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Greens, Loggers, and Woodworkers Blast Louisiana-Pacific’s “Good Neighbor Policy”

By Don Morris – Earth First! Journal, Samhain (Nov. 1), 1985

A loose coalition of environmentalists, woodworkers, loggers, and angry citizens has joined to protest the gangster tactics of the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation in Mendocino County, California.

Louisiana-Pacific has earned a national reputation as the premier union busting timber beast, and its callous disregard for neighbors and workers has caused a firestorm of protest in this rural Northern California county. In a 1979 referendum, county residents voted by a 2 to 1 margin to ban the aerial spraying of phenoxy herbicides after local children, while waiting for a school bus, were exposed to 2,4,5-T by a timber company spray helicopter. The ban was appealed by the state, but eventually upheld by the California Supreme Court in mid 1984. Under massive pressure from the Agro-Chemical Empire, the state legislature frantically passed a new law which transferred the control of herbicides and other “economic poisons” back to the state. Spray regulations are now back in the hands of the Department of Food and Agriculture (the California Pentagon) which is aggressively engaged in chemical warfare against all living threats to monoculture. Soon after the reversal, in early 1985, Louisiana-Pacific held a festive press briefing and, with total contempt for the democratic vote of the people, announced plans to resume spraying 2,4-D in the fall. The company mouth piece stressed that herbicide use was the only cost effective way of preventing hardwood species such as tanoak, madrone, and ceanothus (a nitrogen fixer) from competing with their conifer monocrops, He also expressed the desire to destroy the habitat of rabbits, gophers, and other forest creatures which pose a threat to conifer seedlings. The company resource manager, suppressing a grin, assured the press that Louisiana-Pacific would continue its “Good Neighbor” policy.

Environmentalists and other concerned citizens, enraged at the loss of local control, quickly began organizing to prevent the fall spraying, and while local resistance was still in disarray, “Good Neighbor” Louisiana-Pacific mounted a sneak chemical attack on its holdings near the communities of Rockport and Comptche. The weapon used was Dow Chemical’s new herbicide Garlon, which is sometimes referred to as 2,4,5-T in drag. Garlon is an unrestricted, relatively unknown, and inadequately tested chemical which is only one atom different from the banned 2,4,5-T. Adding injury to insult, Louisiana-Pacific cleverly managed to drift spray on a logging crew working near the Rockport site. Within 48 hours, the workers all developed remarkably similar flu like symptoms and were examined by a local physician who was unable to conclusively determine the cause of illness. Louisiana-Pacific, while asserting that the loggers were never sprayed, assured them that the chemical was harmless. Citizens near the Comptche spray site also complained of nausea and other flu-like symptoms, and later discovered that the spray had drifted into local streams. Several loggers and their families, despite fears of unemployment are planning legal action against the neighborly company.

After protesting in vain to timid local officials, environmentalists and irate citizens decided to confront the intransigent timber beast. The Comptche Citizens for a Safe Environment, with support from two other local groups—(SOHO) Support Our Herbicide Opposition, and the fledgling Mendocino Greens—planned a protest demonstration at the Louisiana-Pacific mill and offices in Ukiah. Local affiliates of two labor unions, the International Woodworkers of America, and the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, announced support for the picket in exchange for the Greens support of a leafleting campaign at area lumber yards calling for a boycott of all Louisiana-Pacific products.

On April 23, demonstrators gathered at Louisiana-Pacific’s Ukiah headquarters and vowed to picket until the company agreed to halt all herbicide spraying for two years while instituting a manual hardwood removal test program. Some protestors jammed the company’s phone lines speaking at length to public relations hacks. By the end of the week over 500 people had signed in at the picket line, The Louisiana Pacific security chief, expressing fears that the Greens were an Irish terrorist organization, spent most of his time videotaping the demonstrators and their parked cars. Community support for the demonstration was mostly positive, and many of those who drove by cheered as they passed through the picketers while delivering logs to the mill. Phone protestors who engaged befuddled Louisiana-Pacific employees in long conversations on the company’s toll-free lines encountered some sympathy and very little rancor. Local media coverage was extensive and one documentary film maker recorded the activities for a potential PBS series on herbicides.

By the end of the week Louisiana-Pacific, supposedly responding to negative publicity, agreed to meet with representatives of the anti-spray coalition on neutral turf in Willits. After two hours of discussion, the two sides emerged from the meeting still deadlocked. The company, however, did offer to spray no more in 1985 (since the season was already over) and planned to give 60-90 day notice before spraying in 1986. This will give its neighbors near the spray sites ample time to remove themselves, their children, their pets, their drinking water, and their fellow forest creatures from the area until it is safe to return. Later, in a rare moment of generosity, Louisiana-Pacific offered 60 unspecified acres of its forestlands for a pilot manual hardwood removal program. The company offered to pay no more than $100 per acre (about what it would cost to use herbicides) and would require a $5,000 bond from the removal contractor. Ironically, Louisiana-Pacific has since spent in excess of $12,000 on a series of crude, factually inaccurate, and highly misleading ads in local newspapers claiming that herbicides and pesticides are harmless.

In his “Paper on Direct Action” in the Earth First! Journal (1983 Mabon edition), Rupert Russell observed that, “Non­violent direct action works best against a principled opponent under observation by neutral onlookers. If the opponent is callous or predatory, then only rigorous economic threat will convert his plans.” The local Green coalition has concluded that Louisiana-Pacific, with its disastrous forest practices and blatant union crushing tactics, is immune to (and probably thrives on) bad publicity. As a result the Greens, vowing to take actions that will put economic pressure on the company, have sent a representative to protest the company policies at the annual stock-holders meeting in Colorado while simultaneously picketing the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco. The Greens have also raised nearly $2,000 for the loggers’ legal defense fund and continue to support the local woodworkers’ boycott of stores which carry Louisiana-Pacific products. Local workers are beginning to realize that a company which is contemptuous of the environment and insensitive to the well-being of local citizens is a very “Bad Neighbor,”...

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