You are here

Steve Ongerth

Chapter 16 : I Like Spotted Owls…Fried.

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“Then…Oh! Baby! Oh!
How my business did grow!
Now, chopping one tree at a time was too slow.

“So I quickly invented my Super-Axe-Hacker,
which whacked off four Truffula Trees at one smacker,
We were making Thneeds four times as fast as before,
And that Lorax?…He didn’t show up any more.”

—excerpt from The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, 1971

Bill Bailey had a problem. The longtime Laytonville resident owned a logging equipment shop and mail order catalog from there and made hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, butfor him that certainly wasn’t a problem. [1] It wasn’t a lack of connections that plagued him. His wife Judith Bailey was the sister of Becky Harwood, who was married to young Art Harwood, whose father ran a profitable, local sawmill in nearby Branscomb. [2] It wasn’t a lack of wealth. Bill Bailey claimed to be just another working stiff, but this description was betrayed by the fact that he owned expensive furniture and several luxury cars, including a $50,000 Jaguar and a $100,000 Morgan. [3] It wasn’t even a matter of political perspective. Bailey had presented himself as conservative, but had been successfully pegged as one of the financial backers of recently exposed neo-Nazi and Mendocino supervisorial candidate, Jack Azevedo. [4] Bailey took a lot of heat for backing him, but refused to back down, even after being exposed as supporting the reactionary would-be candidate in the local press, but Bailey didn’t even that as a problem. [5] No, indeed, Bill Bailey had a real problem. It seems that in April of 1989, Bailey’s eight-year-old son, Sam, had recently come home from school one day and told his father that, “when loggers fall trees they are taking away the little animals’ homes, and they can’t live.” [6] That, for Bill Bailey was a huge problem.

Chapter 15 : Hang Down Your Head John Campbell

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

You came from Australia, You married one of the Murphys,
They owned Pacific Lumber, And all of the redwood trees…
As soon as you hit the big time, You made good your life,
You didn’t need the Murphys, So you divorced your wife.

—lyrics excerpted from Hang Down Your Head John Campbell, by Darryl Cherney, 1990. [1]

While the G-P and L-P mill workers faced uncertain futures in Mendocino County, Charles Hurwitz was having his way in Humboldt County. Indeed, the first third of 1989 did not go well for the adversaries of Maxxam. For his services in helping facilitate the takeover and convincing the Texas raider to boost lumber production to help service the takeover debt, Hurwitz promoted John Campbell to the role of Pacific Lumber president, effective January 1, 1989, replacing the retiring William Leone. Campbell would remain in Scotia, thus making it the first time in almost 15 years that the P-L president would have his office in the capitol of its lumber operations. Executive vice president for sales and marketing at the company’s Mill Valley site and Hurwitz supporter Thomas B Malarkey was promoted to company vice chairman. Both Campbell and Malarkey were elected to the board of directors. The moves signified Hurwitz’s determination to retain his hold over Humboldt County. [2] It no doubt appealed to Hurwitz that under Campbell’s watch, P-L’s operating income had increased to approximately $54 million in 1988. [3] Hurwitz himself had made a hefty sum that year, earning over $3.95 million—up from $723,150 the year before—and the total didn’t even include an additional $668,345 he received when he terminated P-L’s bonus plan or the $309,375 worth of stock he received on top of everything else. [4]

Chapter 14 : Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“Greed is a noble motivator, when applied in the right context.”

—T Marshall Hahn, President, Georgia-Pacific, 1983-93

At least the workers at the Georgia-Pacific Mill in Fort Bragg had a union who would protect their jobs and working conditions—or so they thought.

