finally, there are the cops. Cast into high profile by the
>pepper-spray video, they've become lightning rods for all kinds of
>community emotion: from rabid support to begrudged sympathy to
>outrage by those who feel swabbing chemicals into the eyes of
>teenage girls was going overboard.
> ``My officers are fed up with what's happened to us in the media,''
>says Eureka Police Chief Arnie Millsap. Although his officers
>weren't involved in the incident at Riggs' office, Millsap says he
>has received death threats and his staff has been bombarded by
>harassing and obscene phone calls and e-mail.
> ``I've worked hard for years to stop the polarizing effects of
>protests up here,'' says Millsap, who cites Martin Luther King Jr.
>as a hero. ``So to have me portrayed in the media as some kind of
>knuckle-dragging Neanderthal hurts a lot. I have three college
>degrees and damn it to hell, I am not a redneck and I am not a
> Reed, from the chamber of commerce, sees some faint signs of hope,
>regardless of what happens with logging. Young entrepreneurs,
>especially telecommuters, are moving into town. And Reed has noticed
>an increase in citizen participation at county meetings. But for the
>moment, as Humboldt smarts from the nasty national publicity, things
>seem as dim as the shadows of ancient forests. There is a standoff
>that won't go away; although President Clinton this month signed
>legislation that helps set aside part of the Headwaters Forest,
>large swaths of old-growth redwoods remain vulnerable.
> Some forest activists advocate teaming up with loggers to fight a
>common enemy -- outside corporate interests that activists say are
>dividing the community in their greedy quest for more timber
> ``The real myth is that there are two opposing factions,'' says
>Kevin Bundy of Environmental Protection Information Center in
>Garberville. ``Most loggers know their jobs are endangered
>ultimately by their bosses. The fear is that they'll either be cut
>or regulated out of a job. It's just a question of when.''
> But it's hard to find a logger who buys that. ``If they feel an
>affinity with me it's an illusion,'' says John Lima, a 51-year-old
>independent logger from Arcata. ``They may think they've got this
>big coalition going, that they're friends with us, but we're sure
>not friends with them.''
> So the stalemate continues. Protests keep coming, lawsuits slide
>like mud through the courts. The cops stand by their use of pepper
>spray. And a poor county shoulders the costs of keeping things under
>control. Last week, the Sierra Club jumped into the act and started
>running anti-Riggs ads on local TV.
> Gradually, painfully, all sides have been forced to face the facts
>of Humboldt County:
> It was always the trees that defined and dignified this place.
> Now they divide it.
David M. Walsh
P.O. Box 903
Redway, CA 95560
Office and Fax(707) 923-3015
Home (707) 986-1644

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