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Judi Bari

On the Garlon Trail - A Visit to L-P Spray Site Reveals Total Forest Devastation, Ineffective Chemicals, Minimal Watershed Protection

By I.M. Green (Don Lipmanson) - Anderson Valley Advertiser, June 5, 1985

Feeling a sort of morbid fascination, I've been drawn to the L-P spray sites for weeks. What does this Garlon chemical actually do to the forest? What is the appearance and smell of a spray site? How much herbicide gets into the water?

My first attempt to find answers involved an overflight of Juan Creek and the north fork of Big River. Flying northward from Little River airport, I had the chance to compare the thinned out appearance of selectively logged forests with the bald clearcuts so prevalent northeast of Fort Bragg.

The spray sites were unmistakable on account of their striking reddish brown color, dotted with green. In addition to one large, browned out blotch, there are erratic splotches at the periphery of the spray zone, raising unanswered questions about drift. It was also clear from the logging roads that the sites were accessible, although steep. The spray zones have recently been logged for conifers, so company claims that they are too inaccessible for manual hardwood release are nonsense.

From the air it seemed that conifers, madrones and oak were unaffected by the spraying. The required buffering of watersheds was questionable also. To get firmer answers to spray concerns, I decided to take a closer look.

It didn't take much asking around Comptche to find a guide who is familiar with L-P territory. We hadn't gone more than a couple hundred yards past the company gate before we came upon the most ravaged hillsides I have ever seen. On about one hundred acres there is no sign of life, other than some three inch saplings veiled behind black nylon screens. Little red and blue flags stand out here and there, indicating where recent conifer replanting has occurred. Otherwise, the whole hillside is barren, littered with burned out logs and stumps, uprooted oaks, and naked soil. Yarders and flame-throwing helicopters have been through here recently, and the desolation is eerie.

After this taste of normal L-P forest operations, our arrival in Poverty Gulch, ten weeks after herbicide spraying, was almost anticlimactic. Walking down the road, we suddenly saw an entire hillside dominated by the now familiar rust color of herbicide die-off. No particular odor remained. It was clear than the main victim was Ceanothus, or blue blossom. The top half or two-thirds of the sprayed Ceanothus have died out, with the leaves fried but still attached to the withered branches. Seen from up close, many of the dead leaves are spotted with a white fungus. Some madrone in the spray area appear to have died, also with leaves still attached. Other madrones and all the tan oak were green and thriving.

Although we saw several deer and many birds during out two mile hike toward the spray area, the poisoned hillside itself seemed abandoned by fauna. The overall impression is sterile, a place one wouldn't want to linger. Without protective gear, I didn't feel inclined to penetrate far into the spray zone to examine the effect on lichens, insects and worms.

In its ads, L-P claims that herbicides are a "key part" of their effort to increase the volume of timber which can be harvested from its lands. "Sites for new plantings are cleared with herbicides. Weed choked and strangled young trees are freed with herbicides," according to the company. Garlon is supposedly a systematic poison, killing "unwanted woody plants" (including oaks) from within.

“Sprayed Loggers” Tom Fales, Arlene Rial, Frank Fales, Wayne Thorstrom, Rick Rial, and Rod Cudney

Interviewed by Beth Bosk - New Settler Interview, Issue #3, April 1985

Were the loggers surprised that they had been sprayed?

That’s the story—it’s [Louisiana-Pacific’s] attitude towards them. When they arrived at the site they were told they were going to be sprayed—that there would be spraying. When they asked, “was it safe?” the LP people sort of laughed at them and said, “Well, the only, thing that happens is that 20 years from now your teeth are going to fall out,” and they laughed at them. And then they said, “Well, if you smell it, don’t breath.” And then the last statement was, “If it starts coming towards you, run like the dickens!”

—Dr. Mills Matheson, physician

Beth Bosk: In times to come, they will probably call Arlene Rial the ‘Rosa Parks’ of Fort Bragg.

Rosa Parks was the tired black housekeeper from Montgomery, Alabama who after working hard all day, refused to relinquish her seat at the front of a city bus. Remember what followed?

For the past twenty-four years, Arlene Rial has worked hard raising herself a sturdy son.

She was not about to see him damaged by a suspect chemical. And when unbeknownst, he was sent to work at a site where G-P was spraying the herbicide Garlon-4 and subsequently fell ill—along with every other logger working along the perimeter of the spray site—she refused to let it go unheeded.

The following interview is actually portions of conversations that took place on a Sunday afternoon at the home Arlene Rial shares with her son, Rick, and her husband Wayne Thorstrom. Thorstrom works as a hook tender for G-P.

The other voices belong to four other men who found themselves working adjacent to the spray site...Tommy Fales, Tom Fales, and Frank Fales.

“They do not look like the kind of men who complain,” is the way Fort Bragg Advocate reporter Martin Hickel summed up his impressions of these loggers.

The interview picks up in the middle of Arlene Rial’s story. She has related how she started putting two and two together when none of Rick’s slow pitch ball team showed up for practice. They had all worked around the spray site and they were all home sick. She then began making inquiries as to what chemical had been sprayed and what was known about it...

Arlene Rial: … I called the toxicity center in Texas to find out just what Garlon was and the gal there told me it was one atom removed from Agent Orange and I almost had a heart attack at that time. After that, I immediately called several different newspapers and I said, “Are you aware that they are spraying a dangerous chemical not only in our community, but around people who are working”—and that’s how the whole thing got started. I called Okerstrom logging and told him, “Get the men out of Juan Creek because it’s contaminated.”

This is in the morning. In the afternoon my son came home from work and said, “Gee, thanks a lot, mom. The boss came out and said, ‘Your mommy called’. And you know, with the loggers, that looks really bad.”

I told him, “Never you mind, I’m going to do what I have to do.” Anyway, Ricky was sicker and sicker and I finally found out that Mills Matheson knows a bit about toxicology and I called him and made an appointment for my son and I was going to drive over to Willits with him to see what was going on, instead another boy got sick on the job that day and so I said, “Both of you go,” and I’ll have a conversation with Dr. Matheson later.” Which I did and Mills said that nothing had ever been proven about Garlon and it does look like flu-like symptoms. He took a urine and blood sample and froze them—because the only people evidentially who can find out if Garlon is in the blood or the urine is Dow Chemical Company and this is the fox again guarding the hen house.

Aristocracy Forever

Lyrics by Judi Bari, 1979;
Tune: Solidarity Forever (John Brown’s Body)
Included in the Little Red Songbook, IWW, 36th Edition

"Aristocracy Forever" was written as an entry in a union sponsored contest to write new lyrics to the old song while Bari was a member of the retail workers union. She said of it, "I don't know why it didn't win the contest."

--x332090


When the union leaders’ payoffs by the bosses has begun,
There will be no labor trouble anywhere beneath the sun,
For the AFL trade unions and the management are one,
The union keeps us down.

Chorus
Aristocracy forever,
Aristocracy forever,
Aristocracy forever,

The union keeps us down.

It is we who have to suffer through the daily drudgery,
While Kirkland  pulls a hundred thousand dollar salary,
Though be claims to lead the workers be is just a bourgeoisie,
The union keeps us down.

Chorus

Documents by Judi Bari

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