Title: Redwood Uprising
Subtitle: From One Big Union to Earth First! and the Bombing of Judi Bari
Author: Steve Ongerth
Source: judibari.info
s-o-steve-ongerth-redwood-uprising-1.jpg

    Introduction

    1. An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

    2. Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

    3. He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

    4. Maxxam’s on the Horizon

    5. No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!

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

    7. Way Up High in The Redwood Giants

    8. Running for Our Lives

    9. And they Spewed Out their Hatred

    10. Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

    11. I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

    12. The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes

    13. They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley

    14. Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill

    15. Hang Down Your Head John Campbell

    16. I Like Spotted Owls…Fried

    17. Logging to Infinity

    18. The Arizona Power Lines

    19. Aristocracy Forever

    20. Timberlyin’

    21. You Fucking Commie Hippies!

    22. I am the Lorax; I speak for the Trees

    23. Forests Forever

    24. El Pio

    25. Sabo Tabby vs. Killa Godzilla

    26. They Weren’t Gonna Have No Wobbly Runnin’ Their Logging Show

    27. Murdered by Capitalism

    28. Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

    29. Swimmin’ Cross the Rio Grande

    30. She Called for Redwood Summer

    31. Spike a Tree for Jesus

    32. Now They Have These Public Hearings…

    33. The Ghosts of Mississippi Will be Watchin’

    34. We’ll Have an Earth Night Action

    35. “You Brought it On Yourself, Judi”

    36. A Pipe Bomb Went Rippin’ Through Her Womb

    37. Who Bombed Judi Bari?

    38. Conclusion

Introduction

The arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.

—Martin Luther King Jr.

I know, I know. I need to write a book about all this. Fighting to save the redwoods, building alliances with the loggers, getting car bombed and finding out what we’re up against not just the timber industry but also the FBI. Then coming back home and ending up back on the front lines again. I fully intend to write about it eventually, but it’s hard to write about something when you’re still in the middle of it.”

—Judi Bari, introduction to Timber Wars, 1994

“All this,” is a very complex and intriguing story (not to mention a call to action), and while most people have never heard it, a great many are at least partially aware of its defining moment.

On the morning of May 24, 1990, two activists, Judi Bari and her friend and comrade Darryl Cherney, set out from Oakland, California, while on a tour to organize support for a campaign they had organized called Redwood Summer. They were part of the radical environmental movement known as Earth First!, which had a reputation for militant tactics, including the sabotaging of logging and earth moving machinery as well as spiking trees—the act of driving large nails into standing trees in order to deter logging operations. The previous year in Arizona, five environmentalists, including Peg Millett and Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman, had been arrested and charged by the FBI for a conspiracy to sabotage power lines in protest against nuclear power. Some welcomed Earth First!’s uncompromising reputation. Others denounced them as reckless, or even as terrorists.

According to the mainstream media, Earth First!’s radical agenda earned them the animosity of the timber workers whose jobs the environmentalists supposedly threatened. They were described as “outside agitators” (among many other things) who had “polarized” the timber dependent communities of northwestern California’s redwood region—historically known as the “Redwood Empire”, but more recently as the “North Coast”—with their militant and uncompromising “environmental extremism.” Their alleged hard-line anti-logging stances were seen as too extreme even by most environmentalists, and they supposedly stood upon the radical fringes of the ecology movement. Redwood Summer was reportedly planned as a summer-long campaign of direct actions by these “fringe” environmentalists to thwart the harvesting of old growth redwood timber in northwestern California, specifically Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma Counties.

On May 24, however, Bari’s and Cherney’s planned destination was Santa Cruz County, where—just one month previously—power lines had supposedly been sabotaged by unknown perpetrators calling themselves the “Earth Night Action Group”. Just before 11:55 AM a bomb in Bari’s car exploded, nearly killing her and injuring Cherney. Within minutes the FBI and Oakland Police arrived on the scene and arrested both of them as they were being transported to Highland Hospital. The authorities called them dangerous terrorists and accused the pair of knowingly transporting the bomb for use in some undetermined act of environmental sabotage when it had accidentally detonated. The media spun the event as the arrest of two potentially violent environmental extremists.

* * * * *

In truth, however, Bari and Cherney were innocent. Earth First! was radical and militant, certainly, but they were also steadfastly nonviolent. Redwood Summer, far from being a campaign of terror, was modeled after Mississippi Freedom Summer and its original name was Mississippi Summer of the California Redwoods. The organizers of the latter had already renounced the tactic of tree spiking and had adopted a strict nonviolence code, based on a similar one adopted by the SNCC in the former. They had routinely been the victims of violence but had consistently answered that with nonviolence. Further, Redwood Summer was not anti-logging or even anti-worker. It was anti-
corporate logging, and it sought—among other things--to draw attention to the plight of timber workers who were, according to Judi Bari, as much the victims of the clearcutting and liquidation logging practiced by the three principal timber corporations dominating the region (Georgia Pacific, Louisiana Pacific, and Pacific Lumber) as the forests themselves.

Bari and Cherney were not only Earth First!ers, they were dues paying members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Wobblies, who had—in 1917—won the eight hour day through their radical point-of-production oriented unionism in spite of incredible opposition from the timber corporations then. Indeed, even some of the timber workers whom the media claimed were the sworn enemies of Earth First! were also members of the IWW and covertly working with Bari and Cherney. There were even a handful of timber workers who had openly declared their alliance with Earth First! and their support of Redwood Summer.

Furthermore, Bari and Cherney were completely unaware that they had been transporting an armed explosive, and investigations soon proved that the bomb was most likely intended to murder Bari while at the same time make it look like she had been knowingly transporting it to use in some act of industrial sabotage (even though it actually wasn’t). Following the bombing, the FBI and Oakland Police went to desperate lengths to try and “prove” the bombing victims were guilty, even to the point of providing false leads and manufacturing evidence. As for the Arizona arrests, these had been a clear case of entrapment by the FBI, by its own admission, and one of the organizers of the action that had led to the arrests had been an undercover FBI agent who had infiltrated Earth First! with the expressed purpose of discrediting the environmental movement. The bombing of Bari and Cherney had eerily similar “footprints” all over it.

* * * * *

Why did all of this happen and who bombed Judi Bari? The organizers of Redwood Summer (which included Earth First!ers, Wobblies, environmentalists, labor union members, and activists of all stripes—most of them residents of the North Coast) as well as historians have tried to answer both questions ever since that fateful day.

Who” remains unknown as of the writing of this book, a process which began in the months following Bari’s death on March 2, 1997, seven years after the bombing due to inoperable cancer. Many hypotheses have been put forward, but still no one has a complete answer, and people disagree on those theories.

IWW singer and songwriter Utah Phillips, a close friend and ally of Bari and Cherney had once told them, “The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.” Darryl Cherney, himself an adept and clever songsmith, took those words to heart and penned the following lyrics that pointed fingers and named names of the possible suspects, a song which he titled, “Who Bombed Judi Bari?”

Now Judi Bari is a union organizer [1],
A Mother Jones at the Georgia-Pacific Mill,
She fought for the sawmill workers,
Hit by that PCB spill [2].
T. Marshall Hahn’s calling G-P shots from Atlanta,
Don Nelson sold him the union long ago,
They weren’t gonna have no Wobbly,
Running their logging show [3].
So they spewed out their hatred,
And they laid out their scam,
Jerry Philbrick called for violence [4],
It was no secret what they planned;

Chorus:
So I ask you now...
Who Bombed Judi Bari?
I know you’re out there still
Have you seen her broken body
Or the spirit you can’t kill?

Now Judi Bari is a feminist organizer,
Ain’t no man gonna keep that woman down,
She defended the abortion clinic,
In fascist Ukiah town;
Calvary Baptist Church called for its masses,
Camo-buddies lined up in the pews,
You can see all of their faces,
In the Ukiah Daily News [5];
And they spewed out their hatred,
As Reverend Boyles laid out their scam,
Bill Staley called for violence,
It was no secret what they planned [6];

Chorus

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 [7];
Charlie Hurwitz he runs MAXXAM out of Houston [8],
Harry Merlo runs L-P from Portland town [9],
They’re the men they call King Timber,
They know how to cut you down;
And Shep Tucker[10] spewed their hatred,
As Candy Boak laid out their scam [11],
John Campbell called for violence [12],
It was no secret what they planned;

Chorus

Now Judi Bari is the mother of two children,
A pipe bomb went ripping through her womb,
She cries in pain at night time,
In her Willits cabin room;
FBI is back again with COINTELPRO,
Richard Held is the man they know they trust,
With Lieutenant Sims his henchman,
It’s a world of boom and bust;
But we’ll answer with non-violence,
For seeking justice is our plan,
And we’ll avenge our wounded comrade,
As we defend the ravaged land [13];

Chorus (x2) [14]

Judi Bari attempted to solve the mystery herself while continuing to fight to save the redwood forests of the North Coast as well as fight for the livelihoods of the timber workers and challenge the timber corporations that she and the other organizers of Redwood Summer were liquidating the very forests upon which the economy and ecology of the North Coast depended. Bari never got around to writing her book, though she was able to cobble together a collection of her shorter writings in a compilation which she named Timber Wars (after an article she wrote for the Industrial Worker, the official newspaper of the IWW seven months before the bombing) and self published in 1993, until a small left-liberal publisher, Common Courage, of Monroe, Maine agreed to produce it commercially in 1994.

Timber Wars shed much light on who and why, but (by Bari’s own admission), it fell short of fully answering the questions completely. She was convinced that the bombing was part of a conspiracy involving the three timber corporations (referred to often in this book as “Corporate Timber” collectively for the sake of clarity) with at least the complicity (and quite possibly the involvement) of the FBI, at least, and quite possibly the agency’s involvement. The expressed purpose of the conspiracy was to discredit her, Earth First!, its allies, and Redwood Summer. Bari offered ample evidence to support her conclusion, but her theories were incomplete, even if verifiable, and many of her critics pooh-poohed them.

In spite of Bari’s writings, there were some who still insisted—in spite of the overwhelming evidence against the possibility (presented in this book, of course)—that either Bari or Cherney, or both of them, were indeed guilty and somehow managed to hoodwink all of their family, friends, and allies into believing that they were innocent. Such theories were and are easily disproven.

There were those who believed that Bari and Cherney had been targeted by a lone nut, perhaps a political reactionary, such as ex-NFL football player, Bill Staley, who disdained the two activists’ radical environmentalist and leftist political orientation. Certainly both Bari and Cherney accepted that this was indeed a possibility, but an unlikely one given the lengths to which the FBI and Oakland Police attempted to frame the bombing victims as the bombing’s suspects.

Meanwhile, some suggested that the bomber was somebody close to either one or both of the pair, perhaps an activist who had a personal score to settle with either or both of them, or perhaps an ex-lover. For example, following Bari’s death, some theorized that Judi Bari’s ex husband, Mike Sweeney, might have been the bomber. The first person of any significance to propose this theory was liberal documentarian, and former child actor Steve Talbot (most famous for his role as “Gilbert” on Leave it to Beaver) in his decent, though still very flawed documentary “Who Bombed Judi Bari?” which aired on PBS TV station KQED in San Francisco in May of 1991. However, Bari herself dispelled this theory simply by pointing out that “Mike was taking care of my children at his girlfriend’s house when the bomb was planted, and she can verify that Mike did not leave her house at any time when he would have had an opportunity to place the bomb.”[15] Bari was nothing if not highly intelligent and precise in her logic.

Bari and Cherney were convinced enough to sue the FBI and Oakland Police for discrimination and wrongful arrest, violations of their First and Fourth Amendment Rights. The case took over 11 years to run its course, involving much discovery—despite constant stonewalling (through the use of procedural motions intended to delay, misdirect, and bog down the case as much as possible) by the FBI. Though Bari did not live to witness the outcome, on June 11, 2002, a federal jury returned a stunning verdict in favor of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney in their landmark civil rights lawsuit against four FBI agents and three Oakland Police officers and awarded them $4.4 million in damages. Nowhere in the case did either side suggest that Bari’s ex husband had any role in the bombing.

Still, the theory that Sweeney was the bomber has taken on a life of its own, generating much controversy in recent years. A group of Bari’s former associates—including Anderson Valley Advertiser editor and publisher, Bruce Anderson (the name is coincidental) and the late leftist intellectual Alexander Cockburn—have banded together and even gone as far as claiming that Bari had known that Sweeney had planted the bomb in her car but dared not speak out of fear for her life, because her ex husband was violently abusive towards her (hence their divorce), and/or he had some secret knowledge about criminal acts that he, himself, had carried out with Bari’s complicity, thus making her an accomplice to a crime. Anderson, et. al. claimed that the lawsuit against the FBI and Oakland Police was a smokescreen to cover up their own conspiracy. They argued that the only reason why the FBI and Oakland Police had been found guilty at all was due to their own incompetence. The advocates of this theory claimed for several years after Bari’s death that they would expose the “truth” of this claim and their efforts finally culminated in a book by Kate Coleman called, The Secret Wars of Judi Bari: A Car Bomb, The Fight For The Redwoods, and the Death of Earth First!, published on January 25, 2005 by the extreme right wing publisher Encounter Books, owned by ex Ramparts co-editor and born-again reactionary Peter Collier.

As it turned out, Coleman’s book not only falls short of the mark as far as proving its case, it doesn’t even come remotely close to the target. It is full of errors in fact as well as unproven rumors, innuendos, and outright falsehoods that are so blatant they have spawned at least one website, www.colemanhoax.info, debunking them page-by-page, line-by-line (that the site was produced by Mike Sweeney himself is immaterial, as the facts he presents—unlike Coleman and her associates—are verified and speak for themselves). Almost nobody has reviewed this book favorably, and most consider it to be little more than a right wing hatchet job intended to discredit Bari and all she stood for, throw doubts on the case against the FBI and Oakland Police, and further discredit the movement the culminated in Redwood Summer (not to mention line Coleman’s and Collier’s pockets).[16] The motivation for Coleman and Collier is very easy to discern, and that is greed. It is far more lucrative, in a capitalist economy at least, for one to serve the forces of reaction than it is to challenge them head on. Anderson’s motivation is far more personal. In spite of his professed leftist views, Anderson had (among others) a considerable blind spot when it came to matters of gender equality, a point on which he and Bari disagreed vehemently for years until their ultimate falling out in 1993.


Bruce Anderson’s own younger brother, Robert Anderson, is among those who have debunked and denounced his Brother’s and Coleman’s claims, stating:

(My brother’s) approach to the bombing is particularly odd considering that (he) supported Redwood Summer and Judi Bari during that intense political chapter in the history of the Northcoast. It’s as if (he) has forgotten what that period was like, how full of political tension, threats and bullying by the timber industry and its supporters.”[17]

Indeed, Robert Anderson has correctly identified the proverbial “elephant in the room”. To know who
did (and for that matter, who didn’t) bomb Judi Bari (and Darryl Cherney), it is much more important to determine why they bombed Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney. This book does not identify who bombed Judi Bari any more than Bari’s own book, or even Kate Coleman’s, but it does explain why. In fact, it picks up the scent of the trail that Bari herself had been following, but whose endpoint she never reached due to her untimely death. When asked, in 1995, why she was bombed, she declared:

(My) activities came at the intersection of two campaigns: one of the campaigns was timber industry and Wise Use, which both historically are riddled with thugs—(during) the (height of the radical) labor movement—all through the history of timber. I think it goes with all extractive corporations: the worse they do to the earth, the worse they do to the people, and the timber industry has a very long history of physical brutality to people who would oppose them. I think I was targeted by the timber industry because I was posing somewhat of a threat to them by exposing what was happening here in the redwoods, bringing it into a national forum so people could see it, and I think I was posing a threat to them by building alliances with the workers, by defining the problem as the community vs. these out-of-town corporations, instead of environmentalists versus loggers. I think I posed a threat to them just by restating the question in that manner.”[18]

And just what was it that Judi Bari threatened with her political activity? Corporate Timber had, by the time of the bombing, managed to convince a great many people that they managed America’s forests well and that even aged managed forests were healthy forests; that the capitalist business model was ideal for such forestry; that the timber industry provided good jobs; that they treated their workers well; that rural economies in forested regions depended upon the Corporate Timber business model; that where timber unions existed, they had achieved labor peace with the employers; that the industry planted more trees than they cut; that clearcutting was a viable—even beneficial—sustainable timber harvesting method; that environmentalists had “gone too far,” and had locked up plenty (if not too many) forests in parks; and that environmentalists were either elitists or “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs”, who were “outside” agitators with a nefarious, perhaps even “communistic” agenda which would result in the ultimate destruction of rural, timber dominant communities, such as the North Coast.

Bari maintained that none of these assertions—not a solitary one—came close to the truth, and that Corporate Timber through is sophisticated propaganda machine and slick P.R., aided dutifully by the Corporate Media, had crafted a paradigm where white was black, or rather—more accurately—yellow was green. Bari maintained that in fact the opposite contentions were in fact true and the conventional theories and models put forth by Corporate Timber were but a paper-thin veneer that could be readily exposed and challenged.

Skeptical readers might feel justified in pointing out that Judi Bari was not the first radical environmentalist to expose such official myths, and that is true enough, but there was something significantly different about her approach that made her a far more substantial threat to her adversaries. She fully integrated her radical environmentalism with class struggle at the point of production. There had been many who had opposed the destruction of ancient forests by incorporating direct action tactics and putting their bodies on the line, to the point of risking arrest or even violent repression. There had likewise, been many who had analyzed the destruction of the ancient forests in the context of class and political economy, few—if anyone (outside of Chico Mendes) had done both. Some, like writer Jeff Shantz, have referred to Bari’s approach as “green syndicalism”—which is a more or less accurate description, though she, herself called it “Revolutionary Ecology”. And her perspective wasn’t mere theory; she was actually beginning to put that theory into practice and it was working.

Bari believed, and I—dear reader—agree, that she was targeted because she represented a viable democratic, populist, grassroots challenge to the powers that be, in this case, Corporate Timber, and its established paradigm of total control over the redwood forests of California’s North Coast and by extension—as you will see in this book—America’s forests in general, the modern timber industry, and capitalism itself. Bari stood upon the crest of a wave of change that was poised to undermine the existing order, and she was more than willing to ride it to its conclusion. That wave was a confluence of both environmentalist and labor movements and, if left unchecked in its course, it could very well have washed away institutions, both “private” and “public” that were, by many people’s accounts, corrupt and rotten to their very core.

However, as Frederick Douglass once wrote, “power concedes nothing without a struggle,” and this was no exception. Bombing or no, connected or not, the movement which Judi Bari led had already faced enormous resistance and violence from the established powers and their enablers. In the face of this violence, Bari and her allies remained steadfastly and proudly
nonviolent, and even that resolve challenged the powers that be. When it is understood why the bombing occurred, who specifically assumes far less significance than the forces which they represented.

Explaining why is no simple matter, however, and getting it all down in one place eluded all who have thus tried, including Judi Bari. Recently, Darryl Cherney and his friend Mary Liz Thompson have produced a thorough and excellent documentary, named Who Bombed Judi Bari? (a popular title, no doubt), largely based on the video graphed deposition of Judi Bari in preparation for the case against the FBI and Oakland Police. The film also attempts to answer “who” and “why”, and it comes closer than anyone else, but due to the limitations of the medium, cannot tell the whole story, the one that Bari had intended to tell. This book, hopefully, dear reader, tells that tale and provides the answers, but it also requests your patience in doing so. As stated in the quotation by Martin Luther King by which this narrative commences, the arc of history is indeed long, and this story begins, long ago.


1. An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

The mill men all insist on one thing: that the Government will grant the manufacturers protection from the lawless element of the I.W.W.’s”

—J. P. Weyerhaeuser, 1917

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite,
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might,
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
The union makes us strong…

—Lyrics excerpted from Solidarity Forever, by Ralph Chaplin, ca. 1915

The timber industry has, throughout nearly its entire history, been in the control of an elite minority of the very rich and powerful, and they have been especially avaricious, violent, and repressive towards all who would challenge their power. They have also—in spite of a barrage of slick propaganda trumpeting their careful management of the resource—depleted most of the virgin forests of the Pacific Northwest. Many environmental organizations can trace their origins to opposition to such practices, and in the struggles by environmentalists to preserve forestlands, timber workers have had a reputation for being their fiercest adversaries, and in many cases, this is true. Timber workers have a well deserved reputation for being outspoken about the pride of purpose in their job, as well as a deeply ingrained cultural machismo. Yet lumber harvesting and production is historically one of the ten most dangerous jobs in the industrialized world, and timber workers are among those most exploited by their employers. One would logically expect the timber workers to be highly resistant to such treatment, but in recent years they haven’t been. This wasn’t always so. To understand why, one must examine the industry’s origins.

