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Gene Lawhorn

Redwood Uprising: From One Big Union to Earth First! and the Bombing of Judi Bari (Steve Ongerth)

Introduction
Chapter 1 : An Injury to One is an Injury to All!
Chapter 2 : Pollution, Love it or Leave it!
Chapter 3 : He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other
Chapter 4 : Maxxam’s on the Horizon
Chapter 5 : No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!
Chapter 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!
Chapter 7 : Way Up High in The Redwood Giants
Chapter 8 : Running for Our Lives
Chapter 9 : And they Spewed Out their Hatred
Chapter 10 : Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!
Chapter 11 : I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi
Chapter 12 : The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes
Chapter 13 : They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley
Chapter 14 : Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill
Chapter 15 : Hang Down Your Head John Campbell
Chapter 16 : I Like Spotted Owls…Fried
Chapter 17 : Logging to Infinity
Chapter 18 : The Arizona Power Lines
Chapter 19 : Aristocracy Forever
Chapter 20 : Timberlyin’
Chapter 21 : You Fucking Commie Hippies!
Chapter 22 : I am the Lorax; I speak for the Trees
Chapter 23 : Forests Forever
Chapter 24 : El Pio
Chapter 25 : Sabo Tabby vs. Killa Godzilla
Chapter 26 : They Weren’t Gonna Have No Wobbly Runnin’ Their Logging Show
Chapter 27 : Murdered by Capitalism
Chapter 28 : Letting the Cat Out of the Bag
Chapter 29 : Swimmin’ Cross the Rio Grande
Chapter 30 : She Called for Redwood Summer
Chapter 31 : Spike a Tree for Jesus
Chapter 32 : Now They Have These Public Hearings…
Chapter 33 : The Ghosts of Mississippi Will be Watchin’
Chapter 34 : We’ll Have an Earth Night Action
Chapter 35 : “You Brought it On Yourself, Judi”
Chapter 36 : A Pipe Bomb Went Rippin’ Through Her Womb
Chapter 37 : Who Bombed Judi Bari?
Chapter 38 : Conclusion

This entire book and all of its chapters are also available for viewing at judibari.info.

Eco Wobblies: Revolutionary Ecology and the Development of Earth First!-IWW Local #1

By Michael Gonzales - dissertation - May 19, 2017

Environmental historians have shown that the development of the modern environmental movement has been marked by a perceived tension between the interests and attitudes of workers and those of environmental activists. This paper details an important exception to that trend. In late 1989 members of the radical environmental group Earth First! joined with lumber workers in Northern California to form Earth First!-IWW Local #1.

In the words of Local #1 leader Judi Bari, this labor union acted as a “bridge between environmentalists and timber workers.” This essay examines the factors that brought workers and environmental activists together in this short-lived experiment in what some have termed “green syndicalism.” This essay utilizes archival documentary evidence and the accounts of movement activists to demonstrate a more complex relationship between Earth First! and the IWW (and between labor and environmentalism in general), with deeper historical roots than has been previously understood In doing so, this essay challenges the assumptions of the environment versus labor dichotomy and suggests the potential for solidarity and cooperation between environmentalists and workers.

Read the Report (PDF).

The Secret History of Tree Spiking, Part 3

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, April 11, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Note: The Secret History of Tree Spiking Part 1 and Part 2 were written by Judi Bari in 1993.

Twenty-five years ago, a group of Earth First!ers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and Earth First! co-founder Mike Roselle held a press release in Samoa, California (a small town west of Eureka, in Humboldt County, northwestern California) at the Louisiana-Pacific lumber mill and export dock. There, they issued the following statement:

In response to the concerns of loggers and mill-workers, Northern California Earth First! organizers are renouncing the tactic of tree spiking in our area. Through the coalitions we have been building with lumber workers, we have learned that the timber corporations care no more for the lives of their employees than they do for the life of the forest. Their routine maiming and killing of mill workers is coldly calculated into the cost of doing business, just as the destruction of whole ecosystems is considered a reasonable by-product of lumber production.

