Blockade being torn apart by sheriff's and scotia fire department

Mattole Defense
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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, April 11, 2001

Contact: Karen Pickett 510-548-3113

Pacific Lumber Company (PL), subject of tremendous controversy in Northern California the past one and a half decades for their logging of old growth redwood trees in the Headwaters Forest area has filed a lawsuit against activists and residents protesting their logging of old growth forests in the Mattole River basin in Humboldt County. In a civil suit filed April 6 in Humboldt Superior Court, Pacific Lumber is joined by other companies with interest in the logging, (Columbia Helicopter Co. of Oregon, Steve Wills Trucking, Lewis Logging, both contractors of PL, Russ Ranch and Timber Co. and its owner Lane Russ, rancher Lotta Vevoda and Scotia Pacific Co., a company formed in the apportioning up of Pacific Lumber Co.) in suing "Northcoast Earth First!", "Mattole Forest Defenders", 18 individuals, and "Does 1 - 200", for the purpose of adding people in subsequent filings.

The lawsuit cites acts of trespass, erection of blockades and other protest activities on several Timber Harvest Plans (THP's) filed in the last year by PL in the Mattole River Watershed, one of the largest unprotected coastal old growth Douglas fir forest left in the Pacific Northwest. The filing of the logging plans was met with petitioning of agencies involved in the approval process, the filing of legal challenges, coordination of acquisition efforts, and direct action protests. Several plans remain under pending legal challenges, and residents have been meeting with officials from the California Dept. of Forestry to work on solutions. Activists have occupied the area for 134 days to hold off logging while acquisition plans were put in place.

On Thursday, April 5, several activists were arrested and a blockade in the Long Ridge area was dismantled by Humboldt County Sheriffs Dept. and PL security. Those activists face misdemeanor charges as do activists arrested Tuesday April 10. All of those activists were added to the lawsuit and one remains in the hospital after a Fish and Game warden chased him off a cliff, where he sustained severe injuries to his hip.

Activists see this lawsuit as a "SLAPP suit" (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) in that it seeks to constrain citizens' ability to protest the activities of corporations seen as threatening or damaging to them, their community and the environment. "The ability to challenge rogue corporations who are operating in our communities is a right we hold dear and cherish", said an activist from the Mattole Forest Defenders. "What happens when these corporations who are killing the salmon-bearing streams, causing landslides that bury our homes, poisoning us with herbicides and stripping our hillsides bare are no longer subject to protest and criticism?" This lawsuit comes on the heels of a $3.3 million settlement PL paid to residents of Stafford, California after a logging-caused landslide buried 7 homes, caused others to be unhabitable and brought grief to that tiny rural community, inhabited mostly by former or current timber workers who filed suit against the company seeking relief for their losses.

This action is clearly designed to quash dissent and protest against PL, subsidiary of the notorious Maxxam Corporation which has in the last decade been found to be in violation of numerous state, federal and local laws, including the following:

*Violations of the Forest Practice Rules so numerous that its license to operate was suspended

*Violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in its logging of marbled murrelet and spotted owl habitat in Owl Creek

*Numerous logging operations that were stopped due to illegalities in their plans

*Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz was found in a Delaware court guilty of self-dealing after a shareholder lawsuit

*Maxxam subsidiary Kaiser Aluminum was found to be in violation of the National Labor Relations Board in locking out 3000 employees of Kaiser.

Current legal actions against Maxxam/Pacific Lumber include an environmental lawsuit charging one million violations of the Clean Water Act, a wrongful death lawsuit concerning the death of David Gypsy Chain, who was killed when an angry PL logger felled a tree on him, claims by U.S. Treasury's Office of Thrift Supervision concerning a $1.6 billion bailout of a savings and loan controlled by Maxxam CEO Charles Hurwitz, and continuing challenges to several of its THP's.

"This is a company that has no qualms about flaunting the law", said Karen Pickett of the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters. "Through the Headwaters deal, they got an HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan) to shield them from the ESA, and now they want a SLAPP suit to shield them from protesters. As long as they are cutting old growth forests and driving species to the brink of extinction and destroying public trust values in these communities, they will be opposed. This is a harassment lawsuit meant to chill dissent, but they forget that at one point, 8000 people showed up to protest their logging activities. They can't silence that many voices."

For more information:
Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters (BACH)
Ecology Center
2530 San Pablo Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94702
phone: 510 548 3113
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Mattole Defense
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