Before the arrival of European-American settlers to the Pacific Northwest, the entire region stretching from northern California to Canada and Alaska from the Pacific Coast to the Rocky Mountains was dominated by coniferous old growth forests. At least 20 million acres of this land was forested, dominated by various species of trees, some of them hundreds of feet in height, over a dozen feet in diameter, and centuries or even millennia old.[19] In the southwestern part of this region, stretching from Big Sur to roughly what is now the Oregon state line, in a belt that was at least twenty miles wide for most of its expanse a very unique species of tree dominated, Sequoia sempervirens, commonly known as the California redwoods, some of them standing over 350 feet tall. Their close (and similarly large) cousins, Sequoiadendron giganteum, better known as the Giant Sequoia, only grew in a few isolated spots in the southern end of the Sierra Nevada foothills. These vast forests were far more then the trees, however. Hundreds, if not thousands of plant and animal species lived and flourished within these wooded habitats, and as far as is known, the indigenous population of the Americas had no significant lasting impact on California’s ancient redwood forests, nor did they have any lasting effect on the timberlands of the Pacific Northwest in general.[20] Like the Native Americans, the old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest had remained left more or less untouched for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years.

The coming of the white man changed all of that. The Russians first began exploiting the redwoods for the construction of Fort Ross in 1812, during their very brief settlement there.[21] As more Europeans arrived, the forests south of San Francisco were the first to be logged, usually through clearcutting, until these ancient stands were completely liquidated by 1860. In those days, loggers used hand saws, and felling an ancient redwood could take anywhere from two-to-five days to complete. The redwoods to the north of the Golden Gate in what is now Marin County were logged next, especially along rivers that allowed easy transportation by the available modes of the day. By this time, around 1881, the steam engine had replaced pack animals. Though this first wave of automation did not have a significant impact on the number of workers involved in the logging process, it greatly increased the impact logging had on the redwoods. Entire forests were liquidated, no matter how small the tree, because even the baby trees were used to build the skid roads used for hauling the larger ones. These forests were never replanted, and very few of them grew back, and in some cases, farmlands replaced them. By the beginning of the 20th Century, all but a few of these ancient trees were gone and logging operations migrated north to Sonoma County. One quarter century later, most of these old growth forests were likewise gone.[22]

The remoteness of California’s “North Coast”, stretching north from Point Arena, in southwestern Mendocino County, to what is now the Oregon border, which is comprised of mountainous, rocky terrain with few rivers and bays to provide easy access, helped keep that region free of logging until the latter half of the 19th Century. The California Gold Rush of 1849, however, greatly increased the demand for timber, and that helped draw opportunistic lumbermen to what is now Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino Counties.[23] The further discovery of gold along the Trinity River to the east of Humboldt County brought about a second, smaller but highly significant gold rush on the North Coast.[24] The initial settlement in what became the city of Eureka at Humboldt Bay happened in 1850, the year of California’s admission to the Union as the 31st American state.[25] As early as 1870, logging and milling industries dominated the region’s economy.[26] Homesteading laws allowed (non indigenous) settlers to acquire 160 acres of land at approximately $1.25 per acre, and redwood forests produced on average $1,500 per acre. This created a land rush on California’s ancient forests such that by the turn of the Twentieth Century, most of them were in private hands.[27] The Giant Sequoias only managed to escape destruction because they proved too difficult to log and transport in those days.[28]

The turn of the century Presidential administrations of Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt were, at the time, progressive on environmental matters, at least by the standards that existed in those days, and they built upon the progress of previous administrations. As early as 1876, the US Government began to concern itself with forest preservation. That year, an act of Congress created the office of Special Agent in the Department of Agriculture to assess the quality and conditions of forests in the United States. In 1881, the office was expanded into the newly formed Division of Forestry. The Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized withdrawing land from the public domain as “forest reserves,” managed by the Department of the Interior, but this was not the result of grassroots environmental activism. The National Forest System was partly the result of concerted action by Los Angeles-area businessmen and property owners who were concerned by the harm being done to the watershed of the San Gabriel Mountains by ranchers and miners.[29] The Bureau would eventually become the US Forest Service in 1905, and its first chief was a man named Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot sought to turn public land policy from one that dispersed resources to private holdings to one that maintained federal ownership and management of public land. Pinchot was a progressive who was a strong adherent to the efficiency movement, and in the matter of forestry, that meant the most efficient and waste free harvesting methods available. Under Pinchot’s guidance, the early US Forest Service administrations promoted conservation, albeit on the service of maximizing the potential use of the resource.[30]

At the same time, the first groups of environmentalists fought the encroachment of commercial logging interests on wilderness throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 1892, John Muir established the Sierra Club, partly to duplicate his efforts to preserve California’s Yosemite Valley, which, with the help of President Roosevelt, had become the nation’s second National Park after Yellowstone in Montana.[31] From these efforts the US Government established the National Park System, but almost from the start, the timber barons sought to undermine it, and successfully engaged in divide and conquer tactics to achieve that goal. As head of the US Forest Service under the Roosevelt and Taft administrations, Gifford Pinchot had jurisdiction over the National Park System, but his vision of “efficient resource use” clashed with Muir’s. Their competing visions of conservationism came to a head over the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir and dam in 1908.[32]

During the early 1900s, the City of San Francisco had been battling with a private water company that provided subpar service at high prices. Their solution was the construction of a municipally owned water and power company to be created from damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley. In the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire which damaged much of the city, the private water company failed to provide adequate water supplies to prevent the destruction, thus creating a political tidal wave pushing for the Hetch Hetchy project. Muir and the Sierra Club opposed the project, but with Pinchot in command of the National Park System, the dam would eventually be built in 1912 under the Wilson administration.[33] Although well intended, this project established the precedent that human interests came before biological ones—even in national parks—and in doing so the government opened the door for private exploitation of public resources. The implications of this decision would soon prove to be dire.


By the turn of the Twentieth Century, practically all private timberlands in the United States and Canada were already controlled by large corporations—called “trusts” and “monopoly groups” in those days—and among them, the largest were owned by Rockefeller and Weyerhaeuser.[34] At one point, lumber corporations were so powerful and their holdings so vast, the United States Department of Commerce under the President Taft administration reported, “There (is) a dominating control of our standing timber in a comparatively few enormous holdings steadily towards the control of the lumber industry.” The commercial value of this timber was measured at no less than $6 billion (in 1920 dollar amounts), owned by no more than “ten monopoly groups aggregating only 1,802 holders.” The amount of standing timber was measured at 1.2 quadrillion board feet, or approximately enough wood to build a bridge more than two feet thick, five miles wide, and 3,310 miles long (the approximate distance from New York City to Liverpool).[35] The lumber magnates were exorbitantly wealthy and no less robber baron capitalists than those who owned railroads or vast oil reserves.

By contrast, conditions in those days for the lumber workers were abysmal. Workers were paid just barely enough to survive, if that, and ten or even twelve hour-workdays were common. Loggers tended to be itinerant workers and lived in camps where the living conditions were vile, bunk-houses unspeakably filthy and overcrowded, the water polluted, and the food rotten. Many workers had to pack their own blankets from job to job and many other conditions cried for improvement.[36] Meanwhile, the sawmills could credibly have been described as “satanic”. Workers endured similar long hours of work and pitifully meager wages, and few who worked as sawyers for any significant length of time escaped without at least one serious injury to one or both hands. Their fellow workers in the woods faced a similar daily array of horrors that could result in mutilation or even untimely death, and there were little or no safety standards to mitigate potential loss of limb or even life. Workers paid a monthly hospital fee of $1, which was no small amount in those days. The hospital was company owned, and the doctor’s role was to dispense the injured or ill worker as quickly as possible with as little hassle to the employer as manageable. The profit of the “lumber trust” trumped all other considerations. To make matters worse, the vaunted American “democracy” was made mockery of by the realpolitik of corporate dominated timber communities. Whole towns, counties, even states—including all branches of the government—were owned lock, stock, and barrel by the timber corporations. In some cases, this was literally true, as lumber companies were known for creating “company towns”.[37]

Job security was nonexistent. Collusion between local authorities and lumber mill owners, shootouts, and lynching of dissident radicals characterized labor relations throughout the Pacific Northwest.[38] In most logging camps, timber fallers could not obtain employment unless they first obtained a ticket, for no small fee, from an employment agent, much like a modern temp agency. These agents, known to many workers as “job sharks”, worked in concert with the lumber corporations, generally to keep wages low and conditions abysmal. In some cases, the “shark” would be constantly shipping new gangs of workers to the logging camp, while the employers were working another gang, while meanwhile, the gang they had just discharged was on its way back to the employment agent, giving rise to the so-called “three-gang system”.[39] IWW singer-songwriter Utah Phillips in somewhat nostalgic historical recollection half humorously referred to this as “the bosses’ idea of perpetual motion”, though to the timber worker this was no joke.[40] If the worker complained about his lot, took ill, or was injured on the job, the employers would contact the shark for replacements.[41]

Meanwhile, workers in the mills were under constant pressure to maintain production. To speak out against these injustices was to risk not only (early) termination, but blacklisting as well. The employers made sure of this and they also kept close tabs on their revolving door employment gangs by enlisting the help of willing collaborators to serve as spies, who could be called upon to finger potential dissidents.[42] Resistance to this sorry state of affairs was difficult if not impossible individually, but the workers did have one thing on their side, and that was the power of mutual aid and collective action. In other words, they could organize a union.[43]

The earliest attempts at union organizing were spurred on by radicals and idealists. Many of them were veterans of attempted utopian communities which experimented with rudimentary forms of socialism on an isolated, small village scale during the late 19th Century.[44] For more than half a century, numerous attempts to overcome the stranglehold over working conditions by the employing class was made by various progressive and/or radical movements, including the Knights of Labor, Populists, Progressives, International Workingman’s Association, Union Labor Party, Greenback Labor Party, and various other utopians.[45] Fittingly, the earliest known attempts to organize a timber workers’ union took place in Eureka in 1884. Shortly after its formation, it affiliated with the Knights of Labor, and at its height, its membership reached over 2,000 with locals in Eureka, Arcata, Freshwater, and several other nearby communities. One of its principle grievances was the hospital fee, and the union successfully—through nonviolent collective action—decommissioned the company hospital and forced the head doctor to leave town, never to be seen there again. It also successfully fought against wage reductions and exposed on ongoing scam by the California Redwood Company (CRC), to the unsuspecting public.[46]

CRC was incorporated in California, but owned by absentee capitalists whose agenda—which the latter did little to conceal—was to obtain a monopoly of all redwood timberland and timber production facilities in California, and they did so by employing an underhanded, though technically legal form of trickery. In those days the US Government, and many western states and territories in particular, strongly encouraged the homesteading of “unclaimed” land (the long preexisting territorial rights to such land by indigenous peoples were, of course, utterly ignored). Knowing this, agents of the company would convince locals to file claims at the local land office which the latter would then sell to the company for a small profit, usually $20. Of course, these agents didn’t reveal their actual interests to their unsuspecting cats’ paws, but their activities didn’t escape notice by at least one wary local, a Eureka butcher by the name of Charles Keller, a member of the International Workingman’s Association—the very same First International whose members included Michael Bakunin and Karl Marx. Keller took notice of the large number of customers who boasted about their land deals, suspected fraud, and conducted his own private investigation. What he discovered was astonishing, and he tried to expose the subterfuge only to find that the first three land agents he contacted were in the know. He was even offered $60,000, on which one could retire in those days, by the perpetrators to drop the affair, but the butcher refused to be bought.[47] The fourth agent, likewise, was incorruptible, and with Keller, filed the following report in 1886:

The agents of the company soon discovered (the new agent’s) presence and business and attempted to defeat the investigation. Some of the witnesses were spirited out of the country; others were threatened and intimidated; spies were employed to watch and follow the agent and report the names of all persons who conversed with or called upon him; and on occasion two persons who were about to enter the agent’s room at his hotel for the purpose of conferring with him in reference to the entries, were knocked down and dragged away.”[48]

Keller was intimidated and blacklisted as was his shop. The local press, led by the Humboldt Times and the Humboldt Standard, both of whom were subservient to the interests of the CRC, denounced Keller as an outsider, influenced by foreign agency, which was ironic considering the actual nature of the CLC’s owners. The smear campaign succeeded in forcing Keller to move to Tulare County in southern California, but the investigations continued and—with the collective solidarity of the labor union, to which Keller was sympathetic—the corrupted officials of the CRC were eventually indicted and the company was forced to shut down.[49] The union itself managed by 1890 to successfully force the other employers to reduce the standard workday from twelve to ten hours, but a year later, the employers, eventually working together in concert, broke the union through an intense campaign of blacklisting and intimidation. The first attempt at organizing a timber workers’ union had been successful on a small scale, but ultimately limited by the organized power of the employing class.[50]

There would be several attempts to organize sawmill workers in northwestern California again, the majority of these beginning at the opening years of the Twentieth Century. These attempts stemmed from an upsurge in union organizing nationwide, which was reflected in California. From 1900 to 1904, the number of trade unions increased from 217 to 805 and the number of workers in unions soared from 30,000 to 110,000. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) made its initial attempts to organize in the lumber industry on the North Coast, focusing primarily on Mendocino County, where there was a particularly violent strike in 1902 and 03. In Fort Bragg the Union Lumber Company (ULC)—whose name stemmed from the merger of three smaller companies and whose hostility to labor unions was legendary—surrounded its mill in the coast town of Fort Bragg with barbed wire and hired armed guards to harass and intimidate strikers. During the course of the strike, these guards shot several of the strikers and the union efforts were crushed. Despite these setbacks, in 1905, the AFL still managed to establish a foothold in Humboldt County, accepting affiliation of the newly formed International Brotherhood of Woodsmen and Sawmill Workers (IBWSW), whose membership reached 2,000—consisting of over half the county’s workforce—within two years of its founding. By then Humboldt County’s lumber industry was dominated by three corporations at the time: Hammond Lumber Company, Northern Redwood Lumber Company, and Pacific Lumber Company, who together owned 64 percent of the county’s timberlands and accounted for 60 percent of its milling capacity.[51]

Beyond the North Coast, there were numerous attempts to organize in the timber industry under the banner of various labor unions and federations, including the AFL, but their successes, if any, were always limited and short lived. This was due to various factors, including the organized power of the lumber employers, the tendency of these unions to organize on a small scale, and the tendency of many of the latter, particularly the AFL, to organize workers by skill or craft—often shunning unskilled workers—and to collaborate with the employer over various workplace issues. This extended well beyond lumber to most industries.[52] The AFL believed in the principle, “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work”, which meant that they believed in the principles of capitalism, but that workers deserved a bigger share of the pie. This principle conflicted, however, with the notion, once expressed by Adam Smith of all people, that labor creates all wealth and that the only fair way to share the pie was to divide the company’s profits equally. Among timber workers in particular, those working in the mills were considered the skilled craftsman, and tended to be mostly of WASP descent, while those working in the woods were considered less skilled and tended to be of a larger variety of backgrounds, particularly northern, central, and eastern European, and sometimes even Asian or African American. Many unions, including the AFL shunned these unskilled, non WASP workers out of racial and class prejudice. Veterans of these early labor struggles, who included some of the aforementioned utopians along with those radicalized by direct experience in these struggles, determined that something more than the existing model of unionism was needed, but what?[53]

In response to this need, a group of these idealists and radicals held various meetings in Chicago in 1904 and established, in 1905, the Industrial Workers or the World (IWW), popularly known as the “Wobblies”. The new union announced its intent to organize all workers regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, or skill into “One Big Union.” They pledged that they would organize all workers in the same industry into one union as opposed to competing craft unions. They stressed the use of the strike, direct action in the workplace, and building direct worker control over the means of production.[54] This intent was most eloquently spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution of the IWW, which (as of 1908) began:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the earth and the machinery of production, and abolish the wage system…”[55]

The IWW proposed as the workers’ ultimate weapon, the “general strike” whereby all workers in the same industry (or, on an even larger scale, all workers worldwide) would cease work at the time and effectively lock out the employers, thus taking possession of the machinery of production once and for all.[56] The Preamble finished with:

Instead of the conservative motto, ‘a fair day’s wages for a fair day’s work,’ we must inscribe on our banner the revolutionary watchword, ‘Abolition of the wage system’.

It is the historic mission of the working class to do away with capitalism. The army of production must be organized, not only for the every-day struggle with the capitalists, but also, to carry on production when capitalism shall have been overthrown. By organizing industrially we are forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old.”[57]

This vision wasn’t just revolutionary (replacing the leadership in charge of the economy and state), but transformative, seeking to completely remake society from the ground up using the tools that were hitherto used to enslave in the process of doing so.

The IWW was inspired by a confluence of the socialism of Marx, the anarchism of Bakunin, and many indigenous American radical tendencies blended together and tempered by the experience of direct struggle by workers at the point of production. The union adopted as its slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all,” which eloquently illustrated the ideal of working class solidarity. The Wobblies also allowed members of other unions to hold membership cards in its own organization.[58] Many timber workers, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, who had become highly cynical of the AFL’s class collaborationism, were drawn to the IWW’s uncompromising militancy.[59]

The Wobblies’ presence was felt immediately in the Pacific Northwest. IWW members were known to have been active in Eureka as early as 1906, though at first their influence was limited.[60] Many partially successful strikes took place involving IWW members in 1907, 1908, and 1909 in western Montana, where, in some cases, workers succeeded in reducing the daily hours of work to nine, but these efforts were undermined by the AFL’s collaboration with the companies. In 1907, 2,500 lumber workers struck for improved working conditions in Humboldt County, but the strike was crushed in six weeks due to conflicting positions by the IBWSW and IWW.[61] That same year, 2,500 sawmill workers struck in Portland, Oregon, bringing all lumber production in that city to a halt. Only a minority of the strikers were IWW, though they were “the leading spirits.”[62] The strike lasted three weeks but collapsed due to disagreements between the IWW and AFL.[63] According to the Wobblies, the leadership of the latter undermined the strike by caving in to the bosses’ demands against the will of their rank and file, even instructing their members to cross the picket lines, some of which were maintained by IWW members.[64]

The IWW’s commitment to organizing all workers regardless of race or skill level pushed the boundaries of union organizing. In the American southeast—where the post Civil War Reconstruction had collapsed due to the reascendency of the Confederate power structure in all but official declaration—the Brotherhood of Timber Workers, based in southwestern Louisiana, which started in 1910, affiliated with the IWW in 1912, with a membership of at least 5,000.[65] It was one of the first fully integrated labor unions in the United States. It won several strikes, with the solidarity of sympathetic small farmers, but was defeated by repression from the lumber companies which organized vigilante mobs, including the Ku Klux Klan and somewhat more “respectable” Good Citizen’s Leagues, in response to the union.[66] Aiding the lumber bosses, Luther Egbert Hall, the governor of Louisiana, tacitly allowed the repression of the IWW, and this lead to the union’s eventual defeat and helped prolong Jim Crow racism in the south.[67] In doing so, the employers weakened the power of organized labor in the Deep South such that it would have devastating effects on the power of timber workers to organize for over three generations, but elsewhere the Wobblies flourished.

In February of that same year, various IWW lumber workers’ locals in the Pacific northwest consolidated into an early attempt at a regional industrial union, based in Seattle, Washington, and helped lead a strike that began as a wildcat in the sawmills of Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Raymond, against the ten-hour day and low wages. Only a minority of the workers were IWW members, but the strike was partially successful. Various strikes took place Oregon, Montana, Minnesota, and western Washington which were, again, all partially successful at modestly increasing wages, maintaining the nine-hour day, and slight improvements to camp conditions.[68]

Many of these gains were made in spite of lawless repression from the employers. Many strikers were often arrested and jailed on trumped up charges, while others were dragged from their beds at night, violently assaulted, and driven away by agents of the company. Local governments were often complicit in such activities, and the press tended to blame the IWW, accusing the latter of creating a climate of fear and lawlessness, even though the Wobblies remained for the most part nonviolent, albeit militant and uncompromising in its anti-capitalism.[69] In the face the northwestern timber bosses repression—which was no less violent than in the Deep South—the IWW proved most creative at resisting it.