These companies would think nothing of sending a spiked tree through a mill, and relish the anti-Earth First! publicity that an injury would cause.

Since Earth First! is not a membership organization, it is impossible to speak for all Earth First!ers. But this decision has been widely discussed among Earth First!ers in our area, and the local sentiment is overwhelmingly in favor of renouncing tree-spiking. We hope that our influence as organizers will cause any potential tree-spikers to consider using a different method. We must also point out that we are not speaking for all Earth First! groups in this pronouncement. Earth First! is decentralized, and each group can set its own policies. A similar statement to this one renouncing tree spiking is now being made in Southern Oregon, but not all groups have reached the broad consensus we have on this issue.

But in our area, the loggers and mill workers are our neighbors, and they should be our allies, not our adversaries. Their livelihood is being destroyed along with the forest. The real conflict is not between us and the timber workers, it is between the timber corporation and our entire community.

We want to give credit for this change in local policy to the rank and file timber workers who have risked their jobs and social relations by coming forward and talking to us. This includes Gene Lawhorn of Roseburg Lumber in Oregon, who defied threats to appear publicly with Earth First! organizer Judi Bari. It also includes the Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber employees who are members of IWW Local #1 in northern California.

Equipment sabotage is a time-honored tradition among industrial workers. It was not invented by Earth First!, and it is certainly not limited to Earth First! even in our area. But the target of monkey wrenching was always intended to be the machinery of destruction, not the workers who operate that machinery for $7/hour. This renunciation of tree spiking is not a retreat, but rather an advance that will allow us to stop fighting the victims and concentrate on the corporations themselves.”

For those not familiar with the tactic of "tree spiking", Earth First cofounder Dave Foreman describes the act in great detail in the book, EcoDefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching. While that text is not official Earth First! literature--in the sense that Earth First!, as a loose ad hoc organization that prefers to think of itself as a movement, has long distanced themselves from the text, and Dave Foreman, due to the latter's borderline racist and classist perspectives, has long been associated with Earth First!, and Earth First! has long been associated (for better or worse) with Tree Spiking, and to this day, there are many Earth First!ers who continue to support the tactic, or--at least--choose not to renounce it.

Chapter 33 : The Ghosts of Mississippi Will be Watchin’

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

Now when the timber barons heard the news they geared up for the fight,
And we laughed away the death threats and we cried to sleep each night,
And the media walked right into our homes,
As if they really were one of our own.
Now Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney left this little racist town,
Drove down that Mississippi highway to the place they would bed down,
But in the mirror they could see the Sheriff’s light,
No, they never did make it home that night.

—lyrics excerpted from Ghosts of Mississippi, by Darryl Cherney, 2004 [1]

Now Judi Bari is an Earth First! organizer,
The California Redwoods are her home,
She called for Redwood Summer,
Where the owl and the black bear roam;
Charlie Hurwitz he runs Maxxam out of Houston,
Harry Merlo runs L-P from Portland town,
They’re the men they call ‘King Timber’,
They know how to cut you down;
And Shep Tucker spewed their hatred,
As Candy Boak laid out their scam,
John Campbell called for violence,
It was no secret what they planned…

—lyrics excerpted from Who Bombed Judi Bari?, by Darryl Cherney, 1990 [2]

Judi Bari didn’t have time to be frightened. Even though the organizers of the coming season of protests shortened the name “Mississippi Summer of the California Redwoods” simply to “Redwood Summer,” the situation—she thought—was starting to more and more resemble the violent and threatening conditions of the original Mississippi Freedom Summer anyway.