The lumber mill that adorned the California coast in Fort Bragg was the largest employer in town, a town whose economy depended on timber. The mill employed more than 600 workers whose wages began at around $7 per hour and ranged up to $18 for long time veterans. Remote from any major highways or rail lines, and lacking a deep water port, the only other industries of any significance in that area were fishing and tourism (though the wine trade was just beginning to gain some pertinence as well).[1] The large mill had been owned by the Union Lumber Company until it was purchased by Boise-Cascade (B-C) in 1969, at which point, IWA Local 3-469 unionized the workers. B-C suffered financial difficulties and subsequently their California holdings were purchased by Georgia-Pacific (G-P) in 1973, in a hostile takeover. B-C filed a successful anti-trust suit against G-P, which had to spin off another company (which became Louisiana-Pacific) to comply with the terms.[2] G-P retained ownership of the Fort Bragg facility. Mendocino County environmentalists had tangled with Georgia-Pacific for many years—most notably over the expansion of the Sinkyone wilderness. Though not actually a company town like Scotia, Fort Bragg was essentially a company town in practice, and that would be proven for all to see. G-P Mill workers were still reeling from their concessionary contract in 1985 and from the loss of their union loggers in the woods—who had been replaced by Gyppo logging crews—when an incident happened on February 11, 1989 that would further expose what went on behind the Redwood Curtain.

Chapter 13 : They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“A year before (the closure) was announced, they told us we’d work ten more years…if they hadn’t gone to two shifts five years ago, we could’ve gone twice as long.”

—Ray Smith, 14 year L-P employee commenting on the closing of the Potter Valley Mill.

“Harry Merlo, L-P’s president, makes a million dollars a year in salary and fringes. Forty-five Potter Valley mill jobs at $20,000 per year out of Merlo’s annual booty would still leave Harry a hundred grand a year.

—Bruce Anderson, Anderson Valley Advertiser, December 28, 1989

“Now Ray says there’s timber back there, They’ll haul it right past town,
Sam says the only way they’ll reopen, Is if another mill burns down,
The company says it’s environmentalists, Crampin’ up their style,
But as I look out on the Mendocino Forest, I can’t see a tree for miles…”

—Potter Valley Mill, lyrics by Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari, January 1989.

The ideological battle being waged between Corporate Timber and the environmentalists continued. Although the Louisiana Pacific workers had been largely silent since the unions had been busted three years previously, they were about to be shocked out of their malaise. Despite announcing record company quarterly earnings of $51.5 million at $1.34 per share (in contrast with $36.8 million at $0.97 the previous year) [1] L-P announced, on November 28, 1988, that they would be clos­ing their lumber mill in Potter Valley in Mendocino County, which had been in operation for fifty years and employed 132 full-time employees, the following spring. L-P’s Western Division manager, Joe Wheeler admitted that the timing of the announcements, just before the Christmas holiday season, was “especially difficult”, but felt it was necessary so the workers would not “extend themselves financially through the holiday season.” [2]

Rumors of the closing had been circulating for some time. The company confirmed them in their usual fashion. As they had prior to the temporary mill closures in the earlier part of the decade, L-P management bought the workers donuts. “For the past 15 years it was the same rumor. ‘Here come the donuts,’ the workers would say, expecting the worst, but it was usually a (temporary) layoff,” declared Linda Smith, whose husband, Ray, worked as a saw-filer in the mill. Indeed, many initially thought that the latest layoff would be no different, but this time they were mistaken.

Chapter 12 : The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“I’m sure as owners and managers, the employees of (Pacific Lumber) will protect their resources through the concept of sustained yields…Pacific Lumber Co. and the redwoods are a national environmental issue. National public support for employee ownership will be forthcoming from around our great country.”

—Rick Ellis, Eureka Times-Standard, October 2, 1988

“Shouldn’t we stop exporting our logs and stop selling to other mills so our young employees will have a job in the future? What about the generation that follows?

—Lester Reynolds, Pacific Lumber monorail mechanic.

No sooner had the IWW joined forces with Earth First! on the North Coast when they found their hands full. One of the provisions of the recently passed Proposition 70 was the purchase (at least in theory) of several parcels of forest land, including the highly contested Goshawk Grove owned by Eel River Sawmills, which comprised a 900 acre tract of virgin redwoods and Douglas fir at the headwaters of the Mattole River. ERS had committed to negotiating the sale of that grove to the public, but their vice president, Dennis Scott, had made unreasonable demands including a prohibition on media coverage, no public comment, approval of several preexisting THPs within the parcel in question, an offer of much less land than had been proposed by the environmentalists, and finally that they be paid in old growth logs purchased from P-L instead of cash. P-L management no doubt approved of this Faustian bargain (indeed, it is not out of the question that they had suggested it), because it benefitted Maxxam’s bottom line. The CDF kept threatening to approve one of ERS’s demanded THPs (1-88-520), and EPIC responded by declaring that they would seek a TRO. Meanwhile, Earth First! and others organized their supporters for a direct action to prevent any logging there. [1]