The IWW carried out much of its organizing through its effective distribution of handbills, pamphlets, and newspapers (many of which were published in multiple languages) as well as street corner oratory, better known as “soap-boxing”. This latter tactic proved to be quite effective, and in many instances the employing class sought to thwart it by any means necessary. In some cases, lumber dominated towns would pass ordinances banning soap-boxing, which the Wobblies would fight against by engaging in free speech fights, one of the most famous of these taking place in Spokane, Washington in 1909, to assert the right to practice their supposedly constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties.[70] In this particular case, the anti soap-boxing ordinances allowed only religious organizations, such as the Salvation Army (whose preachers were known to excoriate the IWW and other “godless communists” for their “blasphemy”) to perform their hymns. The Wobblies had a good many members with a flair for music and folk song writing—including its most famous martyr, Joe Hill—and they would often turn up at these free speech fights performing the Salvation Army songs with new lyrics “rewritten so they made more sense,” with a distinct class struggle orientation.[71] From these fights and the publication of song sheets with red covers to raise funds for various organizing campaigns, the IWW’s very famous Little Red Songbook was born, and the Wobblies became known as “the Singing Union.”[72]

The IWW’s free speech fights were legendary and powerful, sometimes even to the point where they could turn back the tide of the bosses’ repression. In some cases, like Spokane, the IWW would call upon its members to “fill the jails” in order to cost the employers and their compliant governments as much money as possible, thereby rendering political repression prohibitively expensive. These tactics sometimes even proved effective at turning local merchants against the timber companies and gaining sympathy for the union.[73] The Wobblies are still remembered today, most generally for colorful tactics such as these, but such romantic accounts usually neglect to mention that even these things, by themselves, are not the IWW’s true mark upon history.

The Wobblies antics helped spread its reputation and increase its influence among sympathetic workers, but they hadn’t yet built the organized economic power at the point of production, which was the goal its founders originally sought. Certainly, the IWW’s agitation among the lumber towns of the region brought about small gains and small scale reforms, but this was only the beginning of what was needed. In most cases, the IWW was little more than an organized minority of the membership involved in these struggles, though it often played crucial leadership roles in them and many of the timber workers were sympathetic to the Wobblies. If nothing else, their fights demonstrated the power of effective organization and the futility of the craft unionism of the AFL.[74] To their credit, the organizers of the One Big Union recognized that limited struggles and organization were not enough to achieve lasting victory, and being “democratic to a fault” as their more centralist socialist competitors often labeled them, the Wobblies debated and discussed the strengths and weaknesses of their strategies and tactics constantly. The urgency of their efforts was well warranted, because the power of the lumber trust continued to grow, often with the help of the United States government.

* * * * *

As the timber barons logged out their private holdings, they began to encroach upon the lands that had been supposedly set aside in the public trust. Ironically, one year after he had successfully fought off the Sierra Club’s challenge to Hetch Hetchy, Gifford Pinchot found himself in John Muir’s shoes. In 1908, President Taft had replaced his predecessor’s Secretary of the Interior, James Rudolph Garfield—the son of President James Garfield and a staunch conservationist—with former Seattle Mayor, Richard Ballinger. The new secretary shared neither Muir’s strict preservationist nor Pinchot’s pragmatic multiple use conservationist views on wilderness, and proposed opening them up to unfettered resource extraction. While Pinchot was opposed to a complete prohibition of logging in the national forests, he still believed that public timber should be sold only to small, family-run logging outfits, not corporations. Pinchot had envisioned a “working forest” for working people and small scale logging at the edge, preservation at the core. After a scandal in which Pinchot accused Ballinger of graft, specifically that the latter was enabling the exploitation of federal lands by private enterprise illegally, Taft dismissed Pinchot in 1910 and left the USFS under the direction of Pinchot’s protégé, William Greely.[75]

The contrast between Pinchot and Greely could be seen immediately. After a year of devastating forest fires in 1910, Greely, a deeply religious man, became obsessed with the prevention of them, and he claimed that the fires were the wrath of “Satan.” Under his watch, the forest service became primarily a fire department, and he accepted the prescription of the timber barons who argued that clearcut logging was the best preventive measure against them. As a result, Greely allowed the lumber trust to log public lands for private profit, and Pinchot’s well intentioned polices were scuttled. Upon seeing the results, Pinchot lamented, “So this is what saving the trees was all about. Absolute devastation. The Forest Service should absolutely declare against clear-cutting in Washington and Oregon as a defensive measure.”[76] His warnings went unheeded, however.

Conservation organizations, such as the Sierra Club, protested the wholesale destruction of the forests, but by this time, among labor unions, the IWW was one of the few to likewise echo the environmentalists’ warnings. During Greely’s tenure, the IWW’s many periodicals published articles and editorials warning of the threat to the long term sustainability of the great forests of the Pacific Northwest at the hands of the greedy lumber trust who was mowing them down all for the sake of profit and greed. One article from this time “denounced the ‘totally destructive’ character of then-current methods of reforestation, and pointed out that under the administration of workers’ self-management that the IWW proposed, such thoughtless destruction would be inconceivable.” Another “called for immediate ‘conservation action’ to stop the lumber companies’ ‘criminal and wholly unnecessary wastage’ of forests: ‘Nothing but mute stumps over thousands of acres…Where is it going to end?’”[77] However, criticism of Corporate Timber’s rapacious logging wasn’t limited to environmentalists, the IWW, or progressive officials. Even some former lumber barons themselves began to lament the monster they had spawned. For example, in 1912, E. C. Williams, who had been one of the four original founders of the first commercial sawmill in Mendocino County on the coast observed the effects of clearcutting and bemoaned the destruction to the local environment he witnessed firsthand.[78]

* * * * *

Even though the power of the timber corporations grew, the IWW grew in opposition to it, but they still lacked a viable organizational model necessary advance their struggle to the next level. That would soon change. In 1915, the IWW’s Agricultural Workers Organization (AWO), provided the inspiration and organizational type that the timber workers needed. The AWO was the IWW’s first true industrial union, with branches rather than autonomous locals, and a roving delegate system—which allowed the union to initiate and organize workers at the jobsite or in transit to it (which was often achieved by means of “riding the rails”, out of economic necessity, hence the IWW’s cultural association with hoboes). The AWO organized on the job and proved most effective, growing to perhaps over 100,000 members at one point before the introduction of the combine facilitated the rapid automation of harvest work and resulted in the AWO’s eventual decline by the early 1920s. The IWW did not decline overall, however, and much of the efforts that went into building the AWO were instead channeled into organizing industrial unions in other industries, including timber. Since harvests were seasonal, some of these harvest workers also went to work in the woods and brought the AWO’s organizing methods along with them.[79]

The efforts bore fruit almost overnight. In the autumn of 1916, approximately 5,000 IWW lumbermen who were part of the by then 22,000 strong AWO, voted to form their own, similarly structured Lumber Workers Industrial Union (LWIU).[80] The LWIU aimed to organize all the workers in the lumber camps and sawmills and to win the eight-hour day, and by so doing abolish unemployment in the lumber industry, thereby making it impossible for the employers to discriminate by its use of blacklists and job sharks against the active workers and to protect each worker on their job.[81] Once formed, the LWIU immediately launched a campaign to organize all workers in that industry throughout the Pacific Northwest, which they attempted in spite of increasing efforts at repression by the lumber companies and the complaint governments of the region, including the infamous Everett Massacre which took place on November 5, 1916, in which five Wobblies were murdered by police and many others wounded.[82]

The capitalists’ fear was based on the very real threat that the IWW might win and take over the means of production, at least in the agricultural and lumber industries. The employers’ backlash only strengthened the LWIU’s resolve and faced with an ever increasingly militant workforce, the lumber corporations turned to the state governments to maintain their economic grip on the Pacific Northwest. A number of states, starting with Idaho, on March 14, 1917, passed “Criminal Syndicalism” laws which were ostensibly intended to fight those who advocated “crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform,” which for all intents and purposes meant the IWW. The Wobblies, of course, did none of these things, but the timber barons spread no shortage of falsehoods and innuendos suggesting otherwise, which was dutifully parroted by the capitalist press. The other states of the Pacific Northwest soon passed similar “Criminal Syndicalism” and “Criminal Anarchy” laws.[83] California was no exception, passing their version in 1919, which was used specifically to try and thwart the efforts of IWW members to organize lumber workers, such as Oscar Erickson who was tried twice and acquitted by a hung jury in the Mendocino County town of Ukiah in 1924.[84]

Still the IWW continued to organize more or less undaunted. In the Spring of 1917, the union announced plans for a strike centered in, but not limited to, northwestern Washington for various demands, including clean bunkhouses with mattresses; table and chairs; 8 hours work with no work on Sunday and Christmas; a living wage of $60 per month; no discrimination; free hospital service; and hiring from a union hall.[85] The AFL’s various timber and sawmill workers’ locals also voted, independently, to strike for the eight hour day, no doubt influenced by the IWW’s call, hoping to prevent their own thunder from being stolen.[86] In response to the strike call, the employers formed an association known as the Lumbermen’s Protective Association (LPA) to protect their interests and resist the strike in concert.[87] The strike began in the lumber camps and rapidly spread to the rest of Washington, Idaho, and Montana and several sawmills. The sheer lack of timber caused those camps and mills that hadn’t joined the strike to halt production anyway.[88]

The lumber barons had never faced a near total loss of control such as this before, and they used every means of they could at their disposal. Sometimes they appealed to the strikers on nationalistic grounds, but they still couldn’t recruit anywhere near enough strike breaking scabs to even create the pretense of production. Moses Alexander, the governor of Idaho, who was sympathetic to the lumber bosses, toured the lumber camps of his state appealing to the strikers’ “patriotism” to try and end the strike, but they wouldn’t budge. More often than not, however, the employing class turned to repression. Armed thugs harassed strikers. Spies working undercover attempted to undermine the strike by causing dissension and disruption from within its ranks. Law enforcement agents subservient to the lumber trust arrested and jailed hundreds of strikers, including those perceived to be its “leaders”. The press editorialized against the strike and its organizers, even in some cases spreading false information such as claiming the strike had ended, when it hadn’t. Vigilante mobs stirred up by the lumber companies and anti union propaganda attacked and sometimes destroyed IWW halls. In Troy, Montana, one jailed striker was burned to death.[89]

In most cases, the LPA directed most of these efforts, sometimes overtly, but often under the cover of “law and order” and “patriotism”, a matter of great concern since the United States had entered World War I by this time. One lie in particular, spread by the LPA in the late summer and fall of 1917, was that the strike had been covertly instigated and financed to the tune of $100,000 per month by German agents, including particularly Kaiser Wilhelm himself, seeking to obstruct the harvesting of spruce being used by the United States government to manufacture war planes. This claim was demonstrably false. The summer had been especially dry throughout the region, and striking IWW members had joined firefighting crews—and sometimes, being the most experienced woodsmen, served as foremen, saving millions of dollars of standing timber, including spruce. In Missoula, Montana, fire fighters had been hired directly by the government from IWW hiring halls, and the sworn testimony of the US Government states that the strikers had been not just helpful, but absolutely essential to the firefighting efforts, saving millions of acres of forests, including spruce. The US fire Warden repeatedly described the Wobblies serving on his crews as “the most efficient and reliable men he ever had.” Yet this detail went unreported by the capitalist press.[90]

In fact, the employers’ claim about Spruce was actually a cover story to distract attention away from their own graft. Another detail that escaped their attention was the fact that very little spruce, which grows primarily in Oregon, was affected by the strike, and the strike didn’t involve much of that state.[91] The press also ignored the fact that the lumber magnates deliberately held back spruce production to discredit the strikers.[92] The Spokane Press did report that before the war, the price of spruce had been $16 per thousand feet, but during the war, the price rose to at least $116, and sometimes as much as $650. Further investigations by the Seattle Union Record revealed that this price increase was a case of deliberate gouging by the timber corporations. The Woodrow Wilson administration even admitted that the accusation against the IWW was a bald faced lie, because Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker expressly requested that the lumber trust grant the eight-hour day, but his demands were ignored.[93]

That’s not to suggest, however, that the IWW never provided their adversaries with the ammunition that the latter in turn used against the union. For several years, the Wobblies had advocated ca’canny, which they often also described as “sabotage”, as a tactic to advance its collective struggles at the point of production, but to the IWW and the employing class this meant entirely different things. To the Wobblies it meant the conscious and collective withdrawal of efficiency at the point of production, such as an entire work crew, shop, or even industry working more slowly or inefficiently to slow down the pace of work, thus impacting the employers’ bottom line and improving their working conditions. In other words, it was an economic strategy intended for the working class to use as a tool to gain the upper hand. Sabotage described thusly in detail had been made most famous by IWW organizers Walker C. Smith[94], and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn[95].

To the employing class, however, sabotage meant the wanton destruction of property, or at least it was framed this way, and this misconception was used to further discredit the Wobblies. Members debated the issue, and the consensus was that the tactic of collectively withdrawing efficiency at the point of production itself was justifiable, but the term “sabotage” represented a ball and chain that the employers could shackle to the organization thus undermining its reputation among the working class.[96] IWW member Ralph Chaplin, facing “criminal syndicalism” charges later recalled:

The prosecution used the historic meaning of the word to prove that we drove spikes into logs, copper tacks into fruit trees, and practiced all manner of arson, dynamiting and wanton destruction. Thanks to our own careless use of the word, the prosecution’s case seemed plausible to the jury and the public.”[97]

The lies spread by the timber bosses brought about increased repression and vigilante mob activity, but still the strikers stood their ground. There was only one problem that stood in their way, and that was the lack of funds to sustain a prolonged strike, and the employers were stubbornly refusing to give in for fear that the IWW would continue to gain control over the lumber industry and spark a political and economic revolution. Over time, the bosses would find a way to eventually recruit enough scabs to replace the strikers permanently. Some farsighted Wobblies recognized this threat and began advocating that the IWW transfer the strike to the job itself. The union would appear to end the strike, but while back on the job, the loggers and mill workers would engage in various forms of (non destructive) sabotage at the point of production (though, of course, now they didn’t refer to such actions as sabotage). The workers would be paid in wages and in meals, but they would have just as much, if not a greater economic impact. This would also make it harder for the employers to hire scabs.[98]

By the middle of September 1917, the strike ostensibly ended, and the press spun it as a victory for the lumber bosses, but while back in the camps, the workers slowed their pace considerably. Instead of working ten hours, the crews would collectively cease work after eight. Although the employers would usually fire the entire crew on the spot, and hire a new crew a few days later. The latter being just as sympathetic to the goals of the IWW, however, would repeat the actions again. Meanwhile the first crew was duplicating these efforts elsewhere, as well as they could manage. The bosses could not defeat this “strike” by the workers’ starvation or attrition. Authorities could not single out and arrest the “leaders” because there was no way to identify who they were, and even when they tried, the arrests only further fanned the flames of the timber workers discontent. The employers could also not afford to organize a “general lockout”, because there was a high demand for lumber due to the prolonged conventional strike that had preceded the new “strike on the job”, and they had crowed so loudly about the disruption to spruce production. The IWW’s direct action at the point of production persisted throughout the winter. The employers were—temporarily at least—confounded.[99]

The timber corporations found a temporary solution due to a fortuitous circumstance. The US Government had placed Colonel Brice Disque in charge of spruce production on behalf of the war department. The colonel happened to be sympathetic to the LPA, and at their behest, he agreed to work with them to “stabilize the lumber industry” which meant undermining the IWW.[100] Disque began this task by creating a company union called the Loyal Legion of Loggers and Lumbermen (LLLL). Many of the lumber workers, particularly IWW members, referred to the new so-called union as “Little Loyalty and Loot”, though they often joined it anyway.[101] Disque made appeals to the workers’ sense of “patriotism,” but he didn’t just stop there. If the Colonel couldn’t persuade the workers to join, he would force them to do so by dispatching his soldiers to work in the lumber camps. Disque ostensibly did this to aid in spruce production, but most of the soldiers were placed in logging camps that had nothing to do with the harvesting and production of it.[102] Membership in the LLLL was effectively compulsory, and those that refused it were accused of being German spies and traitors, fired, and beaten by soldiers under the Colonel’s command. At least one man who spoke out against the LLLL was found dead by hanging the next morning.[103] It was clearly obvious that Disque’s actual purpose was the quashing of the Wobblies’ strike on the job.

The lumber companies in their insatiable greed sabotaged themselves, however. Not content with reining in the IWW, they took advantage of the soldiers as well, and the latter responded by adopting the Wobblies’ slowdown tactics. The employers were once again paralyzed. There was little choice left to the LPA but to concede defeat. To great fanfare, on March 1, 1918 Colonel Disque issued a statement on behalf of the timber corporations making the eight hour day official.[104] The bosses, their press, and many historians, including historian Robert L. Tyler, who wrote a fairly extensive account about the IWW’s struggles in the woods, have assigned credit for this victory to everyone but the Wobblies.[105] The IWW, on the other hand, never hesitated to claim credit where they believed it was due:

This was one of the most successful strikes in the history of the labor movement. The efficacy of the tactics used is further emphasized by the fact that it was directed against one of the most powerful combinations of capital in the world. Two hours had been cut from the work day. Wages had been raised. Bath houses, wash houses and drying rooms had been installed. The companies were forced to furnish bedding. Old-fashioned, unsanitary bunk-houses were displaced by small, clean, well lighted and ventilated ones. Instead of bunks filled with dirty hay, beds, clean mattresses, blankets, sheets and pillows changed weekly were furnished. The food was improved a hundred per cent. In short, practically all demands were won.

The lumber barons claimed they had granted these concessions ‘voluntarily’ ‘for patriotic reasons.’ In reality, they had granted nothing. All they had done was to bow to the inevitable, and officially recognize the eight-hour day after the lumber workers had taken it by direct action. The LLLL also claimed credit for the victory. This was the joke of the season. A skunk might as well claim credit for the perfume of a flower garden, after having failed to pollute it. At the present writing there is scarcely a trace left of the LLLL. The last feeble squeal heard from this conglomeration of boss-lovers was when they went on record in Portland as favoring a reduction of wages.”[106]

For the first time ever, the power of the lumber trust had been effectively counterbalanced, and the bosses were deeply concerned that the IWW would gain the upper hand. No doubt the employers also worried that the Wobblies’ concern for the environment might draw support from their conservationist critics. A mass based, populist workers movement could, just possibly, bring about the very revolution the socialists and IWW sought to incite, and put an end to the robber barons’ reign. The implications were staggering and as far as the bosses were concerned, something had to be done. The IWW was well aware of this and readied themselves to complete “the historic mission of the working class.” History, however, took several unforeseen turns, and—much to the lumber trust’s relief—the Wobblies vision would be indefinitely delayed.


2. Pollution, Love it or Leave it!

"Since when are humans solely a biological product of wilderness? (What is ‘wilderness’?) If you accept an evolutionary development of Homo sapiens, as I do, it does not mean that you profess a disbelief in God. Quite the contrary. It was God, the Creator, who created humans, who imbued them with a will, with a soul, with a conscience, with the ability to determine right from wrong. It is inconceivable that the Creator would create such vast resources on earth without expecting them to be utilized."

—Glenn Simmons, editor of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, February 1, 1990.

"Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

—Edward Abbey

Earth shattering though it may have seemed, the IWW’s victory was both transitory and incomplete, and historical currents would never again mesh as perfectly. To begin with, the strike on the job had taken place only in the Pacific Northwest, and had excluded California at that. The Wobblies recognized one strategic weakness in this situation in noting that the employers could have eventually organized a lockout of that region and relied instead on wood production from the southern or eastern United States. They knew—in the abstract at least—that their victory would never be complete until they organized all lumber workers nationally and internationally.[107] The Wobblies inability to make inroads among the highly skilled redwood loggers of California’s North Coast was especially troublesome, and it portended their undoing. Two companies, Pacific Lumber (P-L) and Hammond Lumber Company (HLC) had each adopted separate techniques that had kept the IWW out and would soon be duplicated by the Lumber Trust elsewhere. That combined with the much larger shockwaves brought on by the Russian Revolution in 1917 conspired against the One Big Union and led to the eventual decline of the American working class as an adversarial force and the liquidation of the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

Although most corporations comprising the Lumber Trust had refused to budge, lest they embolden the Wobblies, there were those that adopted “welfare capitalism” on their own initiative, in which they would provide amenities and benefits to their workers—union or not—in an attempt to win over their loyalty. It was in the crucible of timber worker unionism, Humboldt County, where this was first attempted with any lasting success, by the Pacific Lumber Company (P-L), based in Scotia, beginning in 1909. P-L had discovered that by creating a wide variety of social programs, employee benefits, and community based events, it was able to secure the loyalty and stability of its workforce. P-L general manager A. E. Blockinger described these efforts in great detail in an article featured in the Pioneer Western Lumberman:

"A reading room with facilities for letter writing and any games, except gambling, is easily and cheaply put into any camp. Arrange subscription clubs for papers and periodicals or let the company do it for the men. If you can have a circulating library among your camps and at the mill plant, it will be much appreciated. Let the daily or weekly papers be of all nationalities as represented in your camp. Lumber trade journals are especially interesting to the men and they can and will readily follow the markets for lumber and appreciate that you have some troubles of your own.

“Organize fire departments among your men. The insurance companies will give you reductions in rates for such additional protection while it offers another opportunity for your men to relax and enjoy themselves.

“Shower baths at the camps or mill are easily and cheaply installed. They will be used and appreciated after a hot, dusty day’s work.


“Get your men loyal and keep them so. Let this replace loyalty to a union. The spirit is what you want in your men. Ten good men will accomplish as much as fifteen ordinary laborers if the spirit and good will is there. Treat them right and they will treat you right.”[108]

The employers’ introduction of paternalism achieved its intended goal. The Secretary of the Pacific Logging Congress, an employers’ association had declared in his 1912 report, “The best cure for the IWW plague—a people without a country and without a God—is the cultivation of the homing instinct in men.”[109] When the IWW campaign for the eight hour day ensued in 1917, P-L simply added more programs. Carleton H. Parker, a onetime U.C. Berkeley economics professor working for the War Department as a mediator during the lumber workers’ strike, had previously conducted sociological studies on workers, including agricultural and timber laborers. Parker was familiar with P-L, and had some fairly extensive knowledge of the Wobblies.[110] Some of the latter had been gained through first-hand studies by two of his assistants, Paul Brissenden[111] and F. C. Mills[112] who had posed as IWW members and later produced extensive studies on the organization. Using this knowledge, Parker offered many suggestions to Disque which the latter somewhat reluctantly adopted. The LLLL created social halls for its members and replaced the employment sharks with free employment agencies. The IWW quite rightly recognized these amenities as a means to buy the workers’ loyalty and likely to be liquidated when the employers drive for profits once again accelerated, but this process would take a long time, and convincing the workers of a threat that could take one or more generations to manifest proved futile.[113]

The Hammond Lumber Company of Eureka offered another, less altruistic, but similarly effective answer to the IWW. HLC began the experiment in 1913 by establishing a production bonus system, whereby workers in various departments within the company would be paid an additional fee, instead of an hourly wage, for meeting or beating a production quota.[114] The bonus was paid to the entire department and the system had the advantage of both increasing production and undermining class solidarity. Over time, employers expanded and developed the concept to the point where entire logging and milling operations could be contracted out to subcontractors.[115] Under this model, a contract logging or “gyppo” logging company would competitively bid against other similar firms to take an area of standing timber and deliver saw logs to a mill. Work was paid by the board foot, not by the hour, thus creating an incentive for lumber workers to compete with their fellows in cutthroat competition rather than build class solidarity.[116] The employers made little secret of the fact that they had created the gyppo system specifically to undermine unionism, in particular the IWW.[117] By 1919, Weyerhaeuser had a highly developed gyppo system in place in mills and logging camps in Idaho involving over 4,000 workers.[118] Again, the IWW recognized this as a direct attack on their organization, and was already taking steps to counteract it when unexpected turns of history thwarted their progress still further.[119]

The Russian Revolution of 1917 had brought about the ascendency of Bolshevism, and though the IWW was neither affiliated with nor completely politically aligned with the Communism of the Third International, the latter nevertheless dictated events which affected the Wobblies. Already IWW members had faced repression from the bosses, been sentenced to prison terms or execution by judges ruling in favor of trumped up charges of “Criminal Syndicalism”, or even murder by vigilantes. After World War I, using the pretext of the “threat” of the spread of the Russian Revolution of 1917 to the US, Attorney General A. Mitchel Palmer conducted a reign of terror against domestic radicals known as the “red scare”. Palmer established what was to become the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and carried out much of his work in close cooperation with employers and with the American Legion, which was used as a vigilante force. Palmer chose as the head of this new security agency his young, reactionary protégé, a rabid anticommunist by the name of J. Edgar Hoover. Although the FBI was advertised as a law enforcement agency, it functioned—in practice—as bulwark against anti-capitalism and popular democracy. The red scare began in 1919 and climaxed when over 10,000 American workers, aliens and citizens, most of them trade union organizers, were arrested on January 1, 1920.[120]

The IWW was the main target of these raids. The employing class was largely the power behind these waves of repression, and they successfully whipped up vigilante mob hysteria against the IWW and other radicals. One of its most bloody expressions was the Centralia Massacre, which took place on Armistice Day, November 11th, 1919. On that day, a parade of American Legion members and other so-called “patriots” held a march through town. At the parade’s conclusion the crowd stopped in front of the local IWW Hall, which it had deliberately chosen to provoke a confrontation. With their ropes ready for a lynching the mob rushed the hall and started dismantling it. Having been subjected to previous incidents of mob violence already, the IWW members this time chose to defend themselves. A firefight ensued. Several of the assailants were killed by the Wobblies in self defense as evidence later clearly demonstrated. However the mob persisted and lynched several IWW members, including World War I veteran Wesley Everest in cold blood. In what could only be called a mockery of justice, however, it was the IWW members who were convicted of murder, many of whom were given life sentences.[121]

Yet, the IWW’s decline was due as much schisms within the left as much as it was from repression from the right. The rise of Bolshevism caused division within the IWW’s ranks.[122] To some, the Soviet Union represented the “dictatorship of the proletariat” envisioned by Marx and Engels, as well as the ultimate goal of the IWW.[123] To their harshest critics, in stark contrast to the steadfastly and uncompromisingly revolutionary IWW, the Communists by contrast were opportunistic and Machiavellian to the point of making a mockery of that same vision. The debate only deepened when, in 1921, the Soviet affiliated Red Trade Union International (RTUI) invited the Wobblies to join it, but stipulated that in doing so the IWW must not interfere with the jurisdiction of other unions, including the AFL (whether or not the latter engaged collaboration with the employing class).[124]

The crux of the debate centered on strategy with ideological differences representing the less obvious underpinnings. The RTUI delegates declared specifically, “If the IWW is to be a real factor in the Labor Movement, it must change its attitude towards other Labor Unions.”[125] The Wobblies officially rejected the overtures responding that the RTUI’s demands essentially meant that “The IWW must cease to be the IWW.”[126] In spite of this, a great many rank and file members chose to follow the Communists anyway.[127] Further internal debates over the advantages of largely theatrical tactics, such as soapboxing and free speech fights versus striking on the job had raged since the events in Spokane, culminating in a devastating and complex internal split in 1924, with the splinter faction being lead by LWIU leader James Rowan among others.[128] While the IWW struggled with its identity, the Communists eclipsed them as the dominant working class political force on the left in the United States and Canada, and the Wobblies presence in the lumber camps declined.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, after over a century of their unchecked liquidation, environmentalists (all of their faults and class biases not withstanding) finally began to make inroads to the preservation of the California ancient redwoods. By 1917, almost two thirds of them had been clearcut, but since almost all of these exceptionally valuable forestlands were privately held, even the meager protections offered by the USFS didn’t apply. That year, conservationists John C. Merriam, Madison Grant, Fairfield Osborn, and Frederick Russell Burnham founded the Save the Redwoods League (STRL), and immediately initiated efforts to preserve the most scenic groves along the route which would become US Highway 101, which would open up the remote North Coast region to automobile traffic and increasingly easy transportation of the valuable trees out of the area. Their efforts were successful, and they even convinced the Pacific Lumber Company to adopt sustainable logging methods under its sympathetic president, Albert S. Murphy.[129] Over the course of the 1920s, STRL helped preserve the groves that would eventually comprise Redwood National Park north of Arcata and Humboldt Redwoods State Park between Garberville and Scotia.[130] Still, such efforts were isolated exceptions. By 1922, the other timber companies began to realize that the supply of easily accessible redwoods was rapidly declining, and so they began attempting to replant them, only to discover that this did not work. For a time, logging companies in the redwood regions switched to selective logging practices.[131] Elsewhere, however, clearcut logging on private and public lands intensified.

As they had with Spruce in 1916, the large timber companies limited their competition and kept prices artificially high by holding back timber from the market. By the late 1920s, however, due to a glut of this overstocked timber, the lumber companies faced a crisis.[132] The Great Depression hit the logging and lumber industries very hard, especially in northwestern California, where by 1931 only three mills were operating in Humboldt County.[133] The Lumber Trust responded to this situation by encouraging the federal government to add billions of additional board feet of “standing timber” to be added to the national forests, including as much as 150 bbf in 1933 alone, to be harvested on a sustained-yield basis. By doing so, the capitalists further limited the timber supply on the market and kept prices high for their own timber.[134] Each of these actions increased market pressures to cut more lumber more widely and rapidly. To make matters worse, new technology, specifically gasoline powered chainsaws and tractors were introduced in the early 1930s. Trees that hitherto took as much as a week to cut could now be felled within minutes. This new wave of automation brought about further liquidation of the ancient redwoods as well as a reduction in the workforce and increased exploitation of the timber workers.[135]

* * * * *

The hardship experienced by all American and European workers during the Great Depression, coupled with the apparent avoidance of such hardships in the Soviet Union sowed the seeds for a revival of rank and file workplace radicalism. The IWW had succeeded, at the very least, in introducing the concepts of industrial unionism, direct action at the point of production, and the general strike into the labor movement, and these tactics were used to great affect by left leaning dissidents within the AFL, many of whom also carried IWW cards or had done so in the past. The 1934 West Coast General Strike among the longshoremen inspired similar attempts at militant unionism among lumber workers the following year.[136] In 1935 a general strike among lumber workers took place in California, Oregon, and Washington over the issue of collective bargaining. The Great Strike, as it was called, took place from May to July and involved 22,000 workers at its height.[137]

“The Depression brought a sharp decline to the redwood lumber industry. Layoffs were common and workers suffered a 10 percent wage reduction in 1931. But by 1933 a recovery had begun in the industry, all major mills were running, and the passage of the National Industrial Recovery Act brought on a new tide of union organizing, stating that ‘employees shall have the right to organize and bargain collectively’.

“The leadership of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), facing the greatest opportunity since its inception, stood immobilized by their conservative craft union philosophy. For many years, progressive unions had argued that industry-wide organizations were the only means by which the thousands of workers in auto, steel, lumber, and other mass production industries could be organized. But the AFL leadership rejected these arguments, largely because the craft unions dominating the organization feared and distrusted the semi-skilled and unskilled workers in the major industries. When it became apparent that the progressives would split from the AFL on the issue of industry-wide organization, leadership was compelled to compromise. In the Pacific Northwest, lumber workers who previously had been rebuffed by the AFL were finally granted union charters.

“In early 1935, the local lumber and sawmill workers union formulated demands of 50 cents an hour, a 48-hour work week, and immediate union recognition. The standard work week at that time was 60 hours. A convention of the Northwest Council of Lumber and Sawmill Workers met in Aberdeen, Washington and set its own demands of 75 cents an hour, a 30-hour week, overtime and holiday pay provisions, and union recognition. Furthermore, the Council voted to strike on May 6th if the demands were not met.”[138]

One of the most pitched battles in this conflict occurred in Eureka:

“On May 11th in Eureka, the members of LSW Local 2563 voted to strike in four days unless the mill operators met with their negotiating committee. Appointed ‘picket captains’ instructed all strikers to picket peacefully within bounds of the law. The companies, with the exception of the California Barrel Company, made no response to the demands of the union. On Wednesday, May 15th, Humboldt County workers joined the general strike of the west coast lumber industry.

“The Times and the Standard both carried front page editorials attacking the forthcoming strike. The Eureka Problems Committee of the Chamber of Commerce voted to establish a ‘Committee of One Thousand’ to ‘guarantee the safety of the citizens and property owners during the strike.’ This was the precursor of the Humboldt Nationals, a secret vigilante organization. By this time, the lumber companies had decided to end the strike by any means necessary. The picketing was no more than an annoyance to most of the mills, but the closure of the docks (in solidarity) by the longshoremen posed a serious economic threat. On June 14, a group of eleven men arrived in town posing as ‘G-men’—i.e., FBI agents and immigration officers, but it was rumored that they were professional thugs. The Standard reported that week that, ‘[T]he Humboldt County lumber strike is in the hands of agitators and nonresident trouble-makers. Eureka Police completed at noon today their first 24 hours of open battle against illegal picketing, intimidation and hoodlum attacks on workers of local mills.’

“On the night of June 20, Local 2563 called an emergency meeting. Albin Gruhn, a young Hammond worker at the time, attended the meeting and later recalled that the decision was made to concentrate peaceful picketing at one of the mills in an effort to shut it down completely. Very early Friday morning, June 21st, the order was given for pickets to assemble at the Holmes-Eureka gate. The stage was set…”[139]

What happened next follows the pattern of repression experienced two decades previously by the IWW and foreshadowed the events that were to take place later.[140] Onstine continues:

Pickets began arriving at the main gate shortly after 6:00 a.m. There were approximately 200 strikers gathered around the entrance to the plant, and a small crowd of spectators milled on the flat above. Some of the men pulled up rotten planks from boardwalk in front of the plant and assembled a makeshift barricade across the entrance.

“‘Special officers’ Forrest Horrell and James Jenson were serving as watchmen at the main gate. Horrell later testified that one of the strikers began taunting him, daring him to start something. Another, whom Horrell later identified as Eugene Miller, a strike leader, denounced him for siding with the lumber companies and said that he, Miller, was sorry that he had ever known Horrell. Horrell ordered Miller to get off Holmes-Eureka property and then facetiously asked the strikers if they couldn’t find anything more to drag across the gate.

“Non-striking workers began to arrive almost as soon as the pickets had gathered. Confronted with the determined picketers, most simply turned around and left.

“The police began arriving soon thereafter. Close behind them came Chief of Police George Littlefield. Several witnesses, watching from the flats above, said that when the pickets stopped Littlefield’s car he climbed out, pistol in hand, and began firing into the ground, shouting, ‘Who’s going to stop me?’

“The principal trouble, however, arose from a Packard sedan. Although the pickets were not menacing the police at this point, someone in the car fired a tear gas canister into the crowd. The shell made a direct hit on a woman picketer, Jerrine Canarri, and knocked her to the ground.”[141]

The union picket captains had tried to stand down prior to the shelling, but after being attacked, some strikers fought back and a firefight ensued. Onstine describes what happened next:

“When the tear gas finally cleared, the full extent of union casualties became obvious. William Kaarte, a 62-year-old woods cook, died instantly after he was shot in the throat. Paul Lampella, a young guy, was hit in the head. His eye popped out on his face and he was screaming bloody murder. Insane, his facial muscles tightly constricted by paralysis, he lived until August 7th. Harold Edlund, 35, a chopper employed by the Pacific Lumber Co., was mortally wounded in the chest while assisting Lampella. He died on the evening of June 24th. Ole Johnson was wounded in a leg which subsequently required amputation. Many others were wounded as well.

“Five police officers—Littlefield, Rutledge, French, Carroll, and Albee required medical attention for gas exposure, cuts, and concussions. All returned to duty later that morning.

“The Great Strike in Humboldt County ended on June 21st. The longshoremen went back to work on Monday, and the Lumber and Sawmill Workers Union shifted its attention to providing legal aid for its members.

“Despite efforts by the police and the press, public opinion swung to the side of the strikers. Fifteen hundred members of Humboldt County labor unions were reported to have turned out for the funeral of Kaarte, the woods cook, and Assemblyman Burns led a procession in which unionists marched in a solid phalanx five blocks long followed by a hundred car loads of mourners.

“Of the lumber workers arrested, 80 men and three women were brought to preliminary hearings before the Eureka Police Court. Of the 83 strikers who had preliminary hearings, sufficient cause was found to bring 55 to trial in superior court.

“A shortage of jurors who were willing to serve plagued the prosecution from the beginning. Of the 100 jurors called for the first trial, 44 failed to show up, and a special venire of 40 had to be summoned. In light of the difficulty assembling a jury, district attorney Bradford began negotiating with the defense attorneys to drop charges against all but twelve of the defendants in exchange for consolidation of the cases.

“The jury, after deliberating more than 30 hours, was able to reach agreement on only one of the defendants, who was acquitted…The prosecution had undertaken three trials without obtaining a conviction and had seen its key witnesses completely discredited. On September 25, Bradford called it quits…

“The hysteria created by public officials and the press had contributed to the bloodshed. The Humboldt Nationals had held a special meeting at Eureka High School on the eve of the riot, presumably for a pep-talk before the expected confrontation. The situation was ripe for violence, and if the showdown had occurred late in the day when the vigilantes could have been assembled, many more people would have been hurt.

“Immediately following the trials, a curtain of silence descended on these events. The local press had no interest in analyzing the subject.”[142]

In spite of the bosses’ repression, the strike succeeded and brought with it a revival of unionism within the lumber industry, but not directly from the IWW. The Wobblies still existed, but never regained the prominence they once held two decades previously, in large part due to the dominance of Communism as a political force on the left.[143] The influence of Communism, and the vast wave of rank and file worker militancy that grew during the 1930s was significant enough to convince President Franklin D. Roosevelt to enact various social democratic reforms, known as “The New Deal”, which—ironically enough—had some of their roots in Carleton Parker’s sociological studies of the IWW and the experiments in paternalism begun by Pacific Lumber, (even though most had their origins in the reformist economic ideas proposed by John Maynard Keynes). Additionally, in order to rein in the increasingly militant union organizing by the working class and the growing violent backlash enacted by the employers, Roosevelt signed the Wagner Act (otherwise known as the National Labor Relations Act) in 1935 thus legalizing and formalizing collective bargaining by labor unions.[144]

The New Deal split the capitalist class into liberal and conservative camps. The liberals welcomed the potential for “labor peace” that the Keynesian New Deal offered, but the conservatives decried what they described as “creeping Communism,” even though in reality the New Deal stole the Communists’ thunder, but the Keynesians ruled the day while the conservatives bided their time. The ever opportunistic Communists nevertheless assumed credit for the reforms and reinforced the idea that socialism could be brought about by incremental reform. Schisms between Communists, Socialists, and Anarchists over the Spanish Revolution of 1936 and the rise of European Fascism further strengthened the Communist’s hold on the American left. The cumulative effect of these political tides and currents was to leave many with the perception—even if debatable—that time had passed the IWW—and, by extension, syndicalism—by, and a great many of its members drifted away, and the organization, though it continued to exist, was but a shadow of its once great self.[145]

Instead, the revival of militant timber workers’ unionism was led by the International Woodworkers of America (IWA), which formed in 1937, and affiliated with the newly formed Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The IWA, like the IWW, was a democratic, rank-and-file controlled union. The overwhelming majority of the elected officers in the union were radical militants (many of them former IWW organizers). Unlike the IWW, however, the CIO believed that the union should not only orient their struggle at the point of production, but that they should engage in the political arena as well—an idea the IWW rejected in 1908. The CIO, like the Communists, believed that their organization was part of a larger movement that would confront the criminal economy of the capitalist system.[146] While the existence of the Wagner Act and the new union federation’s pragmatic approach attracted a lot more members much more quickly than the Wobblies could ever have hoped to have done, it also created its own share of problems as well. The IWW had opposed the conservativism of the AFL, but they had never actively attempted to raid their competitors, choosing instead to allow militant AFL members to hold IWW cards simultaneously; the CIO had no such prohibitions on raiding. The AFL, who still insisted on craft unionism, excluding unskilled workers, and racist policies were suddenly faced with the very real possibility of losing their jurisdiction over their long existing strongholds. For example, many of the IWA’s rank and file members defected from the AFL’s carpenters’ union.[147] Faced with competition from this new union, the competing AFL timber unions were forced to step up their organizing, evolve, and become more like the CIO.