While the Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference was in progress in Oregon, the representatives of font-family: "Times New Roman","serif"">Corporate Timber on California’s North Coast were in the process of polishing their image. Louisiana Pacific, Pacific Lumber, and Simpson through the auspices of yet another front group known as the “North Coast Forest Industry” (NCFI)—which had existed quietly for twelve years—created a series of advertisements promoting themselves as “good neighbors”, “economically beneficial to the local economies” of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, and “careful stewards” of the region’s forests. The campaign included radio spots and full page ads in the region’s local and corporate newspapers. The NCFI didn’t merely limit itself to representatives from the three corporations and the local gyppo firms, however. It opened up its membership to other local businesses, ostensibly because they depended upon the timber economy for their own viability, but more likely because the NCFI also functioned like the “good citizens’ leagues” of old ensuring loyalty to the dominant power. One such business owner speaking approvingly of the effort declared, “The only way that the timber industry makes the newspaper is if somebody is sitting in one of their trees or chained to the back of one of their logging trucks.” [3]

The NCFI campaign was ironic, given the fact that the north coast timber corporations had been producing such ads already for years, particularly in the Eureka Times-Standard, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Ukiah Daily Journal, and (naturally) the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance. In fact, the bias was so blatant, that even a few readers of the last publication had already been incensed enough to accuse the editor of “shameless corporate bootlicking”. [4] The effort nevertheless brought many local employers into the fold, and following the ads, the NCFI’s membership increased by 30 to 40 members from its original membership of barely one dozen. [5]

Two days after the NCFI announced its campaign, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat’s, Ukiah bureau chief and head timber reporter, Mike Geniella, wrote a fairly extensive and article about the Mississippi Summer of the California Redwoods, or “Redwood Summer” as it was now being called. One week previously, Bari, Cherney, and other North Coast Earth First!ers had made their presentation to the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC) who had held a conference in Sacramento. The SEAC organizers had been so inspired that they agreed to include the Redwood Summer organizing call out in their newsletter. “They (sent it) to thousands of colleges in the United States”, commented Betty Ball. [6] Over the course of the next two weeks, the story made national press wires, and thousands of people suddenly began showing interest in what was happening behind the so-called “Redwood Curtain”. [7] The Timber Association of California, a supporter of the NCFI was not pleased. Speaking on their behalf, Kevin Eckery declared, “(it) trivializes the real sacrifices made in Mississippi as part of the Civil Rights movement. The situation (here) doesn’t hardly seem to be the same.” [8] He would soon be proven very wrong, and in a sense, he was wrong from the get-go. Candy Boak continued to call Judi Bari and let her adversary know that she was still being watched, which was an ominous—even threatening—gesture. This would only be the start of things to come. [9]

Chapter 31 : Spike a Tree for Jesus

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

In spite of all of the Corporate Media’s claims that both Redwood Summer and Forests Forever could potentially polarize timber dependent communities into opposing “green” and “yellow” camps, and despite all of the efforts by Corporate Timber to manifest those divisions, Earth First! – IWW Local #1 continued to slowly gain support and influence among rank and file timber workers on the North Coast. As a result, Judi Bari was invited to participate in a “Labor and the Environment” workshop, called “Bridging the Gap” at the Public Interest and Environmental Law Conference in early March in Eugene, Oregon. [1] Several Earth First!ers from the Pacific Northwest were invited to participate and did, including Karen Wood from various Oregon Earth First! chapters; George Draffan, Mitch Friedman, and Mike Jakubal from various Washington Earth First! groups; as well members of the Save Opal Creek, the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network (ESSN), and Jeff Debonis of Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics (AFSEEE). Oddly, however, no rank and file timber workers received invitations. [2]

The Labor and Environment Panel consisted of Judi Bari, a university professor whose area of study was physics, and “the owner of a company who (made) fancy yuppie houses out of old growth wood and doesn’t want the old growth eliminated.” Bari felt that the panel wasn’t representative enough, so she gave the organizers the name of a certain rank and file mill worker from Roseburg, Oregon, with whom she had happened to have been corresponding. Gene Lawhorn had recently been speaking publically for the preservation of the Spotted Owl, against the yellow ribbon campaign, and in defense of union timber workers, and Bari intended to cede some of her time to him, because the organizers had not thought to include any actual timber workers on the panel, and they had refused to let Lawhorn be on the panel. [3]