On the surface, it seemed that defending the Sanctuary Forest would not be difficult. Like the fight for the nearby Sally Bell Grove, the fight to preserve this grove had gone on for at least a decade, and at least 250 local citizens, including veterans of various environmental campaigns in the “Mateel” region, Earth First!, and EPIC had pledged their support. As luck would have it, fate would deal them a number of twists. First, in what amounted to a clear case of bureaucratic stonewalling, the CDF kept obscuring and changing the perspective date for which they would review THP 520. Finally, on October 25, 1988, CDF resource manager Len Theiss approved it at 4:45 PM on October 25, 1988. By that time the 250 activists, including Greg King, were in position, along with an additional 21 Earth First!ers who had been temporarily recruited from Oregon following a local rendezvous recently held there, but Earth First! found its numbers divided by another action not too far away. [2]

Following the California Rendezvous, Judi Bari had immediately involved herself in organizing forest defense campaigns and building bridges with local activists hitherto ignored by Earth First!. Bari’s first move following the September gathering had been to call a meeting of Earth First! in Ukiah, at which Micheal Huddleston and Steven Day, who were not Earth First!ers, but sympathetic local watershed activists, attended and requested Earth First!’s assistance in defending the 16,000 acre Cahto Peak wilderness in northwestern Mendocino County that was in danger of being clearcut, again by ERS, in a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) timber sale. Ukiah Earth First! reached consensus in favor of assisting them, and planned a “wilderness walk” (essentially a trespass) to scope out the threatened area. [3] Huddleston and Day feared that cutting would begin in the spring of 1989, but rumors circulated that the date might be moved up to as late October. Sure enough, on October 24, the day before ERS was to begin logging in Goshawk Grove, A call came in from the newly opened Mendocino Environmental Center (MEC) in Ukiah—which was staffed by Earth First!ers Betty and Gary Ball—that announced that ERS was already cutting logging roads into the Cahto Wilderness! [4]

Quickly, Judi Bari scrambled approximately 30 additional Earth First!ers (including Darryl Cherney) and other local environmentalists to defend the Cahto Wilderness from ERS. While the Sanctuary Forest defenders successfully held off ERS there, the hastily mobilized Cahto “wilderness walk” managed to shut down the road building actions. The latter mobilization involved the use of two dozen cleverly placed road blockades to slow down the loggers’ advance—as there was only one remote forest road into the threatened stand—but the loggers got paid anyway (as it was a BLM sale). Additionally, since this action was organized on the fly in a huge hurry, the Earth First!ers and locals improvised cleverly, as Huddleston and Day contacted the Cahto Indian Tribe, who in turn contacted California Senator Alan Cranston, and discovered that the sale violated conditions of a treaty with the Cahto. [5] North Coast Earth First!ers and IWW members had helped manage to win what they thought was a two-front battle, but they soon learned that they had won on three fronts! [6]

Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

Now there’s one thing she really did for me, (did for me),
Was teach me all ‘bout labor history, (history)
So now I can relate to the workin’ slob, (workin’ slob),
Even though I never had a job.

—Lyrics excerpted from “I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi”, by Darryl Cherney, ca. 1990.

Judi Bari (ne Barisciano), the second of three daughters, was born on November 7, 1949 in a working class neighborhood in a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland, where most of the nearby families were employed in the local steel mills. Bari’s mother Ruth, however, had made history by earning the first PhD ever awarded to a woman studying mathematics at Johns Hopkins University. Bari’s father, Arthur, was a diamond setter, and from him, Bari developed extremely steady hands, which later became a boon to her considerable artistic skills. Bari’s older sister, none other than Gina Kolata, became a famous science writer for the New York Times and Science (although many Earth First!ers, including Bari herself, would argue that Bari’s older sister’s “science” is distorted by corporate lenses), while her younger sister, Martha, was, by Bari’s description, “a perpetual student”. Judi Bari’s upbringing may have been “Middle Class” by most definitions, but her parents, survivors of the McCarthy era in the 1950s, passed on their closet radicalism to their receptive middle daughter, including teaching Bari old IWW songs (and admonishing Bari not to reveal her source) and lecturing all of their daughters against racial and ethnic prejudice. From the get-go, Bari had radical roots.[1]