As a result, the unions of the AFL and CIO organized as much against each other as they did the employers, and these internecine squabbles and each federation’s lack of solidarity for the other undermined potential victories for the workers as a whole. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners (UBCJ) made a concerted effort to target timber companies on the Mendocino coast from 1937 to 38, particularly the Union Lumber Company. The UBCJ succeeded in winning enough support for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election, but the companies campaigned hard against the union, and the efforts were thwarted. Two years later, the International Longshoremen’s and Warehouseman’s Union (ILWU)’s Fort Bragg Local 77 attempted to secure recognition from the Caspar Lumber Company and Union Lumber—both of whom operated lumber schooners along the coast—only to have their efforts thwarted when the companies simply shut down their schooners permanently, switching to other methods of transport. The Union Lumber Company in particular was still very much hostile to unionization, and it maintained an active blacklist of union supporters.[148] These jurisdictional squabbles did coincide with a massive increase in union membership—though it’s just as likely the New Deal and Wagner Act are to credit for this—but they primarily allowed the employers to undermine working class solidarity, a fact that the still existing, but substantially diminished IWW tried desperately to point out to little avail.

To make matters worse, the CIO faced as much strife from within its ranks as it did from without. The CIO was created by a fragile alliance of its “red”, left wing (comprised primarily of Communists as well as a handful of Socialists and former Wobblies) and its “white” conservative wing (made up of liberal reformers and social democrats). The former were led by the ILWU’s Australian born Harry Bridges and the IWA’s Canadian born Harold Pritchett, both based on the west coast, whereas the latter was led largely by the CIO’s president and United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) leader John L. Lewis. Lewis’s faction believed in the AFL’s dictum of “a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work”, whereas the reds followed the IWW credo that “the working class and the employing class have nothing in common.”[149]

Initially, both sides coexisted uneasily. The leftists who had founded the new federation were still very much under the sway of the “United Front” so naïvely championed by many Communists. Meanwhile, Lewis and the conservatives had to tolerate the presence of the left. In the CIO’s early days, the Great Depression still weighed heavy on everybody’s mind, and industrial workers were still very open to anti-capitalist perspectives. On top of that, Lewis ruefully conceded that the radicals were the best organizers he could hope to find.[150] World War II brought about an alliance between Western Capital and Soviet Communism against the Axis Powers, and for a time, the CIO was unified, but after the war this changed. During the early days of the post war boom, the truce abated, and the employers, who would ideally have chosen no union at all, still preferred the “white” to the “red” and often assisted in the conservative wing’s repeated attempts to undermine the radicals.[151]

Following World War II, however, the employers faced another crisis. The War had given returning US GIs an unprecedented degree of economic power, the war had been largely won due to the efforts of the Soviet Union’s ability to withstand Hitler’s eastward push, and many European nations that represented potential markets for the very powerful western capitalists had been liberated Communist led uprisings. The old prewar fears of the American working class organizing a revolution resurfaced with a vengeance and the employers sought to preempt such an occurrence by engaging in intense post war propaganda efforts to vilify Communism as a hostile force.[152] Such descriptions were not entirely without merit. The Soviet Government’s internal repression and the atrocities committed against their own workers, which the IWW had criticized from the left before the war had ended, now were fodder for the right.[153] Both sides in the growing cold war engaged in espionage, trickery, and subterfuge to undermine what they considered to be political threats both from outside and within. In the United States, this was manifested in the McCarthy Era which is remembered primarily as a witch hunt against leftist, and sometimes even liberal, intellectuals, many of them based in Hollywood, but this, itself is only the tip of the iceberg. In actual fact, McCarthyism was merely political theater for a much deeper and more systematic destruction of working class radicalism within the United States by the employing class and aided by the state from many directions, the most sinister being organized surveillance, disruption, and repression by the FBI under the direction of the aforementioned J. Edgar Hoover.[154]

These geopolitical struggles exacerbated the split within the CIO, and in particular they greatly weakened the IWA. Even before the war began, the same kind of tactics that were used against the IWW were again used against the IWA. The Portland Police Red Squad, and similar agencies, the American Legion Subversive Activities Committee, and Martin Dies who chaired the House Committee on un-American Activities (HUAC), persecuted the union and its officers and used every sort of slander, libel, and innuendo to link them with the Communist Party. The United States Immigration Service was able, in 1940, to successfully depose IWA President Harold Pritchett of his office on a legal technicality, since he was a still Canadian citizen. These efforts had been aided and abetted by the white block within the CIO. In the years following the war, the emboldened rightist forces within the CIO and particularly the IWA engaged in countless instances of subterfuge, questionable elections, innuendo, and redbaiting. The employers were determined to prevent the solidifying of a West Coast based “red block” led by ILWU and IWA. While they failed to purge the former of its left wing, they succeeded in doing so in the latter.[155] These setbacks did not keep the IWA from organizing in the woods or the mills, but they greatly limited their power and ability to establish control by the workers over the job.

Meanwhile, Corporate Timber took advantage of the divisions within the labor movement and on the left and consolidated their control over the forests of the Pacific Northwest. The onset of World War II brought about swift changes to timber market conditions and overall production more than doubled from a low of 17 bbf in 1933 to 36 bbf in 1941. That year there were 24 sawmills in Humboldt County. During the war, the number of sawmills grew rapidly each year, and by war’s end they were producing lumber at full capacity.[156] By 1946 there were 99 mills in Humboldt County[157] and Mendocino had experienced similar growth.[158] After the war, however, production levels continued to increase to service the pent up demand for housing, due to the flush reserves of the returning GIs and the new VA mortgage programs.[159] This led to a strike wave that engulfed California’s North Coast in the three years that followed.

As a result, there was a general strike against all North Coast timber companies that took place in 1946. The workers’ demands included $1.05 hourly minimum wage, two weeks paid vacation, an end to the gyppo system, improved safety measures, company provided logging equipment, and a union shop status.[160] Many of the mills in northern California were unionized, but in many cases, the timber unions had not secured majority bargaining unit status and “union shop” clauses.[161] The employers, by contrast, remained insistent at retaining open shop status, in which not all of the workers had to join the union, but still enjoyed the benefits of a union contract without having to pay union dues. In most cases, this amounted to less than one percent of the workforce, but the unions saw it as a foot in the door for the employers to erode what the unions had gained through struggle, and historically, the bosses had always done so in time.[162] The strike lasted six months and ended in defeat, led by the Union Lumber Company.[163]

Then, in 1947, ostensibly to drive “Communism” out of the labor movement, but in actual fact to limit the unions’ power further, the US Government passed the Taft Hartley Act, prohibiting general strikes and other mass collective action, making another such strike wave legally impossible.[164] By 1948 many of the mills had shed their union contracts. In a further attempt to kick the unions while they were down, ULC commissioned the publication of an extremely biased and inaccurate history book, Memories of the Mendocino Coast, by D. W. Ryder claiming that the company had been “singularly free of labor trouble over the years,” and described the strike as “ill-advised and unnecessary.”[165] The timber unions had suffered another crushing defeat.

* * * * *

The result of all of this was that Corporate Timber’s lumber harvesting reached even more unprecedented levels, and The strike of 1946-48 temporarily halted production on the North Coast, and even then, not entirely, as small operators took advantage of the intense demand to fill the niche created by the strike.[166] The demand for wood was so great that in northwestern California, Douglas fir, which often grows near redwoods, but also grows elsewhere as a dominant species, and was hitherto overlooked as a source of high grade lumber, was now almost as much desired, and the small companies operating during the strike were able to take advantage of this change as well.[167] The small owners were, for the most part, fly-by-night operations, but at the conclusion of the strike, the large companies bought many of the mills and used them to branch out into Douglas fir production alongside Redwoods.[168]

Advances in technology made during and after World War II accelerated the liquidation of the forests of the Northwest further. By 1948, gasoline powered chainsaws and gas or diesel tractors had almost universally replaced axes and hand saws and steam driven yarders completing a second wave of automation within the timber industry enabling the rapid expansion of logging operations while at the same time reducing the workforce needed to produce the same amount of lumber.[169] By 1951, there were 262 sawmills in Humboldt County[170] and 300 in Mendocino County, at which point the number of mills began to decline.[171] Only the post World War II boom prevented a massive round of layoffs of timber workers. The Korean War brought about the peak in timber harvests on private lands in 1952, and that year timber corporations removed enough board feet from private lands in Oregon alone to house Oregon’s entire two million population and San Francisco’s 700,000 residents.[172] Many of the sawmills constructed on the North Coast were shady affairs, lasting no more than ten to twenty years at most, ultimately resulting in the consolidation of timber holdings into the hands of a few corporations, particularly ULC in Mendocino County and Pacific Lumber in Humboldt County.[173] In Humboldt County in 1956 the number of sawmills in Humboldt County dropped to 214. That number decreased yearly so that by 1960 there were 134.[174]

The workforce’s decline had been brought on largely by automation which began with the widespread deployment of chainsaws and gasoline powered tractors, but was greatly accelerated by far more significant changes in transportation patterns. In the 1950s, the United States underwent a massive wave of automobilization, facilitated by the systematic gutting of intracity and interstate public transit systems and the creation of the new Interstate Highway system in 1956. This expansion was driven by probable collusion between the government, and the oil, automobile, tire, and rubber corporations who desired a monopoly on transportation. This process affected all sectors of the US economy, bringing about unprecedented capital expansion, including within the lumber and paper industries.[175] Logs that were once loaded onto train cars were now loaded onto log trucks which could operate on roads which were much easier to construct into deep forest lands.[176] Local milling operations were geared for larger diameter logs, and smaller diameter logs were considered undesirable. For some hardwoods, such as Madrone, tanoak, pepperwood, there was no domestic market, but foreign markets appeared. In the 1950’s the balance of mill ownership along California’s North Coast shifted from locally owned to “out of area” firms who bought up mills and timber.[177] At this point, timber harvests on private land began to diminish, but capital’s economic imperative to continue their harvests unabated created increasing pressure to log public lands. [178]

The timber unions’ presence on the North Coast was largely inert. The IWA grew throughout the Pacific Northwest, primarily due to the growth of the population there and the post war boom, but they made no advances whatsoever against the increasing use of gyppo logging operations and made few gains in advancing the power of the workers. Through the process of collective bargaining, increasingly conservative, “business” unions, including the IWA, traded workers’ rights over any say in production for the sake of better wages and benefits.[179] Dissent within the ranks of the labor movement had been effectively marginalized. For the most part, other than occasional pockets of rebellion, it had become a conservative, and in some cases, even reactionary force. With rare exception, the AFL-CIO could be reliably counted upon to support the overall goals of the capitalist class. To resist or question this even mildly was to be automatically branded “un-American” or “Communist”, and in those days such was tantamount to political suicide. Indeed, leftist political activity of any sort was quickly dismissed by the powers that be and their followers as being controlled from Moscow, and protesters were often greeted with the admonishment from counterdemonstrators—including many gullible rank and file union members—to “Go (back) to Russia!”

By the mid 1950s, both the AFL and CIO were virtually indistinguishable from each other, and on February 9, 1955, they merged into a single union federation, the AFL-CIO.[180] Meanwhile, the Wobblies experienced their ultimate nadir after losing jurisdiction over its Cleveland metal workers’ industrial union after the IWW’s General Executive Board refused to honor the Taft-Hartley anti-communist stipulations. The IWW would begin to grow again in the following decades, but by now their membership (which had peaked in the 100,000s in 1936) reached its lowest ebb and numbered in the low hundreds.[181]

* * * * *

Meanwhile environmental movement grew and, in matters of populist efforts to rein in the power of corporate resource extraction of public lands and privately owned wilderness areas, filled the political void left by the lack of an adversarial labor union. Although the Sierra Club had originally attracted mostly wealthy Republicans, the conservation minded aspects of the New Deal had brought a good many Roosevelt Democrats into the organization. Following World War II, four members in particular who helped expand the Sierra Club’s horizons from merely protecting a handful of ecological jewels for the enjoyment of the wealthy, white elite, into a populist advocacy group seeking to influence matters of national environmental policy. These were attorneys Richard Leonard and Bester Robinson, photographer Ansel Adams, and a young idealist named David Brower.[182] By 1950, the organization numbered 7,000 and the vast majority of them were based on the Pacific Coast, but that year a huge influx of members joined from the Atlantic Coast region, and the organization evolved from an ephemeral volunteer organization to one with a board of directors. The membership elected Brower to serve as its first director, under the organization’s new, formalized structure.[183]

Under Brower’s leadership, the Sierra Club solidified its reputation as a scrappy fighting national environmental group, taking its place among other already existing, but more conservative organizations such as the National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and the Wilderness Society. The Sierra Club led the battle against the construction of the Echo Dam in Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, and succeeded in having it deleted from the Colorado River project in 1955. The victory resulted in the growth of the organization’s membership from 10,000 that year to 15,000 in 1960. In 1964, thanks the Club’s efforts, the US Congress passed the Wilderness Act in 1964, which created the National Wilderness Preservation System. The initial statutory wilderness areas, designated in the Act, comprised 9.1 million acres (37,000 km²) of national forest wilderness areas in the United States of America previously protected by administrative orders, and for the first time since the days of Gifford Pinchot, theoretically placed limitations on encroachment on public lands by private logging interests.[184]

The Sierra Club also successfully thwarted attempts by the Bureau of Reclamation from building two dams in the Grand Canyon that would have flooded it. The organization ran ads in the New York Times and Washington Post in 1966 against the dams, which drew protests to congress from individuals (influenced by the private interests who stood to profit from the proposed dams) that such actions violated the terms of 501c(3) nonprofit organizations. An IRS crackdown on the Club ultimately resulted in the suspension of its 501c(3) status, but it anticipated such an event by spinning off a 501c(3) Sierra Club Foundation for endowments and fundraising for educational and non-lobbying purposes in 1960. The organization transitioned to a 501c(4) nonprofit which allowed for the activity that 501c(3) did not, but in spite of these precautions, contributions to the Sierra Club began to decline, resulting in increased operating deficits.[185]

The Sierra Club survived the setback and its membership grew in spite of the lesser contributions, but internal schisms began to divide and undermine its ability to challenge private encroachment onto publicly owned wilderness areas. Financial challenges sowed divisions between Brower and the board of directors in 1967-68. These divisions fed into a further split when the board voted to endorse the Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s construction of a nuclear fission power plant at Diablo Canyon in southern California near San Luis Obispo. The board’s decision was endorsed by a referendum of the general membership in 1967. The Club had successfully fought against the construction of a similar plant by PG&E proposed for Bodega Bay near Point Reyes in western Marin County in the early 1960s, and the power company’s fallback proposal was, at least, seen by most of the members as a partial victory. To Brower, however, this moved the Sierra Club away from the vision of John Muir and instead in the direction of Gifford Pinchot.[186] Brower publically declared his opposition to the compromise, saying, “…compromise is often necessary but it ought not to originate with the Sierra Club. We are to hold first to what we believe is right, fight for it, and find allies…If we cannot find enough vigor in us or them to win, then let someone else propose the compromise.”[187] However in doing so he raised further controversy because—though his action may have been principled on environmental grounds was nevertheless a violation of the Sierra Club’s democratic structure. Two successive board elections resulted first in a pro-Brower majority followed by an anti-Brower majority, the latter of which, led by Brower’s one time friends Adams and Leonard, charged him with financial recklessness and insubordination. Brower resigned from the Sierra Club in mid 1969.[188]

Due to such machinations, the Sierra Club was limited in its ability to address the increasing threat to the California Redwoods, though members of the organization were active in supporting the efforts of others to do so. For a time, chief among these was the Save the Redwoods League who had preserved as many as 1000 smaller old growth Redwood Groves in thirty of California’s state parks. STRL, the Sierra Club and the National Geographic Society lobbied for the formation of Redwood National Park from the existing smaller groves preserved from STRL’s earlier efforts in the state park system in northern Humboldt County for years, but were unable to do so due to the post war boom. After almost two decades of advocacy by the League and intense lobbying of Congress, President Lyndon Johnson finally signed the bill creating Redwood National Park on October 2, 1968.[189] Although this was a significant victory, the fate of the redwoods—indeed the entirety of what remained of the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest, not to mention the timber workers—hung by a thread.

* * * * *

As the 1960s came to a close, several currents began to coalesce which portended what would be the four decades long conflict over the last remaining ancient redwoods of northwestern California. To begin with, in 1968, the US Forest Service conducted a survey of logging and found that in Humboldt County alone, the rate of cutting exceeded growth by 270 percent. The situation in Mendocino was no less stark.[190] To make matters worse, with the sale of the Union Lumber Company to Boise-Cascade (B-C) in 1969, all but one of the major timber companies on the North Coast (Pacific Lumber), were owned by outside corporations. The only consolation of that development was that B-C was so egregious in its treatment of the workers that it resulted in the unionization of several of its mills in the area.[191] Annual harvests of national forest timber had risen from three bbf in 1945 to 13 bbf in 1970. That year a Nixon administration task force, bowing to pressures from industry, had declared that, “A goal of about seven billion board foot annual increase in timber harvest from the national forests by 1978 is believed to be attainable and consistent with other objectives of forest management.”[192] The economic pressures to log the forests elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest would have a residual effect on the North Coast’s forests. Under such market conditions, Corporate Timber’s bottom line required an average of 40-year rotations on their managed forests. This presented a substantial problem on the North Coast, because redwoods required at bare minimum 50 to 60 years to reach maturity, with 80-year rotations being the most desirable low end.[193]

These stark realities were alarming enough to convince the majority of the California state legislature to pass the Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act in 1973, which essentially called for sustained yield forestry, and attempted to reform the regulation of forestlands.[194] The act established the Forest Practice Rules (FPRs) and a politically-appointed California Board of Forestry (BOF) to oversee their implementation, and placed the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) in charge of enforcing its directives. It further required that before any logging took place, whether on public or private land, a Registered Professional Forester (RPF) retained by the logging concern, must prepare a document which outlined the proposed logging operations, known as a Timber Harvest Plan (THP), and submit this to the state. These documents were certified as the ‘functional equivalent’ of an Environmental Impact Report, and were supposed to evaluate all of the potential direct and cumulative impacts that might occur as a result of the logging plan and to implement any feasible measures which would reduce this impact to a level of insignificance.”[195] This law was groundbreaking and had the potential to establish public control over the fate of the state’s forests, but there was one glaring problem in its implementation. There were no specific provisions in the law preventing the elected governor of California from appointing agents of the timber corporations to populate the board, and upon the law’s passage, Ronald Reagan, then-Governor of California and friend to corporate interests, proceeded to do exactly that.[196]

Hitherto, there had been little direct conflict between timber workers and environmentalists as the depletion of the forests had not yet reached crisis proportions, and environmentalists invested their energy into legal, legislative, and electoral efforts, but in the 1970s, this began to change. The timber corporations exercised their considerable political clout to manipulate the workers into believing that the environmentalists were their enemies.[197] In 1972, in northwestern California in northern Humboldt County, a drive to expand Redwood National Park, led by Save the Redwoods League (SRL) in 1972, was answered with resistance from loggers, millworkers, and log truck drivers, including some who belonged to various unions. The latter, who had been manipulated by the timber companies into believing that the parks expansion would result in a loss in timber jobs, organized a caravan to Washington DC to oppose the expansion.[198] That same year, 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.[199]

G-P’s logging practices elsewhere had been anything but conservation minded in the eyes of most environmentalists and there was little expectation that their practices on the North Coast would be any different. When it divided the lands it acquired from B-C in the creation of Louisiana-Pacific (L-P), G-P retained the coastal holdings and the new company retained the forestlands that lay inland. One such area acquired by G-P was the remote “Lost Coast” area of northwestern Mendocino and southwestern Humboldt Counties, sometimes referred to as the “Mateel” in reference to the Mattole and Eel River watersheds, which had once been home to the Sinkyone Indian tribe and where a great many first-generation “back-to-the-land” types now made their home. Over the course of the next decade, environmentalists and the rapidly declining timber workers’ unions would clash over the ongoing fight to save the Sinkyone Wilderness.[200]

Had the unions retained any of their anti-capitalist militancy they might not have been so easily manipulated by Corporate Timber, but during the1970s, when environmental and economic interests clashed, which was happening increasingly often, they usually took the side of their employers. For the most part, the class collaborationist business union leadership considered the environment a nonissue. There had been a few exceptions, such as the Green Bans at Kelly’s Bush in Australia in 1971, the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers strike at Shell in 1973, or the Lucas Aerospace workers strike in the UK in 1976, and most of these struggles were led by socialist leaning insurgents within the larger union structure, which were quickly quashed.[201] For the most part, the AFL-CIO’s attitude towards such things could best be summarized by a bumper sticker frequently seen on the vehicles of its members that read, “Pollution, Love it or Leave it!”[202]

Corporate Timber pitted North Coast environmentalists and the timber workers’ unions against each other once again in 1978. In a further attempt to protect Redwood National Park from the consequences of logging in nearby national forests under increasing pressures from the timber industry, the federal government purchased 10,000 acres of old growth and an additional 38,000 acres of heavily eroded lands from Louisiana-Pacific and Simpson Timber companies. Save the Redwoods League led the efforts. The companies claimed that jobs—in this case as many as 6,000, the two companies’ entire workforce in the county—would be lost. The unions and environmentalists fought against each other, but in actual fact, the timber corporations were engaging in a smokescreen. One year after the RNP expansion, there was not an appreciable reduction in timber jobs at all. The workforce did decline to 5,700 in 1983, and L-P and Simpson blamed this loss directly on the expansion of the park, an explanation many timber workers accepted unquestioningly. A reduction from 6,000 to 5,700 was hardly significant, but the timber companies nevertheless used this as “evidence” to demonstrate that environmentalists posed the principle threat to timber workers’ job security.[203]

The primary motivation for Corporate Timber’s propagandizing was largely due to the fact that it was their own practices which represented the biggest threat to job security. In 1977 the U.S. Forest Service predicted a 67 percent decline in timber jobs by 1985 due to the decline of timber resources. Between 1968-78, jobs in Humboldt County in timber fell from over 11,000 in 1968 to 6,175 in 1978 due to primarily to mechanization, log exports, and overcutting.[204] Likewise, in Mendocino County, timber related jobs declined from a high of 36 percent of the workforce in 1970 to 12 percent by 1988.[205] Processing one million board feet (1 mmbf) of lumber required 11 timber workers in 1947, but only seven by 1975 and a mere three workers by 1985 due to automation. The Simpson Pulp Mill at Smith River required just 1.6 workers per million board feet in 1977. These numbers don’t reflect the fact that two indirect jobs—such as teachers, food service workers, grocery clerks, office jobs, and the like—were lost for each direct job in the forest products industry in timber dependent communities.[206] Numerous studies, including those carried out by the USFS suggested that by 1990, timber production in northwestern California could decline anywhere from 30 to 50 percent, and remain at this level for at least 10 to 15 more years afterwards.[207] These were dire predictions indeed, and they would only get worse.