A week before the conference it seemed as if the AFL-CIO intended to keep both Bari and Lawhorn off of the panel. Bari received a phone call from Paul Moorhead of the Western Council of Industrial Workers (WCIW) who identified himself by name, and said, nastily, “You better not think that you can come to Oregon because you won’t find a welcome…If any member of my union talks to you, they’ll be out of a job.” [4] Moorhead also contacted the conference organizers and the University of Oregon and told them that Bari was an inappropriate speaker for the panel. [5] He had no real grounds to complain, however, because the WCIW no longer represented any workers in Mendocino County, as its last bargaining unit had been eliminated in 1986. In response to his threats, Bari notified the press and conference organizers. She also contacted the WCIW and requested that they openly debate the issue with Bari (and Lawhorn) at the conference. The conference organizers agreed to the debate, but the WCIW declined the invitation. [6]

Gene Lawhorn would get his chance to speak. There was just one small problem, however. In between the time that Bari had extended the invitation to Lawhorn (who accepted) and the conference, an IWW member in Oregon gave the latter a copy of Darryl Cherney’s album, They Sure Don’t Make Hippies Like They Used To, which has four songs on it that include references to tree spiking, all of which are favorable to the tactic. In spite of the fact that Cherney had declared two years earlier that he “would never spike a tree (himself)” [7], at the same time he had written “pro spiking” songs, including Earth First! Maid (set to the tune of Union Maid), They Sure Don’t Make Hippies the Way They Used To, Ballad of the Lonesome Tree Spiker (coauthored with Mike Roselle), and Spike a Tree for Jesus. [8]

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 6 : If Somebody Kills Themselves, Just Blame it on Earth First!

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

Haul it to the sawmill, Got to make a buck,
Your blades are worn and dangerous, Better trust your luck,
Don’t stop for the workers’ safety, Never fear the worst,
‘Cause if somebody kills themselves, Just blame it on Earth First!,
L-P…

—Lyrics excerpted from L-P, by Judi Bari, 1990.

“Anybody who ever advocated tree spiking of course has to rethink their position.”

—Darryl Cherney, June 1987.[1]

Earth First! received much negative press for its advocacy of biocentrism, the notion that all species (including humans) were intrinsically valuable. Their slogan “No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!” was forceful and militant, and given the misanthropic leanings of some of its cofounders, it was often taken to mean that they valued the lives of nonhuman species above humans—even if it meant the suffering or death of the latter—which wasn’t actually the case. The situation was complicated further by Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching: industrial “ecotage” which included everything from deflagging roads to putting sugar in the fuel tanks of earth moving and/or logging equipment. Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman described monkeywrenching thusly:

“It is resistance to insanity that is encapsu­lated in Monkeywrenching…(it) fits in with the bioregional concept. You go back to a place and you peacefully re-inhabit it. You learn about it. You become a part of the place. You develop an informal and al­ternative political and social struc­ture that is somehow apart from the sys­tem… it’s also a means of self-empowerment, of finding alternative means of relat­ing to other people, and other life forms…there is a funda­mental difference between ecodefense resistance and classic revolutionary or terrorist behavior.” [2]

Such a description, while informative, was hardly likely to silence critics on the right. The most controversial of these controversial tactics by far, was Earth First!’s advocacy of “tree spiking”, the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter timber sales. [3]

Capital Blight: To Wrench or Not to Wrench, a Response

By x344543 - October 29, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A few days ago, I read To Wrench or Not to Wrench: A Brief History of Direct Action in the Environmental Movement and its Potential Consequences, Ethical Implications, and Effectiveness, by By Jeriah Bowser, of the Hampton Institute with particular interest, because it deals with a subject with which I have a good deal of familiarity. Having worked alongside Judi Bari and her fellow Earth First! - IWW Local #1 organizers, I learned a good deal from listening to the ongoing and evolving discussions and debates over strategy and tactics within both Earth First! and the IWW, and so Bowser's article immediately caught my attention.

To be certain, I wanted to make sure I read his piece very carefully, because the subject he covers is particularly contentious and--in my humble opinion--often misconstrued in any number of frustrating ways. I found some things to agree with in Hampton's piece, but there are some glaring errors and oversights in his argument, not to mention some very dangerous and damaging mistakes as well.