Judi Bari, in spite of her background as a “red diaper baby”, became politically radicalized on her own accord, having at first been apolitical, even into her first years at the University of Maryland, choosing at first to follow the high school football team, even seeking dates from some of the players as her primary social activity. However, Bari soon became disillusioned with the sexist and racist culture of high school football, having been told not to date an African American player by some of the white ones, who threatened to ostracize her socially if she did. Bari gave in to this threat, an act she later regretted, though this was her first and only capitulation to the status quo. From that point onward, Bari grew increasingly radical. [2]

Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

It was inevitable that the two would meet, really. Earth First! was challenging the corporate extraction of resources, but it wasn’t combating it at its source: the point of production. The problem was that the business unions theoretically could, but in practice they would not. They were too invested in their role as junior partners in the capitalist economy, which left them incapable of fighting it. There was only one union in the United States that could, and luckily, it still existed, even if it was but a shadow of its former self.

That the IWW influenced Earth First! is obvious. If the opposite was true in the early days of Earth First!’s existence, it is difficult to say. Initially, there was no direct or textual reference made by the IWW to Earth First! in its official publication, The Industrial Worker, prior to February 1988, although there was a one-time reproduction of one of Mike Roselle’s images (frequently used in the Earth First! Journal’s “dear shit fer brains” letters section), slightly altered and used in the Industrial Worker’s own letters section in September 1983.

The IWW did take note of general environmental struggles and actions within the pages of the Industrial Worker. For example, in the October / November 1980 issue there was a lengthy article titled, “Big Mountain Dine & Hopi Bat­tle Mine Interests”, a struggle which Earth First! supported for many years. In the June 1981 issue included a lengthy article about the Bolt Weevils”—which predate Earth First!, but serve as one of its inspirations—called, “The Power Line Protest in West Central Minnesota”. Earth First!er Roger Featherstone, was once involved in this campaign. There was a similar, uncredited article about this movement, simply called “Bolt Weevils” in the May 1, 1984 issue of the Earth First! Journal. An isolated column (that does not mention Earth First!) called “Ecology Notes” appeared in the Decem­ber 1982 issue. The same column never appeared again, however. By 1983, articles about ecologically oriented workers’ struggles became more and more frequent, but Earth First! was never mentioned, even if Earth First! was involved in the struggle. Meanwhile, the Wobblies were rarely mentioned in the Earth First! Journal except for a few occasional letters from self-identified IWW members, or former members. [1]

Behind the scenes, however, individual Wobblies and Earth First!ers frequently came into contact with each other. Dave Foreman later revealed that he had regularly corresponded with Utah Phillips. Franklin and Penelope Rosemont had also been in contact with Foreman as well as Roger Featherstone, a veteran of several environmental campaign, who described himself as “a roving reporter for Earth First!” [2] In Tacoma, Washington, IWW members Barbara Hansen and Allen Anger lived in an apartment in the same building as the IWW hall along with long time member, and then branch secretary, Ottilie Markholt. They were friends with George Draffan, who had been a member of the IWW when he was in college, long before joining Earth First! in the 1980s. [3] Colorado IWW member and oilfield worker Gary Cox was also sympathetic to Earth First!. Cox had read The Monkeywrench Gang, become a subscriber to the Earth First! Journal, and had attended an Earth First! speaking event by Dave Foreman and Roger Featherstone at the University of Colorado. [4] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [5]

Nevertheless, the first actual mention of Earth First! in the pages of the Industrial Worker touched on the Cameron Road tree spiking and the injury to George Alexander.

Chapter 9 : And they Spewed Out their Hatred

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“We are witnessing the biggest assault in 20 years on the remaining ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, and the rhetoric could hardly be more Orwellian as far as the environment is concerned.”