In addition to overharvesting the forests and subjugating the timber workers, in their ever increasing greed Corporate Timber also quite literally poisoned the water, earth, and air in and around the forests. As the United States military had done in its counterinsurgency campaigns in Vietnam, timber companies used chemical defoliants, including sometimes even Agent Orange, to clear out the underbrush and understory hardwood trees that sometimes grew there. Through these methods, Corporate Timber hoped to facilitate even more rapid clearcutting as well as conversion of diverse forest habitats into monoculture tree plantations. The timber bosses saw no value in the hardwood species they sought to eliminate, though the offending trees could have been a boon to both timber workers and the environment had they been selectively logged—thus providing ample room for the conifers to flourish and be harvested later—and used to make wood flooring or furniture locally.[208] These ideas, however, were inconsistent with the increasingly profit-oriented timber harvesting techniques now in place.

Such practices had already drawn widespread opposition from the burgeoning environmental movements coalescing along California’s North Coast, which included no small number of antiwar activists, disillusioned veterans, back-to-the-landers, and indigenous people, all of whom shuddered at the implications of private industry duplicating the scorched earth policies that had leveled the jungles of Southeast Asia. In the words of one such activist:

Not only has the North Coast timber industry historically placed tremendous overcutting pressure on the forests, it is now increasing that pressure with renewed large scale clearcutting forest management. Chemicals severely toxic to forests, fisheries, wildlife and people are being recklessly used to poison nature’s efforts to heal clearcut scars with non-commercial soil-retaining and forest-regenerating plants. By eliminating human care in favor of economic poisons, short-term corporate profits are increased while long-term damage is ensured.”[209]

Resistance on the North Coast to spraying began in Mendocino County in 1973, when Betty Lou Whaley of Caspar, California raised concerns about blackberries she ate that had been sprayed with the herbicide amino-triazole. Mendocino County officials, the majority of whom were beholden to business interests, told Whaley that the spraying was legal and non-toxic, but these claims were later shown to be lies. This led to a county-wide, mass based revolt against herbicide and pesticide spraying.[210]

In Humboldt County, similar citizen opposition led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) in 1976.[211] In 1978 timber companies, including G-P and L-P, began using helicopters to spray toxic herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T on their holdings.[212] Combined together, the two chemicals make Agent Orange, the infamous defoliant that was used by the US military in Vietnam.[213] The chemicals were known to cause cancer and birth defects, and their use had already been banned on federally owned lands. In 1979, by a 2-1 margin, Mendocino County voters adopt a ban on the aerial application of all phenoxy herbicides. The timber companies halted their aerial spraying while they appealed the law.[214]

The environmentalist led populist revolt was enough to even get the Mendocino and Humboldt County IWA locals to question the “Pollution, love it or leave it” stance. Local 3-98 representative Tim Skaggs noted that clearcutting—which he opposed—was directly related to the use of herbicides. Both practices were capital intensive—thus harmful to the workers—and environmentally short sighted, but there was little they could do to resist due to the dominance of the gyppos.[215] For example, in 1979, G-P actually sprayed Agent Orange in the Usal forest stand in the southern tip of what is now the Sinkyone Wilderness area. The union protested the spray. G-P hook tender Wayne Thorstrom, a vocal opponent of the practice and IWA shop steward, met with company spokesman James Coons and informed the latter that the loggers refused to work in the affected areas. The chemical’s flashpoint was too dangerous, and it persisted for years, saturating the trees or their roots. A freak forest fire could not only result in the exposure of loggers to toxic chemicals, it could claim their lives. G-P ostensibly agreed to halt the aerial application of Agent Orange due to the union’s opposition, but the company was insistent on capital intensive chemical applications, so they proposed as an alternative drilling holes into the offending hardwoods and injecting them with Garlon. The IWA was no more agreeable to this for both reasons of job security and environmental concerns, and Thorstrom relayed this to Coons. The G-P spokesman responded, “Fine; we’ll get someone else to do it.”[216]

The timber companies, as one might expect, denied that the chemicals 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T had adverse effects, unless combined to make Agent Orange. That same year, however, Marla Gillham conducted a study of thirty forestry workers planting an area that had been sprayed with Krenite, 2,4-D, and Silvex almost one year before planting began. She discovered that one worker, after spending only four hours at the site, experienced severe reactions to chemicals. A blood test revealed that the worker had absorbed 5.5 parts per billion (ppb) of Silvex and over 4 ppb of Krenite. Seventeen other workers also experienced nausea, headaches, bloody noses, and nervous system dysfunctions after only a few days at the site.[217] Meanwhile, Swedish epidemiologists established that workers exposed to 2,4,5-T were 6-8 times more likely to develop sarcomas. It was assumed that this was because of the dioxin TCDD, which is a potent carcinogen and a contaminant of 2,4,5-T. However, further studies showed that workers exposed only to 2,4-D (and other phenoxy herbicides which do not contain the dioxin TCDD) had a 4.2 times normal risk of developing a sarcoma. 2,4-D turned out to be about as dangerous as 2,4,5-T. In 1980 the Hazard Alert System of the State of California Department of Health Services published an evaluation of the human health hazards of 2,4-D. They were apparently not aware of the Swedish study on that chemical, but even without this information they urged strong precautions in its usage. Over the course of the next several years, incidents at Times Beach, Massachusetts; Love Canal, New York; Newark, New Jersey; and the settlement of court cases brought by men exposed to 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T in Viet Nam bolstered the cases against both chemicals. In 1983, the EPA banned 2,4,5-T outright, and many argued that 2,4-D should be as well.[218]

There were plenty of supporting accounts by timber workers exposed to herbicides. In 1980, Rich Overholt who was a USFS employee working in the Six Rivers National Forest of Del Norte, Humboldt, and Trinity Counties, and whose duties included manually applying herbicides, accidentally squirted a few drops of 2,4-D to his face, while working on difficult terrain. When he had taken the job, he had been told that “2,4-D was not dangerous.” His supervisor, he recalled, informed him that “he would have to drink a whole quart or gallon of the stuff” before experiencing any adverse effects. Overholt took his supervisor at his word and, like many of his fellow workers, took few—if any—precautions. He would routinely, inadvertently expose his entire body to the chemicals, and though the effects were not detectable then, after accidentally spraying himself in the face directly, he suffered an immediate toxic reaction. The combined consequences of his exposure turned out to be a permanently damaged nervous system.[219]

In 1981, 32-old Jack Duncan, who was employed by the BLM as a tree planter and had worked in that capacity for seven years, and his crew were working near Conley Creek in Oregon when a helicopter began spraying herbicides in an adjacent stand. According to Duncan, in a sworn affidavit taken November 11, 1981:

(spray from the helicopter) drifted over us and upon us…All ten of us were exposed to the herbicide—upon our clothes, skin…and we all inhaled the mist…All of my crew and myself experienced acute symptoms of burning eyes and throat, headache, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea. All have suffered from peripheral neuropathy (loss of feeling in fingers and toes) since the exposure.”[220]

Two wives of the exposed workers became pregnant after their husbands’ exposure, and both of them miscarried. Tree planters hired in northwestern California and Oregon continued to be subjected to nearby helicopter spraying by the timber corporations. The workers were never given a chemical history nor were they warned if chemical residues still persisted at the site. The lack of information kept labor cheap and plentiful, and those working in the forests disorganized—at great cost to their health and safety.[221] Matters were about to worsen significantly.

* * * * *

The election of Ronald Reagan as President in 1980 signaled the end of New Deal social democratic policies and a return to pre-Depression era laissez-faire capitalism resulting in greatly accelerated harvesting of the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It also heralded the end of the so-called “labor-management partnership” championed by the AFL-CIO as the employing class began to drive wages downward and cut benefits in order to maximize their profits. The AFL-CIO, including the timber workers unions, were powerless to stop this renewed assault on their standard of living. By 1980, the IWA represented 115,000 members, 32,000 of whom lived and worked in the Pacific Northwest in logging, sawmills, plywood mills, and the like.[222] But most of the logging was now done by gyppos, which undermined the unions’ ability to mount a counterattack to employers. Even many of the Gyppos recognized this as a glaring problem.[223]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, the environmental movement expanded dramatically due to the growing concerns over the rapidly disappearing forests, and was reinforced by scientific discoveries concerning old growth. A groundbreaking report, Ecological Characteristics of the Old-Growth Douglas-Fir Forests, authored in 1981 by US Forest Service ecologist Jerry Franklin showed that old growth forests represented, “ by far the richest and most ecologically complex stage in the forest’s existence, supporting an as-yet uncataloged diversity of life forms, many of which (were) now endangered as a result of forest fragmentation and destruction of critical habitat.”[224] In particular, ancient redwood forests created their own microclimate, combing the Pacific Coast fog with their needles, literally drinking the moisture out of the condensation. Excess moisture dripped to the ground providing an essential source of water for dense understory plant species, such as long living ferns and horsetails (many of which, like the ancient redwoods, had existed for hundreds of millions of years unchanged by evolution of other species during that time), redwood sorrel, bleeding hearty blue iris, yellow violet, and wild ginger, as well as many rare animal species.[225] Old growth redwood forests also provided essential habitat for many species of fish by providing a stable environment for costal freshwater streams.[226] Even forest fires and the decay of ancient trees—those that the timber corporations described as “diseased, dying, or dead” needing to be removed to allow their replacement by younger trees—contributed to the living biomass through the decay of woody debris.[227]

The timber industry saw little difference between an old growth forest, second and later growth forests, and tree farms, however, except in the quality of timber available, and to those whose primary—and often only—concern was the bottom line, ancient forests represented the best available source of profitable timber. Most of the forests of the Pacific Northwest were not healthy old growth, however, but instead were either managed plantations, which had a very low survivability rate, or they were second or third growth, which offered substantially lesser quality timber. In Mendocino County, much of the logging being done by the 1980s was akin to scavenging. Loggers were routinely reclogging forest stands that had previously been logged once or even twice before.[228] Biologists compared the Northwest forests to a piece of cloth perforated repeatedly, to the point that there were more holes than cloth. According to data compiled by satellite photos comparing the Pacific Northwest to the threatened Amazon rainforests, released in 1992 by NASA scientist Dr. Compton J. Tucker, conditions in the northwest were as bad, if not worse than those in the tropics.[229] According estimates made by Peter Morrison of the Wilderness Society in 1989, about 800,000 acres of the remaining intact old-growth forest were protected in parks and wilderness areas. The other 1.6 million acres—more than half of which were highly fragmented—were open to exploitation. In the 1980s, these stands of old-growth forest were disappearing at a rate of as much as 70,000 acres a year. At that rate, the unprotected old-growth forests of Oregon and Washington would be gone before 2020, and California wouldn’t be far behind.[230]

The depletion of these forests had implications beyond the mere loss of biodiversity, runoff, and the viability of riparian environments. The earth’s very climate is biologically regulated. Forests moderated far more than local microclimate and the hydrological cycles of local watersheds. Forests also affect the overall surface temperature of the earth and the thickness of the ozone layer through nitrous oxide production. Through their carbon cycle, healthy forests convert vast amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) into breathable oxygen (O2). Healthy old growth forests are—quite literally—the lungs of our planet. Managed even-age tree plantations are no substitute for ancient forests in this respect. If anything, the latter cannot survive under conditions created by the loss of the former. Atmospheric CO2 has increased by at least 22 percent since 1840, and though these days the primary source of it is carbon emissions from combustion engines and electric power generation, until 1960, the majority of it had been emitted due to deforestation and soil degradation. Organic, carbon-bearing compounds decay in clearcut forests, over ploughed farmlands, and freshly cleared fields, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere removing precious O2 from the air we breathe.[231] Throughout Europe, which has a longer history of industrial forestry, than the United States, managed tree plantations have proven unable to survive beyond three rotations without old growth forests nearby to provide biological diversity and other protecting factors, and even those near ancient forests do not fare well.[232] 52 percent of the forests of eastern Germany were dead or dying by the 1980s. As of late 1985, 17.5 million acres of forests in 15 European nations had been affected by “Waldsterben” (forest death).[233]

There was every indication that the North Coast timber corporations, primarily G-P, L-P, and Simpson, would deny that they were enabling the forests’ destruction as much as they tried to deny that aerially deployed herbicides were harmful to the workers. As proof they could cite the fact that most THPs reviewed by the CDF under the decade-old Z’berg Nejedly act had been approved. Environmentalists countered that the approval process was little more than a rubber stamp under the lax guidelines established by the pro-Corporate Timber dominated BOF. Then, in 1983, after a battle between the environmentalists and G-P over the Sinkyone that had lasted almost as long as the existence of Z’berg Nejedly, the environmentalists won a landmark legal ruling that at long last reversed years of precedent that had established the right of private logging interests to dictate forest policy and place profit considerations ahead of environmental concerns.

The fight had been led chiefly by Robert Sutherland (known to his associates as “The Man Who Walks in the Woods”, or simply “Woods” for short) and Cecilia Gregori (nee Lanman) of EPIC. Woods had been an environmental activist since 1964 and had worked on many issues, but forestry consumed his efforts more than just about anything else. On this particular subject, he once opined:

“The rush to get the old growth has been the last great buffalo hunt, the last passenger pigeon slaughter. We’ve reached the end of the Western frontier, but the traditions of the frontier die hard. It is time to rein in the passions. Mark my words, our culture us on the threshold of what is for the most of us a long-lost frontier, the inner one.”[234]

Gergori had previously been a boycott organizer for the United Farmworkers Union before becoming involved in EPIC with whom she fought many legal battles with Corporate Timber. Her quiet yet stern resolve earned her the nickname “The Velvet Hammer,” and she lived up to the moniker. On one occasion in the early part of the 1980s, Georgia Pacific had declared that a specific THP near Dark Gulch within the Sinkyone had been selectively logged, but on an inspection tour hosted by one of their RFPs, Jere Melo, Gregori noticed that not only had the company lied, they had also violated the boundaries of the THP, clearcutting all the way to the coastline. Gregori pointed this out only to be answered by Melo’s derisive and callous laughter, to which, in response, she declared right to his face, “You’re pure slime.”[235] However EPIC would have the last laugh. In 1983, in a landmark ruling that challenged the CDF’s approval of a G-P THP that threatened to clearcut the Sally Bell Grove, a judge ruled that:

“Cumulative impacts must be considered by the California Department of Forestry (CDF) in their review of timber harvesting plans (THPs). Full compliance with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) procedures is required in agency review of THPs. Also, the Native American Heritage Commission must be consulted if there is evidence of Native American historical sites within the THP.”[236]

The ruling known as, EPIC vs. Johnson, was unprecedented, and it finally gave public an effective legal tool to challenge capitalist timber directly for the first time in history. The timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous, because Corporate Timber was preparing to engage in its most deadly assault on the forests and the workers of the Pacific Northwest ever seen.



3. He Could Clearcut Forests Like No Other

“Come to light: L-P’s literally poisonous policies literally poisoning forest workers. Has any other business a higher profit-to-wages ratio? And yet, are any local workers at higher risk? Where’s the IWW? The first Wobbly who writes in gets a free lunch, courtesy of RADIO * FREE EARTH.”

—Marco McClean, Mendocino Commentary, April 18, 1985.

Harry Merlo is one of the highest paid executives in the industry. He makes $353,000 and he just got a 10 percent raise”

—Harold Broome, carpenter.

“Harry was down to see the strike in his mink coat the other day.”

—Walter Newman, spokesperson and business representative for Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union Local 2592.

Americans are raised on the mythology of the “self-made man”, the “enterprising go-getter” archetype who creates his own fortune and charts his own destiny. Very often he faces incredible odds, and, armed only with his wits and will to succeed, he alone overcomes disadvantages to become a leader among his fellow Americans. The gender specific pronoun is intentional, because in these stories, women more often than not play a subordinate role. There is an element of “pioneer” spirit within this narrative, and this is not entirely coincidental, because much of the narrative stems from the European-American subjugation of indigenous peoples and the wild. This archetype certainly matches the description of most “captains of industry”, particularly railroad bosses, oil magnates, and timber barons. There is more than folktale about such individuals. Indeed there is a strong ideological component to them, a personification of capitalism, perhaps expressed most unapologetically, albeit crudely, in the narratives of Ayn Rand, particularly Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead.

Whether fact or fiction, in these narratives, the entrepreneur is always the hero—virtuous to the core—and he is held up as an example to the rest of us to follow. Very often they not only rely on their own means, they often struggle against a cool and callous society, usually personified by a bureaucratic government, who appropriates some or all of the hero’s self-made fortune to serve its own political ends. What these stories consistently omit, is that most often these “conquering heroes” are neither self-made nor are they virtuous. They often lie, cheat, bend or break the rules, stab those close to them in the back, and rely on the benefits provided by the very same “government” they decry when it doesn’t serve their every need. They appropriate the fruits of others’ labor and call it their own. If there are consequences to their actions, they are shifted to the general public, usually upon the backs of those most unable to resist. And, it is the richest and the most powerful among them who commission the narratives that celebrate their triumphs, sanitizing their own histories so that it is difficult to tell what constitutes fact or fiction.

Harry A. Merlo Jr. was such a man. He began his career as a shipping foreman at a small, independently owned mill, advanced to partner, and then, after the mill was bought out by Georgia Pacific (G-P) he quickly moved up ranks of the G-P corporate structure.[237] Georgia Pacific spun off Louisiana Pacific (L-P) as a result of an antitrust suit brought by Boise Cascade (B-C) against the former for monopolistic practices in 1973. The Federal Trade Commission had threatened to break up the former for monopolizing the timberlands of northwestern California after acquiring holdings formerly held by Boise-Cascade, including the Fort Bragg California mill.[238] Merlo took over as head of the newly created L-P, and, under his management, the latter quickly expanded to become the second largest lumber company in the United States with 110 plants and at least 13,000 employees nationwide, with annual sales in excess of $1 billion.[239] Despite Merlo’s reputation as a self-made man, he received achieved many of his “successes” on the backs of others.