For starters, Bowser establishes a false dichotomy between environmental (or other) groups which "engage in direct action" and those that "stick to the democratic process". There are many that do both and see no contradiction in doing so. There is an old debate about "working within the system" versus "tearing the (rotten) system down". Certainly the IWW advocates the later in regards to capitalism ("capitalism cannot be reformed") philosophically, but as a matter of day-to-day survival the IWW is not adverse to working within established systems to make small gains, knowing full well that ultimately the IWW's intended end, the abolition of wage slavery and the establishment of a cooperative commonwealth (that lives in harmony with the Earth) cannot be achieved within the context of capitalism, no matter how much one tries to reform it. Often times, the IWW alsoadvocates working outside the system through direct action, specifically at the point of production. Most times, the IWW favors the latter, but sometimes the boundaries aren't entirely clear. The same holds true with radical environmentalists.

On the flip side, Bowser either naively or even dangerously lumps all forms of "direct acton" together and all groups that engage in a whole range of direct action tactics into a single grouping. Specifically he conflates Earth First!, Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and Animal Liberation Front (ALF) into one category. I suppose that's essentially accurate on a certain level, and it's been a good long time since I have been an "active" Earth First!er (however that is defined), but when I was active in Earth First! (1995-98), we never engaged in or advocated some of the tactics commonly associated with either ALF or ELF, including, especially arson. Arson was not only not condoned, the Earth First! groups I worked with specifically eschewed such tactics as counterproductive and self destructive. To my knowledge, that is still the case, even if Earth First! favorably reports on the activities of ELF and ALF.

Bowser also makes few distinctions between the veritable aresnal of direct action tactics that exist, simply labeling "tree sitting, blocking logging roads, and street protests" as "passive, non-violent" civil disobedience, then mentioning "tree spiking, or driving huge nails into trees" as an escalation of Earth First!'s militancy. He then goes on to declare that the Billboard Liberation Front (BLF) escalated those tactics by "defacing" billboards (although, perhaps "culture jamming" would be a more accurate term, because simple defacement and repurposing the message into an anti-capitalist or ironic satire is substantially more meaningful) followed by "burning" (or) "cutting them down". I know of no proven examples of the latter, but I'll accept that I don't know everything and take the author at their word. However, the author then goes on to state that "arson slowly emerged as the preferred method of resistance, however, and was co-opted by other emerging environmental and animal rights groups- most notably the ELF and ALF," as if there were a logical and linear progression from one to the other, which is a dubious argument.

Common Misconceptions and Entangled Histories: a Review of Jonathan K London's Academic Revisionism of Earth First! - IWW Local #1

By x344543 - August 29, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

In my efforts to uncover as much potentially useful information as I can for the IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus's website, the results of which generally wind up in our Green Unionism library, I occasionally come across an unexpected nugget of gold. Other times, it turns out to be iron pyrite (Fool's Gold). Such was the case with Jonathan K London's muddled academically oriented article, "Common Roots and Entangled Limbs: Earth First! and the Growth of Post-Wilderness on California's North Coast", published in Antipode 30:2 in 1988.

The article begins auspiciously describing the pioneering "green syndicalism" of Earth First! - IWW Local #1, as led by Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, Greg King, et. al. London observes that Local #1 (which he describes mainly as "North Coast Earth First!"--that the IWW's role in that history is frequently omitted is not the fault of London):

"offer(ed) the promise of a truly radical movement, by which I mean one that truly confront(ed) capital’s interlinked degradation of both natural and human communities. This article examines the efforts by the North Coast Earth First! to inscribe a new community of activists and timber workers joined in the struggle to contest corporate claims on the redwood forest."

These conclusions match my own direct experiences, having worked alongside Bari, Cherney, and others between 1995-98 and having helped usher in what ultimately became the "Blue-Green Alliance" (that this effort was co-opted by reformist elements was sadly beyond our control).