—North Coast Environmental Center director Tim McKay, June 1988 [1]

“PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!” shouts Oz, the Great and Terrible in the theatrical version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, just after Dorothy’s dog, Toto, pulls aside the screen exposing the simple man-who-would-be-wizard. As elaborate a ruse as it was, L Frank Baum’s loveable humbug couldn’t hold a candle to the heads of modern corporations. Corporate Timber maintained economic and political control over the Pacific Northwest using the many methods to manufacture consent, including: the concentration of timber holdings and production capital (namely mills and milling equipment) in the hands of a few corporations; reliance on gyppo logging firms and either nonunion millworkers or millworkers with mostly compliant union representation; insurance of the gyppos’ loyalty through forestry and bidding practices that made the latter financially dependent upon the corporations; dominance of regulatory agencies by subservient or likeminded officials, sometimes even former timber executives; ideological and financial domination over timber dependent communities, their public institutions, and their locally elected officials; the donation of just enough charitable contributions to those often financially starved institutions as a “carrot”; the threat of capital flight—which was becoming increasingly feasible due to new technologies—as a “stick”; appeals to cultural ideals particular to the region, namely rugged individualism, cultural conservatism, and private property; and the establishment of ostensibly grassroots false front groups to foster the illusion of populist counter-opposition to the corporations’ political opponents. [2] In the spring of 1988, Pacific Lumber used this last tool extensively.

After Jerry Partain rejected the Shaw Creek and Lawrence Creek THPs proposed by Pacific Lumber, the following letter by Ramona Moore appeared in the Eureka Times-Standard and the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance:

“I’ve lived in Humboldt County since 1954 and have been employed at the Pacific Lumber Company for 24 years, and my husband for 29 years. Our four children were raised in Scotia…

“We take great pride in knowing we have always paid our full share of taxes, never drawn welfare funds nor filed unemployment because we didn’t want to work, and contributed what we could to charitable organizations. What have Earth First and EPIC people contributed? They have opposed everything from importing bananas to cutting trees and are only for legalizing marijuana. They are mostly unemployed which means they are drawing unemployment benefits or on welfare, and maybe growing ‘pot’ to supplement their income. They certainly are not paying federal, state, and county taxes…

“…We have to work for our living and whether they realize it or not, it’s our work and contributions in taxes that allows them the benefits they’re living on. So what gives them the right to play God with our future?

“Humboldt County relies on fishing, tourism, and timber (a renewable resource) for their livelihood. If Earth First and EPIC people win their endeavors, none of these things will be available. Pacific Lumber contributes $30 million in wages yearly, and millions are contributed in taxes. If this is taken from the community and thousands of people are without work, only one thing can happen—disaster!” [3]

This was but one of many very similar letters published between April 19 and June 10, 1988, including those by Steve White, published in the Eureka Times-Standard, April 19, 1988 [4]; Dann Johnson, Times-Standard on April 23, 1988 [5]; Rodney and Melodee Sanderson, Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance on May 10, 1988 [6]; Richard Adams [7] and Lee Ann Walstrom [8], Times-Standard, May 21, 1988; Samuel and Linda Bartlett [9], Mary L. Fowler [10], Kevin Morris [11], Nita M Whitaker [12], Keith Kersell [13], and Lee Ann Walstrum [14], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 22, 1988; Gaird Hamilton, Times-Standard, May 23, 1988 [15]; Lynda Lyons, Times-Standard, May 24, 1988 [16]; Richard Ward [17] and Fred Johnson [18], Times-Standard, May 25, 1988; Forrest Johnson, Times-Standard, May 26, 1988 [19]; Dennis Coleman, Times-Standard, May 27, 1988 [20]; Raymond Davis [21], Jeff and Sherrin Erickson [22], and Gary L Wyatt [23], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 27, 1988; Deborah August of Eureka [24], Ken Cress [25], and Jim Scaife [26], Eureka Times-Standard, May 28, 1988; Linda Bartlett (again) [27], Allan E. Barrote [28], Josh and Betty Edwards [29], Vanessa Frederickson [30] Mohota Jean Pollard and Donald H. Pollard [31], and Dee Weeks and family (sic) [32], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, June 3, 1988; and James Ober [33] and Cindy Cardoza Tyler [34], Beacon and Fortuna Advance on June 10, 1988. The Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance commented that the sheer volume of letters was unusual. [35] Even the owner of the Chevron gas station in Scotia got into the act. [36]