Merlo was vilified by both environmentalists and the timber unions alike, and not without reason. When it served him he adeptly pitted the two camps against each other. For example, the expansion of Redwood Park in northern Humboldt County could not have been accomplished without the acquisition of land from L-P (and Simpson). Merlo used this to his advantage. L-P, along with Simpson, claimed that the park’s expansion would result in the loss of possibly as many as 6,000 jobs—though in the years that followed the acquisition of the land, a mere 300 jobs were lost and there is no substantive proof that the park’s expansion had anything to do with them, and if anything, L-P (and Simpson) profited handily from the exchange.[240] Similarly, in order for Save-the-Redwoods League to preserve the nearby Big Lagoon redwoods along US 101, Merlo demanded $4.3 million and that the park be named in his honor.[241]

In the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, economic stagnation—reflected in the lumber industry by a drop in housing starts from 2 million in 1976 to 1 million in 1982—had increased pressure on the employing class to redefine its relationship to both the working class and the environment, escalating its exploitation of both. The Reagan Administrations “supply-side economics” ideology manifested in timber as a call for increased sales of national forest timber as a means to lower prices and overcome the housing slump. To facilitate this expansion, Reagan appointed John Crowell Jr. to the position of Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and the Environment, which functioned as the head of the USFS. Crowell Jr. had previously been general counsel for none other than L-P, the largest purchaser of federal timber.[242] He had simultaneously served as assistant secretary of L-P’s subsidiary, Ketchikan Pulp Company, in Alaska. Ketchikan and a Japanese firm had been found guilty of colluding from 1975 to 1979 to drive other southeastern Alaskan timber companies out of business. Yet, in 1982, the USFS slashed stumpage rates in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest where Ketchikan still held a 50 year contract. In a 1984 leaflet titled, “Why are we paying billions to destroy our national forests?” the Wilderness Society wrote:

“The US Forest Service consistently sells timber at a price below the direct costs of building logging roads, managing the sales, and reforesting the cut land. Over the past ten years this policy has produced a net loss to the Treasury of $2.1 billion. For example, in Fiscal Year 1983 the Forest Service spent $83 million for roading and other expenses in Alaska. They received in return $500,000. That’s less than a penny in revenue for every dollar spent!”[243]

Upon Crowell’s appointment, he immediately proposed doubling of the rate of harvest from federal forest lands in Oregon and Washington from an annual rate of five bbf to ten bbf by the 1990s. This was well above the maximum harvest level that still allowed feasibility, and it was plainly obvious that the fox was guarding the henhouse.[244] Crowell, who was unrepentant in this role declared that the chief barrier to “more efficient National Forest management has been the timber policy of ‘non-declining even flow’…The volume of wood present in these old-growth forests far exceeds what would be present as growing stock inventory once the forest is in a fully managed condition.”[245] Or as he stated more bluntly elsewhere, “If you cut the old-growth you’re liquidating the existing inventory and getting the forests into a fully managed condition.”[246]

Crowell was not the only L-P fox appointed to guard the henhouse. When the USFS announced plans to cut two million board feet of aspens near Montrose, Colorado ostensibly for “fire prevention,” L-P declared it would open a plant that made a wood composite composed of woody debris called “waferboard” there. The Forest Service, under the direction of Ron Desilett, suddenly increased its allowable cut figure from 2 million to 50 million board feet. Desilett’s predecessor, Robert Rosette, had officially resigned the previous August and moved on to none other than L-P. In actual fact, Rosette had begun working for his new employers two months before his resignation. Rosette’s new job was to represent the company in the negotiations with the USFS. L-P was already building the plant before the negotiations had concluded. Although this was clearly a conflict of interest, the Reagan administration tacitly approved of the collusion.[247]

The Reagan administration’s strategy of increased exploitation of the U.S. national forests depended on vastly accelerated harvesting in the Northwest in particular, since it was from these national forests that the great bulk of the net proceeds from federal timber sales were obtained—although most federal timber placed on the market came from forests elsewhere in the United States. Costs associated with timber sales depended primarily on the area sold, but revenue depended on the volume of timber sold and wood quality. Both volume/area and quality were very high in the Northwest old-growth forests, which made them by far the most profitable area of U.S. Forest Service operations. Profit criteria demanded higher rates of cutting in these forests. And since almost everywhere else in the United States the Forest Service was in fact selling timber at a complete loss, continued sales of high value old-growth timber in the Northwest were essential to keep the overall timber sales budget profitable and prevent substantial losses elsewhere—and hence the entirety of the federal timber subsidy to capital—from becoming visible.[248]

However, in order to justify increasing sales and harvests of timber from the national forests of the Pacific Northwest, the administration had to create a demand—since there was a nationwide trough in housing starts caused by the ratcheting inflation of the early 1980s. The only way to accomplish that was to lower the price charged to the corporations for that same national forest wood. Contract arrangements for federal timber had traditionally allowed companies to purchase cutting rights for standing timber and delay harvesting for two to five years until market conditions become favorable—a policy that encouraged widespread speculation. The housing market crash of 1982 left timber companies holding vast inventories of federal timber that were overpriced in relation to depressed domestic prices. In 1984, President Reagan signed a timber contract bailout bill into law which bailed the timber companies out of this situation, releasing them from their obligations. The companies were allowed to void their contracts to buy several mbf of uncut timber, and then purchase that same timber at vastly reduced prices. Corporate Timber’s profits soared as sales and harvests reached unprecedented levels throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile internal BLM plans in 1983 to reduce cutting and introduce longer rotation times in the forests in western Oregon under its jurisdiction, in the face of dwindling agency timber supplies, were abruptly halted, quite possibly by Reagan’s arch conservative and ideologically anti-environmentalist Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, near the end of that year, and instead harvests were accelerated.[249] L-P, and especially Merlo, profited mightily from these policies.

L-P likewise took advantage of protectionist trade policies which facilitated increases in the export of raw logs, particularly to east Asia.[250] Log exports boosted Corporate Timber’s bottom line, but resulted in a net loss in timber workers’ jobs, at a rate of about three direct timber jobs and six jobs in supportive industries for every one million board feet exported.[251] In October 1973, there was an appropriations provision prohibiting the export of raw timber from Federal lands in the western United States. The provision additionally “prohibited purchasers from using timber harvested from federal lands in their processing plants while exporting private timber that could have been used in those plants.” However, the House Committee on Appropriations explained in a February 1974 letter to the Chief of the Forest Service that they intended to “allow historic patterns of trade without disruption” and that the provision was targeted only at preventing log exports from increasing.[252] These restrictions also varied from area to area, and were different for large corporations (to their advantage) than for independent companies (to their disadvantage) and were oft circumvented by corporations anyway.”[253] Both the USFS and the BLM relied on company reports to monitor their practices, which were neither audited nor tested for verification of compliance. Violations were only discovered if one company reported on another.[254] L-P was one of the largest log exporters operating on the North Coast, and though it claimed that it exported few logs from that area, its export operations elsewhere had a cumulatively negative impact on the sustainability of its operations there.

Merlo also took advantage of the economic recession of the early 1980s by shifting the economic burden to L-P’s rank and file employees. A series of temporary mill closures by Louisiana-Pacific plagued mill workers early in the decade. L-P closed its mill in Samoa (near Eureka, California in Humboldt County) in early 1980.[255] In second wave of closures that took place less than a year later, L-P temporarily shuttered mills in Carlotta, Big Lagoon, Ukiah, Potter Valley, and Covelo as of October 30, 1981.[256] The company reopened most of the mills early the following year[257], but the closures had taken a severe toll on the livelihoods of the millworkers, and had also affected workers in the Georgia-Pacific mill in Fort Bragg.[258] While these closures were not the fault of the workers, whose productivity (when able to work at all) remained as high as ever, L-P shifted the burden of the slump onto their backs, demanding wage and benefit freezes in the spring of 1982, to which the workers publically objected.[259] In May, L-P temporarily closed its pulp mill in Samoa for the second time in as many years.[260] That fall, L-P conducted another round of layoffs[261] and a third wave of temporary mill closures in Mendocino County, in particular at their mills in Ukiah and Potter Valley[262] as well as its stud mills in Fort Bragg and Willits[263], and its Carlotta saw mill in Humboldt County until February of 1983.[264] A year later, L-P shuttered its mill in remote Alderpoint (in the mountains of southern Humboldt County east of Garberville) permanently.[265]

L-P blamed these temporary closures on unfavorable “economic factors”, and indeed these existed, including:

“A drastic drop in housing starts; increased exports of unprocessed logs, coupled with rising excess capacity in Northwest mills; a vastly stepped up rate of imports of lumber from Canada (which had the effect of creating deep fissures between Canadian and U.S. workers within the International Woodworkers of America); a rapid decline in employment due to mechanization; wage competition from southern woodworkers (who earned almost $3 an hour less on average in 1986 than their Northwest counterparts); and a general shift of the industry from the Northwest to the Southeast, where faster growing pine plantations and right-to-work laws provide a greater ‘comparative advantage’ in timber production.”[266]

Yet, such conditions were not at all unfavorable to the timber corporations’ profit margin, and in many cases, they had caused them to happen in the first place. As a result, the employers, including Merlo, were experiencing unheard of prosperity in contrast with their workers. Several times during the course of these layoffs, L-P in particular had recorded earning record quarterly profits.[267]

Merlo cared little about protecting his employees’ livelihoods. If this were not the case, he could have easily kept these millworkers employed by retraining them to engage in labor intensive underbrush removal as part of their logging efforts. In the early 1980s, this was increasingly accomplished by capital intensive aerial herbicide spraying. One person piloting a helicopter could cover 3,000 acres of forestland during a spray operation. One company would receive $100,000 for the work, and generally the money would not even be spent in the struggling timber communities. In contrast, between 200 and 300 chainsaw wielding loggers could be employed to cover the same acreage in one year if the work was instead done manually. Dozens of small companies could earn $400,000 for the same amount of work, and, if hired from local communities, the local economy would benefit.[268] This technique, known as “manual release”, also had the benefit of sparing the local ecosystems and watersheds from the careless deployment of Phenoxy herbicides which were more often than not highly toxic to both workers and the local environment. Manual Release was advocated both by environmentalists and the timber unions, including the IWA.[269] Of course, such labor intensive practices would not benefit the bottom line of corporations like L-P or the likes of Harry Merlo.

L-P’s practices were so devastating to the long term job security of the workers that even the normally compliant timber unions began to openly question them. For example, in 1982, the IWA issued statements critical of current corporate timber practices. They charged the timber corporations with shifting the costs of its actions to the public. They identified plant closures as being as much of a social problem as they were a matter of simple economics, and recognizing it as a problem created by the employers’ increasing ability, enabled by modern technology, to transfer capital at fantastic speeds. The union understood that workers could not adjust equally rapidly, and therefore they became a burden on the local community. The IWA noted that by far the vast majority of timber resources and production in that region were increasingly controlled by six large corporations such as G-P and L-P. The IWA declared that these tendencies and conditions were a direct result of employer friendly and corporate friendly government policy.[270] Tim Skaggs, representative for IWA Local #3-98, based in Arcata—just north of Eureka—argued that the expansion of Redwood National Park was necessary to protect nearby Redwood Creek from siltation that would ultimately destroy that riparian environment. The union official placed the blame for the devastation of the nearby watercourse on corporate timber practices, namely clearcutting.[271] The unions’ sudden willingness to even think about acting independently of capital represented a potential problem for L-P.

* * * * *

L-P was initially a union company, at least in its mills, having several contracts with various unions, including the Carpenters and International Woodworkers of America though previous agreements with G-P in many cases. Merlo had always been an anti-union ideologue throughout his ascendency in the 1970s, but had known that liquidating the unions outright would bring about a backlash and shrewdly waited until the conditions were favorable for such a draconian move.[272] In the summer of 1983, L-P deliberately provoked a protracted strike by demanding an 8 to 10 percent roll-back of wages and a two-tiered wage structure.[273] The demands also included a one-year contract, termination of the union health plan, mandatory overtime, and tougher eligibility standards for vacation and holidays. Merlo also insisted that the union bargain mill-by-mill as opposed to negotiating an industry-wide contract, which had been the established precedent for several years.[274] The Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union (LPIW, affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Union) and the International Woodworkers of America (IWA) naturally opposed such a drastic, and relatively unprecedented, cut in wages, and were forced into a strike by necessity. The strike affected 1,700 mill workers at 18 L-P mills in California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska.[275] On the North Coast, the strike affected union workers at Big Lagoon, Samoa, and Carlotta in Humboldt County, as well as numerous facilities in Mendocino County.[276]

The dispute became one of the longest and most bitter strikes in the history of the West Coast timber industry, and was rocked by bombings, gunfire, and fights between union members and strike breakers.[277] L-P’s demands were initially too much for even the other major timber corporations, Crown-Zellerbach, Boise-Cascade, Champion International, Georgia-Pacific, Publisher’s Paper, Simpson Timber, and Weyerhaeuser, who were not yet emboldened enough to declare open class war (at least not to the extent proposed by L-P) on their workers.[278] The latter had just concluded negotiating modest wage increases averaging 8.5 percent, spread over three years. Merlo’s actions were seen as too draconian and were no doubt motivated (at least partially) by his ideological aversion to labor unions, but they were also influenced much more strongly by his intuitive understanding of the changing conditions of the market being brought on by neoliberal economics.[279] Already the Reagan administration had demonstrated that it was in Merlo’s corner, and he had every expectation that they would be this time as well.

Merlo justified his demands for wage cuts in his Western mills, where workers made between from $9.50 to $13.50 an hour, by claiming they were not competitive with mills in the Southeast. Merlo could speak from direct knowledge, of course, because it was L-P’s own mills there from which he drew comparisons. Taking advantage of the aforementioned “right-to-work” laws prevalent in most Southeastern states, made possible by the lack of a strong union movement in the wake of the busting of the IWW’s Brotherhood of Timber Workers, L-P workers there made substantially less. L-P’s Eufala, Alabama mill, for example, paid a top wage of only $5.10 per hour. Most of workers, who were predominantly black, made a mere $3.35. Furthermore, pensions, medical benefits, and vacation pay were rare.[280]

Merlo’s demands were not a result of L-P struggling to meet its bottom line, however, as L-P had made over $200 in profits between 1980 and 1985, and he understood that the nonunion mills reaped higher profits. Merlo, himself, earned $2.4 million in 1984, making him the nineteenth highest paid executive in the United States that year. L-P had no difficulty recruiting strikebreakers either. Due to the high unemployment caused by the recent mill shutdowns and the recession brought on by Reagan’s economic policies, there were plenty of workers willing to defy the unions’ picket lines. The union members naturally reacted to the presence of the scabs emotionally, and sometimes violently. There were many incidents of slashed tires and broken car windows at many of the struck facilities, and even a few reports of shootings, fire bombings, and use of dynamite. In Oroville, California, a van transporting strikebreakers drove headlong into rock throwing strikers and injured several of them.[281]

In spite of the confrontations, three months into the strike, the unions were losing the war, and they knew it. Having invested in collaborationist policies with the employing class, they were utterly unprepared to resist the attacks by their supposed senior “partners”. Hoping to salvage what they could, the unions offered unprecedented concessions, including the one year contract and company administered health plan demanded by L-P as well as a wage freeze. However, L-P countered with even tougher demands, to which the unions responded by filing an unfair labor practices (ULP) charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The ULP charged that L-P’s entire strategy “(desired) to avoid an agreement and ultimately to break the union.” In April of 1984, NLRB General Counsel William Lubbers found in favor of the unions, and directed the Board to issue a ULP complaint against the company. The unions had seemed to have scored a major victory:

“News of this decision boosted spirits on the picket lines. Had the charges prevailed in court, none of the striking workers could have been permanently replaced by the company, no strikebreaker would have had the right to vote in the then-pending elections to decertify the union, and L-P could have been held liable for millions of dollars in back pay to the striking workers.” [282]

The NLRB’s ruling was consistent with industrial relations in the United States over the previous four decades, and Merlo’s calculated gamble temporarily seemed to have been reckless, but alas, the “self made man” had reasoned, correctly, that he had friends in high places. Merlo had every reason to remain confident. In the twelve years of L-P’s existence, the company had already been the perpetrator of countless frauds, the target of numerous lawsuits, and the recipient of a plethora of fines. Merlo accepted such things as calculated risks and all too often, he was the victor in such struggles.[283] The Reagan Administration had already made it quite clear that its forestry polices were designed to benefit the interests of Corporate Timber and further the acceleration of a return to laissez faire capitalism. No more clear indication of this was necessary than Reagan’s appointment of former L-P top lawyer John Crowell to head the US Forest Service in 1981.[284] Crowell’s $600 million bailout allowing L-P and other timber corporations to void their expensive federal timber contracts was a clear indication that Merlo could act with near impunity.[285] Sure enough, the unions never got their day in court. Three days following Lubber’s ruling, his term expired. Reagan replaced him with an official far more conducive to the new order who overturned his predecessor’s ruling, clearing L-P of any crimes.[286]

Sufficiently demoralized, enough rank and file workers threw in the towel, and many of the mills solidly voted to decertify the unions. The still stunned leadership of the Carpenters and the IWA contested the elections with the NLRB on the grounds that L-P had held the elections on company property, rather than neutral ground, thereby discouraging striking union members from participating. The unions also claimed that L-P stuffed the ballot box by keeping replacement workers on their payroll, even though they weren’t actively engaged in mill work to assure a company victory. The NLRB dismissed these charges as well. The union officials who had hitherto accepted their role as capital’s junior partner for several decades now pledged to fight L-P to the bitter end, though for the most part this was posturing. The picket lines diminished in size as struggling rank and filers, mostly unable to support themselves and their families on the $100 per week strike funds and food donations, sought work elsewhere.[287]

The leadership of the UBCJ and IWA tried to save face by engaging in ultimately ineffectual corporate campaigns. For example, in the Fall of 1984, 200 striking workers and their supporters organized informational pickets at the L-P sponsored Davis Cup tournament in the company’s home city of Portland, Oregon. The unions argued that the $750,000 L-P paid to sponsor the Davis Cup could have easily covered the union’s final, concessionary offer. What the unions didn’t grasp, however, was that Merlo wasn’t trying to save money. He was trying to bust the unions outright and no amount of givebacks would have satisfied him. The only reason he didn’t demand more than he did was that doing so would have likely have been too much for even the now more conservative NLRB.[288]

The unions also attempted a retail boycott. That tactic was a bold step for the Carpenters at the very least since it was the first such action in that union’s 100 year history. It called for weekly pickets of 220 retail stores nationwide and encouraged customers to not purchase various L-P products, including wood, prefabricated doors and windows, insulation, and synthetic wood products. In Mendocino County in particular, the targets included the Mendo Mill and Yaeger & Kirk. The AFL-CIO international added L-P to its “do not patronize” list in support of the timber unions. At least 200 of the stores did pledge to stop selling L-P products, but ultimately the unions’ efforts were for naught.[289] A retail boycott was doomed to fail, because timber is generally purchased wholesale—not retail, and a consumer boycott only really hurt the middlemen thus eroding potential support for the strike in the long run. More significantly, the workers’ primary economic impact is at the point of production, and with the unions successfully broken, that power had already been lost.[290]

Desperate, the unions even began to make overtures to the environmental movement, suddenly taking stands against L-P’s proposed THPs. For example, in the Fall of 1984, Fort Bragg IWA Local 3-469 filed a formal protest with the California Department of Forestry (CDF) over a proposed clearcutting of 2,530 acres by L-P in the headwaters of Big River, east of the town of Mendocino in northwestern coastal Mendocino County, stating:

The accelerated cut in Mendocino County by L-P will also have an economic impact upon us when L-P has finished cutting over their timberlands and we can no longer look to them for jobs and taxes. We submit that they are not managing their property on a sustained yield basis and we request that all Timber Harvest Plans be reviewed with the effect upon the landowners sustained yield program as the final determining factor predicating approval or rejection.[291]

A few of the more forward thinking environmentalists, including EPIC, appreciated the unions’ sudden realization that shared common adversaries, but just as many environmental organizations throughout the Pacific Northwest, including many on the North Coast, ignored the unions’ struggle, no doubt still wary from the squabbles over Redwood National Park a half decade earlier.[292] The situation looked very bleak indeed, but this was but the dark before the dawn. Further actions by L-P would soon make the mutual distrust between the unions and the environmentalists rapidly dissipate.