Having established this, London unfortunately proceeds to the very dubious conclusion that Local 1 ultimately alienated the timber workers with whom they achieved common ground by, "by redefining the redwood forest as the exclusive property of the activists themselves."

A careful examination of London's presentation of the information in which he attempts (vainly) to make his case reveals that he offers no substantive proof to make such a conclusion, and what historical accounts he does reference are carelessly cited out of historical continuity and context. It betrays a lack of deep understanding of the actual issues, and instead suggests a very shallow--perhaps even sectarian--examination of what really happened in the so called "Timber Wars".

Earth First! in Northern California – Interview with Judi Bari

By Douglas Bevington, Summer 1993 – reprinted in The Struggle for Ecological Democracy

Douglas Bevington: Please describe the region in which you are organizing and that region’s key players. How far do your activities and influence extend?

Judi Bari: The area is the northern California red-wood region, which at this point is mostly Mendocino and Humboldt counties. It’s a big, sprawling area, rugged and sparsely populated. There are only 80,000 people in Mendocino County, where I live, and there are no large towns, no urban centers. Humboldt is a little different be-cause they have a university, Humboldt State, and a large town, Eureka. Both counties are rural impoverished areas. Our county governments are broke. They are closing down libraries and cutting back on police. Because of this, and because of the lack of urban influence, there is kind of a “wild West” mentality. There are some towns—Whitethorn and Covelo come to mind—that are virtually lawless areas, over two hours’ drive from the nearest sheriff’s deputy.

There are three main corporations in the redwood region. Louisiana Pacific (L-P) is the biggest redwood landowner, with 500,000 acres spread over the entire area. Tied for second are Georgia-Pacific (G-P), which owns 200,000 acres in Mendocino County, and MAXXAM, which owns 200,000 acres in Humboldt.
L-P has been around since 1975, and they’ve been liquidating ever since they’ve been here. Last year, they even admitted that 90 percent of their marketable trees in this county have already been cut. They are a cut-and-run company and they are almost done. G-P has been here a little longer. G-P has just one big sawmill and it’s still running. But most of their timberlands have been clearcut. They are about 70 percent done, so it’s just a matter of time.

MAXXAM is probably the best known of the three companies, mostly because of its outrageous financial practices. The 200,000 acres now owned by MAXXAM used to be owned by Pacific Lumber Co. (PALCO), a 120-year-old locally owned company, one of the oldest in the area. PALCO didn’t clearcut, and they had the closest thing to sustainable logging practices around. Because of this, they have the most old growth left. They have the best of what is left in the world. But in 1986, MAXXAM Chairman Charles Hurwitz, a corporate raider from Texas, took over PALCO in a forced junk bond buy-out scheme and then tripled the cut of old-growth redwood to pay off their junk bonds. This area has had pretty much a singular economy based on timber. Many of the logging families here go back five generations. Everybody knows each other, everybody grew up together and often are related to each other. It’s hard to understand the phenomenon of the company town until you live in one. King Timber controls all aspects of the society—the jobs, the schools, the hospital, the newspaper, and the police.

This singular economy and isolated rural culture got interrupted around 1970, when the back-to-the-land hippies moved in with their politically sophisticated, radical urban culture. What the hippies do for a living is grow the best marijuana in the world. In the mid-1980s, they actually included marijuana in the agricultural report of Mendocino County and found that it was the biggest cash crop, bigger than timber. This gives people a way to live in this area without being economically dependent on timber. Because timber is such a fluctuating market of booms and busts, during the low periods it is the marijuana money that keeps the towns going. Garberville, in southern Humboldt County, is probably the best-known local town built up with marijuana money. Many early growers used their money to open “legitimate” businesses. As the hippies gained economic influence, they also gained political influence, including passing voter referendums on local issues and electing candidates to the Board of Supervisors.

So, we basically have a bipolar social situation, with the hippies and the loggers. Of course, there are other social/cultural groups in our community, including Mexicans, Indians, fishermen, etc. But the main players in the Timber Wars are the hippies, the loggers, and, of course, the big timber corporations.

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