Chapter 8 : Running for Our Lives

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“The only reason that I ran for the Board of Supervisors in the first place, primarily, was to support the timber industry”

—Humboldt County District 2 Supervisor Harry Pritchard, 1987

When Maxxam came to Humboldt and bought out old “PL”,
And ripped the worker’s pension fund and turned the land to hell,
Old Bosco sent a press release to say he’d lend a hand,
And he didn’t break his promise—he just lent it to Maxxam.

—Lyrics excerpted from Where’s Bosco? By Darryl Cherney, 1988

 

Darryl Cherney ran for congress,
As a singing candidate,
Some folks said, “he dropped out early”,
Others said, “it was too late”.

—Lyrics excerpted from Darryl Cherney’s on a Journey, by Mike Roselle and Claire Greensfelder, 1990

The fallout from EPIC vs. Maxxam I was felt almost immediately. Emboldened by Judge Petersen’s decision, and the revelations that the California Department of Forestry had essentially bullied the Department of Fish & Game into silence on the cumulative impact of logging on wildlife in the THP review process, the latter agency took an unprecedented stand. Led by John Hummel, the DFG filed “non-concurrence” reports on five Humboldt County THPs, including three by Simpson Timber Company, one by Pacific Lumber, and one by an independent landowner. In doing so, Hummel declared:

“The wildlife dependent on the old growth redwood/Douglas fir ecosystem for reproduction, food, and cover have not been given adequate consideration in view of the potential impacts…Our position in Fish and Game is that if clearcuts on old-growth stands are submitted, we will not concur until these issues are resolved.”

He further declared that economically viable alternatives to clearcutting had been proposed or evaluated, and the DFG was considering developing position statements in favor of protecting spotted owls, marbled murrelets, fishers, red-tree voles, Olympic salamanders, Del Norte salamanders, and tailed frogs as “species of special concern” in the THP process. [1]

The CDF remained entrenched and indicated that they would ignore Petersen’s ruling by announcing that they would simply change the rules to benefit Corporate Timber. Following the DFGs “non-concurrence” filings, CDF director Jerry Partain called upon the California Board of Forestry to invoke its emergency powers to allow the CDF discretion to overrule DFG findings and approve THPs anyway. This was also unprecedented. The emergency rules had hitherto only been used to protect the environment; now Partain was calling for the opposite. The CDF director’s action brought immediate condemnation from the Office of Administrative Law, the Planning and Conservation League, and EPIC. Among other things, they charged that this rule change should require a full EIR under CEQA. [2]

No doubt Corporate Timber was the biggest motivator behind Partain’s machinations. Epic vs. Maxxam I threatened to shake the agency’s practices up significantly, and not just in Humboldt County. For example, in Mendocino County, local residents filed challenges to two Louisiana-Pacific THPs in the Navarro and Big River Watersheds. [3] The Corporations’ response was to lobby the BOF to require administrative fees of $1,000 per challenge, a threat to citizen oversight that even some pro-Corporate Timber backers considered overshoot and legally untenable. [4]

* * * * *

It was within this political context that Darryl Cherney’s and Greg King’s campaign for office took place. As the environmentalists’ struggle for forestry reform gained momentum and public support they increasingly found themselves in conflict with the government at all echelons. Whether at the fed­eral, state, or county level, it was scarcely an exaggeration to say that poli­ticians and judges were heavily influenced by Corporate Timber. Maxxam and Simp­son called the shots in Hum­boldt County, Georgia-Pacific con­trolled Mendocino County to the south, and Louisiana-Pacific was a heavy hitter in both.

Chapter 7 : Way Up High in The Redwood Giants

By Steve Ongerth - From the book, Redwood Uprising: Book 1

“I just wish Mr. Hurwitz would go out in the woods and take about a day and just sit down in inside a redwood grove. Maybe he’d have a different opinion (about) what’s going on. Rather than looking at a dollar bill, he’d be seeing a tree for its value.”

—John Maurer, Pacific Lumber shipping clerk, 1976-86.

“The employees of PL have no union or representation; they’ve been kidnapped. Whatever their employer requires, they must fulfill or risk unemployment. They’ve become forced through economics to support practices they would never have supported otherwise. PL employees are paranoid by necessity. Folks are so afraid of losing their jobs. There’s lots of fear in our community, fear that keeps us separated from one another.”

—Pete Kayes, Pacific Lumber blacksmith, 1976-91

Earth First! was committed to their Week of Outrage Against Maxxam, whether or not their message of forests and timber jobs forever was superimposed with images of mill worker George Alexander speaking through the bandages that covered his mutilated face. Greg King worried that the negative publicity for an act Earth First! didn’t commit would indeed distract attention away from the real issue: the long term liquidation of the last remaining virgin redwood forests of Northern California. Darryl Cherney, however, assured everyone, “We will be upholding the laws. It is Pacific Lumber that is breaking them.” [1] Beginning on Monday, May 18, Earth First! planned to conduct actions in several places specifically targeting Pacific Lumber operations, Maxxam offices, and related facilities. [2] The largest and most important of these was to be a multifaceted action on Pacific Lumber land in Humboldt County itself, targeting the Booths Run “All Species Grove” THP concurrently being contested by EPIC. [3]

In preparation for the demonstrations, on the day before a group of Earth First!ers attempted to block Pacific Lumber’s main haul route into All Species Grove, while a second crew, including Larry Evans, Mokai, Kurt Newman, and Darrell Sukovitzen, conducted a group “tree sit” 120-150 high on four three-by-six foot suspended wooden platforms up in the giant redwoods nearby. Only two platforms were successfully deployed, however. Mokai had retreated at the advice of the other sitters for logistical reasons, and instead watched his would-be fellow climbers ascending their trees through binoculars. Newman was able to climb his tree, but his platform was intercepted by P-L security who arrived very quickly. From the canopies, the sitters hung large 30-foot banners with slogans such as “Save the Redwoods” and “Stop Maxxam” which also included a blood colored skull and crossbones. The sitters stayed up for several hours until Humboldt County sheriffs arrived, at which time Evans and Sukovitzen surrendered. Newman, on the other hand, remained in place until a professional P-L climber, Dan Collings ascended to his position, at which time Newman surrendered also. [4] The three tree sitters, three of their support people (Lynn Burchfield, Debra Jean Jorgenson, and Linda Villatore), and Sacramento Weekly reporter Tim Holt [5] were arrested and spent two nights in the Humboldt County jail and faced fines of up to $3000. [6] They had collectively managed to remain in the trees for between 12 and 20 hours, but had hoped to remain longer to give the next day’s action “staying power”. [7]

As it turned out, the tree sits weren’t needed anyway. The next day, the show went on at the enormous P-L log deck at Carlotta nearby, attended by 125 Earth First!ers and their allies holding banners, chanting, and singing songs, led by Darryl Cherney. [8] The tree spiking furor had brought larger than expected numbers of media representatives to the action, and they got a good look at Maxxam’s pillage and the Humboldt County sheriffs’ heavy handedness firsthand. One demonstrator was slightly injured when a pickup truck, driven by a disgruntled, unsympathetic P-L employee, attempted to storm the protesters at the logging gate. [9] A group of three women swarmed the log deck attempting to display huge banners there. [10] Although the sheriffs were anticipating the action and managed to arrest Agnes Mansfield, Aster Phillipa, and Karen Pickett [11], they were distracted long enough for Bettina Garsen, Tierra Diane Piaz, and “Sally Bell” [12] to ascend the log deck with banners conveying messages calling for a halt to old growth logging. [13] The sheriffs eventually arrested the second group, and all six arrestees each spent a night in the county jail. [14] Although the tree sit had been thwarted, the action turned out to be successful anyway, because P-L determined that it was in their short term interest not to haul any logs during the demonstration, and this nevertheless advanced Earth First!’s strategy beautifully. [15]

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.