* * * * *

The catalyst that the unions and environmentalists needed to bring them together came from L-P’s use of aerial herbicides. By 1983, the had EPA banned 2,4,5-T outright, and many argued that 2,4-D should be as well.[293] In 1984, the California State Supreme Court upheld the Mendocino County herbicide ordinance which had been lingering in legal limbo since 1979. That same year, however, under intense lobbying pressure from both the timber and chemical industries, the California State Assembly passed AB 2635, which stripped control of herbicide and pesticide regulation away from counties.[294] The bill was sponsored by then Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie Brown of San Francisco, a machine Democrat known for his pandering to special interests, particularly corporations.[295] This law placed spray regulation under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Food and Agriculture, which was dominated by agribusiness interests.[296] Despite all of the evidence establishing a clear pattern of toxicity, Mr. Matt Anderson of the California Forest Products Association dismissed the community’s concerns as little more than “a controversy of emotions versus facts.” [297]

As a result, the battle over aerial herbicide spray reached a fevered pitch. In January 1985, while the unions were still fighting the corporation, Louisiana-Pacific and Longview Fibre Company announced plans to resume spraying herbicides in Mendocino County in the fall, due to the passage of AB 2635.[298] L-P planned to use Dow Chemical’s Garlon, which the timber corporation claimed was safer, but was in fact a relatively unknown and unregulated compound one molecule removed from the now banned 2,4,5-T.[299] L-P reforestation manager Fleming Badenfort claimed at a company convened press conference on January 29, 1985, that spraying was the only cost effective way to prevent hardwood species such as tanoak, madrone, and ceanothus from competing with their attempts at conifer monoculture.[300] The same individual also conceded that the herbicides would be an efficient way to thin out the habitats of rabbits, gophers, and other mammalian “varmints” that posed a threat to the human-introduced conifer seedlings.[301] The corporation’s disregard for life, both human and other did not sit well with environmentalists or timber workers.[302] L-P spokesman Bill Smith appeared on an environmental talk show on KMFB, a local Fort Bragg community radio station, and insisted “Louisiana-Pacific is not slapping the face of the voters of Mendocino County…We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t think it was safe.”[303]

Mendocino County environmentalist activist and school board member, Don Lipmanson, who surveyed the affected forest areas from the air, reported, however:

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. … The spray zones have recently been logged for conifers, so company claims that they are too inaccessible for manual hardwood release are nonsense…

“The proximity of spray drift to waterways was another major concern. The Water Quality Control Board (WQCB) requires that a one hundred foot buffer be left unsprayed around streams and rivers, theoretically to prevent herbicide drift or runoff into the water. L-P assures us that Garlon ‘didn’t drift. It didn’t get in the water’…

“At the Poverty Gulch spray site, the Big River itself was buffered according to the rules. However, the feeder streams did not receive such protection…The infiltration of Garlon into streams is significant because, in the midst of uncertainty about its effect on human health, it is acknowledged by the manufacturer to be lethal to fish.”[304]

Angry citizens not convinced by L-P’s reassurances mobilized to protest in order to defend both their health and property rights, and gathered 1,500 signatures opposing the spray in three days. The IWA joined in the opposition as well, passing a resolution against herbicide spraying.[305] Practically everybody but Corporate Timber (and Dow Chemical) opposed being subjected to “2,4,5-T in drag”. Such a coalition between timber workers and environmentalists was virtually unheard of however, and there was much disarray in trying to combine their forces.[306] The two constituencies had hitherto never worked together on a large organized scale before, and there were still some bones of contention—such as the ongoing struggles over the Redwood National Park, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and the Sinkyone Wilderness area. Harry Merlo, of course, was not one to let a little public opposition stand in his way, and he was slick and knew the value of good PR. So he did what he could to blunt the opposition by having his handlers market L-P as “a Good Neighbor” to the citizens of Mendocino County. Such propaganda was believable to some, at least, due to the fact that L-P donated a sizable amount to local charities.[307] Still, the strike and union busting had left a lot of resentment among the residents of the county, which—like a forest doused in Agent Orange—could ignite at any second.[308] As it turned out, L-P was outdone by their own hubris.

In early march, as two logging crews working for gyppo operations owned by Dana Hastings and Steve Okerstrom were working in the woods near Juan Creek—not more than 15 miles southwest of Usal. Unannounced to them, L-P—who had contracted the two gyppo crews—sprayed Garlon from a helicopter as little as 400 yards away into the woods adjacent to the logging site.[309] Over a dozen loggers and truck drivers working for the two operations, including Hastings loggers Rick Rial, Tom Fales, Fales’ two sons Tommy and Frank, as well as trucker Rod Cudney, who worked for trucker Ed Kelley and had been hauling logs away from the site, were affected. They continued to work, however, because, being employed by nonunion gyppos, they lacked even the meager protections offered by the unions.[310]

Within 48 hours, all of them developed eerily similar “flu-like” symptoms including odd tastes in their mouths, headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. However, influenza is spread by direct or near direct contact, and not all of these workers came in contact with each other. Even more strangely, none of their family members who did experience contact developed these same symptoms, thus ruling out the possibility that the flu was the culprit. Also, each of the workers also developed symptoms inconsistent with the flu, such as visible chemical burns.[311] Furthermore, there was the added case of a Comptche resident’s five-year old son, who had been outside playing on the day of the spraying. For days after the spraying the child and his father could smell and taste the Garlon in the air. Shortly after that, both the father and son developed symptoms very much like the sprayed loggers and were bed-ridden for at least a week after that.[312] The workers were examined by a local physician who could not determine the source of the illness.[313] However, the effects were entirely consistent with those experienced by other timber workers and individuals exposed to aerially deployed phenoxy herbicides.[314] In spite of all of the evidence, the timber companies insisted that the workers were suffering from nothing more than the flu.

Rick Rial’s mother, Arlene, happened to be the wife of Wayne Thorstrom, and she suspected a cover up by L-P and the gyppos. She consulted Dr. Mills Matheson, a local environmental activist who was well respected and had some knowledge about toxicology. Arlene Rial recalled:

“(Matheson) 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…

“There’s a law that says a chemical company must produce evidence that a chemical is safe before they put it on the market or spray it into the atmosphere. Dow Chemical Company has not done this and this particular law has not been enforced. If that’s the case, then the fox…is in charge (of the henhouse). It is very difficult to prove exposure to Garlon. Dow Chemical will not release the necessary procedures because of trade secret laws.

“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.’”[315]

However, neither Hastings nor Okerstrom was particularly in a hurry to pull their loggers out of the site. Both of them were under contract by L-P, and that corporation had long eclipsed G-P as the “big dog” in Mendocino County, being its largest timberland owner and private sector employer. If one didn’t toe the L-P line, they often did not get awarded the contract.[316] Okerstrom and Hastings put pressure on their crews to keep quiet about the incident. One of L-P’s foresters even addressed the crew saying “People shouldn’t take a little thing and make it into a big thing” and gestured towards the affected workers. Hastings singled out Rick Rial in particular, counting on the cultural machismo of his fellow workers to ostracize Rial for having relied on the protectiveness of his “mommy” (even if though she was married to a union activist).[317]

Ms. Rial refused to be silent, however. She contacted the Department of Agriculture who responded “There’s no problem. The spray happens all the time. Too bad the guys were out there. Too bad they’re sick, but the doctor says it sounds like the flu.”[318] Unwilling to give up, she took the matter to the local press, who were actually willing to listen.[319] In response, spokesmen from L-P and the two gyppo operators accused Arlene Rial of “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but this was not a particularly convincing argument, and the mainstream press, which normally toed the Corporate Timber line, didn’t go along with it this time.[320] Fort Bragg Advocate reporter Martin Hickel, who had covered the story, described the affected workers opining, “They do not look like the kind of men who complain.”[321]

Dana Hastings, flummoxed by the negative press and fearing reprisal from L-P decided he had to act, and act he did by firing Rick Rial and the Fales, without cause, threatening to sue each of them if the matter caused him any damages. In a heavy handed phone call to Arlene Rial—in which Hastings announced his decision to terminate her son—he exploded, “I didn’t know (LP was) going to spray. I am not responsible!” The act was clearly one of retaliation, according to Wayne Thorstrom, as evidenced by the fact that Tom Fales had a reputation for being an expert logger and a model employee, having never been previously fired:

“Talk to any of Tom’s past employers and you would find a job done 100 percent in making money for the company. And as far as safety around operators and his fellow employees, you couldn’t find a better old growth faller and with old growth, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. He’s probably helped out hundreds of boys coming up the ladder. He’s been a leader in falling in the woods.”[322]

Thorstrom also asserted, however, that, “Out of all the loggers I’ve spoken to since this last spray, every one of them is against it. There’s not one logger who I’ve spoken to who’s for spraying any kind of a herbicide.”[323] Few of them were willing to speak out, however, for fear of reprisal.[324]

This time, however, the affected loggers had an entire community of support behind them The executive board of the IWA sent a letter to the Mendocino County supervisors to ban all spraying in Mendocino County and not submit the loggers any more chemical exposure. On March 19, a standing room only crowd packed the meeting of the County Board of Supervisors to demand that something be done about L-P’s disregard for the workers and the environment. Dr Mills Matheson relayed the company’s insensitivity to the plight of the timber workers in previous sprayings thusly:

When they arrived at the site they were told…that there would be spraying. When they asked, ‘was it safe?’ the L-P 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 breathe.’ And then the last statement was, ‘If it starts coming towards you, run like the dickens!’”[325]

Unfortunately for the opposition, as was typical in timber dependent communities, the five member board was dominated by three conservative-to-reactionary corporate timber supporters: Marilyn Butcher, John Cimolino, and Nelson Redding, and a fourth member of the board, James Eddie, had, at best, been a fence sitter. Norm de Vall from the coast hamlet of Elk, the board’s lone progressive at the time, was generally a minority of one. L-P made sure its voice was heard. As recounted by EPIC activist Bob Martel:

“An L-P spokesman, when confronted with petitions signed by thousands of citizens demanding an end to the spraying, made petulant noises about L-P being able to do whatever it wanted with its own property. He also threatened that L-P might pull up stakes and leave the county if people continued to complain about its forestry practices.”[326]

The Supervisors passed a largely symbolic and ineffectual ordinance requiring only that neighboring landowners be notified before the aerial deployment of herbicides.[327] The irate Mendocino County residents were outraged and refused to let this setback deter them.[328] Due to their common adversary, environmental activists, represented primarily by the Sierra Club and the local chapter of the fledgling Green Party, and the union officials—primarily from the IWA and WCIW—and the affected workers formed a coalition of necessity.[329]

The first gathering of the coalition took place less than two weeks following the ill-fated Supervisors’ meeting. The atmosphere was one of hope and optimism. Bob Martel elaborated:

“On Sunday, March 25th, 1985, over 200 people from many different areas in the county gathered together in Boonville to plant a seed for a whole new era in county politics.

“Activists for many causes, writers, political organizers—folks involved with a multitude of issues that are effecting the quality and safety of our lives both here in Mendocino County and on a global scale—came to explore the ways in which we can increase our power through cooperation, sharing of resources, linking of networks, reducing areas of duplication and most important of all, acknowledging our common ground.

“Issues of tactics, goals and methodologies surfaced from time to time in the meeting. These are the things that in the past have tended to separate us and dilute our strengths. The energy of the people present was such that we were able to stay focused and build on what brings us together rather than what has kept us apart. It was a real inspiration for me to experience the solidarity among us.[330]

Local affiliates of the IWA and UBCJ announced support for the coalition in exchange for the Greens support of the unions’ still active boycott of L-P wood products. The latter enthusiastically reciprocated.[331] The Mendocino Unified School District, whose jurisdiction covered over 400 plus square miles, and included extensive timber company land holdings, and whose buses often transported children on rural roads running right beside those holdings joined in the campaign against L-P as well.[332] The coalition printed a bunch of joint leaflets with slogans such as, “WHO CARES IF L-P SPRAYS? PARENTS AND CHILDREN CARE! LOGGERS, WOODWORKERS, FISHERMEN, HUNTERS & FIREWOOD USERS CARE! TOURISTS AND BUSINESS PEOPLE CARE, TOO!”[333] On April 14, Arlene Rial spoke at a meeting of the Mendocino Greens who were receptive to the workers’ plight, and not just for ecological reasons. Ms. Rial stated, “You know what my son looks forward to every day now? That maybe he won’t be sick tomorrow.” The Greens raised $414 for the affected workers simply by passing a hat around the room.[334] The Comptche Citizens for a Safe Environment, with support from two other local groups—(SOHO) Support Our Herbicide Opposition, and the Mendocino Greens—planned a protest demonstration at the Louisiana-Pacific mill and offices in Ukiah.[335]

On April 23, demonstrators gathered at L-P’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.[336] For two weeks, a coalition of Mendocino County Greens, anti-spray activists, loggers, millworkers, and IWA and Carpenters Union members and leaders jointly picketed Louisiana-Pacific and several local lumber retailers who sold primarily L-P based products.[337] The failing union picket lines were now renewed and reenergized. One of the most outspoken union leaders in this effort was IWA Local #3-469 union representative Don Nelson.[338] By the end of the first week over 500 people had signed in at the picket line. The L-P security chief 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. Some protestors jammed the company’s phone lines speaking at length to public relations representatives. Callers who engaged befuddled L-P 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.[339]

The coalition efforts, at least temporarily, seemed successful. By the end of the first 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, however, the two sides emerged from the meeting still deadlocked. The company offered to halt spraying for the remainder of 1985 and planned to give 60-90 day notice before spraying in 1986. The coalition considered this an empty gesture, however, since the timber corporation, spending in excess of $12,000, continued to take out paid advertisements in local publications claiming to be “a good neighbor” and that Garlon was harmless. It didn’t help reassure the protesters that L-P’s spokespeople engaged in subterfuge, sometimes writing letters to the editor of local publication claiming to be private citizens (by virtue of not mentioning their role as company officials) making the same claims.[340]

The community stepped up their efforts to pressure L-P. The Mendocino County Greens raised approximately $2,000 for the loggers’ legal defense fund and continued to support the local woodworkers’ boycott.[341] They also sent three local representatives, Carol Erickson, Don Lipmanson, and Poppy O’Sheehan to the L-P stockholder’s meeting in Grand Junction, the first week of May, 1985.[342] Lipmanson had acquired stock in the company with an eye towards shareholder activism. Erickson and O’Sheehan, meanwhile, had both given proxy shares cast by concerned stockholders, under the auspices of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and the Lumber Production and Industrial Workers Union, both of whom had been on strike with the IWA for two years hence.[343] While the coalition of anti-spray protesters demonstrated against L-P at the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco, the environmentalists took their case to the shareholders in Colorado.[344] There they offered a resolution from the floor calling for a moratorium on the aerial application of herbicides. According to Lipmanson, it was ruled out of order on the technicality that it concerned “regular business.” He also reported that Merlo’s personal response was, “(I want you) to know that I will look into the matter and get back to you with something,” though in retrospect this was a case of talk being cheap. Don Lipmanson lamented:

“Since L-P already sprayed hundreds of acres with the herbicide Garlon last spring a manual removal project next year would allow comparison of the two hardwood control methods. Instead of speculation we would have facts on costs, effectiveness and safety of each technique. It is this possibility of comparison, of course, which threatens the corporation. The results of a manual removal experiment might contradict L-P’s advertising campaign about how forests should be managed. Rather than risk being contradicted by facts, the company will simply not give manual removal a trial. Their willingness to even discuss manual removal appears, in retrospect, as a delaying tactic. L-P sought time to gauge the depth of community opposition to aerial spraying, and to soften that opposition through advertising and favorable newspaper editorials from the beneficiaries of those ads…

“Both L-P and the State of California are using their power and money to overwhelm people, to persuade or intimidate them into accepting toxic spraying in their backyard or adjacent forests…

“Opponents of L-P’s spray policies are left with their backs to the proverbial wall. All conventional political channels have been exhausted, and a possible lawsuit by Fort Bragg loggers for damages owing to spraying is years from resolution. 500 pickets at their Ukiah mill got the company’s attention but didn’t quite convince management of citizens’ determination to stop the spread of poisons.”[345]

Merlo had also correctly gauged the fragility of the coalition of those opposed to L-Ps various activities, reasoning that it would not take long to break it. The unions were easy to isolate and manipulate by this point, their strike already having been mostly defeated. Thanks to Erickson and O’Sheehan, union members who had been on strike for over 20 months had been able to address the annual meeting because State Farm Insurance, one of the corporation’s largest stockholders, allowed the strikers to appear at the meeting as their proxies. According to Lipmanson, “90 union members from half-a-dozen states, who together had worked for over a thousand (person)-years for L-P, each got up and asked the company to relent.” L-P did not relent however. Each and every one of the 90 union members, who had spoken out at the shareholders’ meeting was soon replaced.[346]

After that, an administrative law judge dealt the strikers a crushing blow ruling that they were not eligible to receive unemployment benefits and that those who had received them had to pay back the money already received.[347] A separate strike in June involving 450 union workers in the L-P facility in Antioch in eastern Contra Costa County also ended in defeat, in part due to disputes between the IWA and the IBEW.[348] L-P’s profits had dropped 95 percent in the first quarter of 1985 after dropping 72 percent the previous two, and the union officials spun this revelation as proof that the boycott had succeeded, but Harry Merlo countered that this was due more to market factors.[349] Adding salt to the wounds, on December 5, 1985, the NLRB officially recognized the decertification of the unions at five more of L-P’s mills, including facilities in Big Lagoon, Carlotta, Cloverdale, Fremont, and Samoa, bringing the total number of L-P mills that purged the union to 14.[350]

Meanwhile, the other timber corporations throughout the Pacific Northwest, now emboldened by Merlo’s brazenness, began demanding wage cuts and provoking strikes to attempt to bust the unions in their mills and woods divisions. For example, in June of 1985, Weyerhaeuser demanded wage and benefit cuts of about $4 an hour at 22 of mills in Oregon and Washington. Almost 7,500 IWA members went on strike for six weeks, but Weyerhaeuser weathered the strike and was able to force an agreement with the IWA including the initially proposed concessions, plus the implementation of a complex “profit-sharing” scheme.[351] Tying the workers’ wages to the company’s profits, an institutionalized form of labor-management “partnership”, recalled the production bonuses of the old Humboldt Labor Company, and violated the very core principles of unionism, by pitting worker against worker (especially in matters of safety), enabling speedups—which the now competitively minded workers wouldn’t likely challenge, and forcing down conditions in other mills. Additionally, the wage “enhancements” pitted workers against environmentalists, and ultimately themselves, because now short term bonuses were far more important than long term sustainability and job security.[352] Yet, the unions were weakened beyond a capacity to refuse. Lumber companies throughout the Pacific Northwest followed suit and the unions lost many bitter and prolonged strikes over the next half-decade.[353] Even when they won partial gains, they lost ground, as did the IWA members at Simpson’s Korbel and Arcata facilities, who won modest wage increases—less than the union had wanted—but were subjected to the incentive scheme.[354]

In spite of his grand showing in protesting L-P’s spray at Juan Creek, Don Nelson himself caved into to economic pressure at Georgia Pacific. In the summer of 1985, IWA Local 3-469 fought against, but was ultimately forced into accepting G-P’s demands for concessionary contract, though as many as 80 percent of the rank & file workers initially voted to strike.[355] The company threatened a lockout from the start, demanding that the union, “better play ball, or else.”[356] The rank and file’s resistance to the concessions was broken by pressure from the IWA’s international officials who sent representatives to Fort Bragg to browbeat the local into accepting the give-backs out of fear of backlash from G-P.[357] Average wages decreased from $10.71 per hour to $8.74. They also gave up four paid holidays, and vacation pay was cut by 30 percent. The wage and benefit cuts amount to almost 25 percent, and the starting wage, $7.00 per hour was the same as the now non-union L-P mills.[358]

Nelson urged the rank and file members to accept the cutbacks, because the company claimed it needed more profits to assure the workers continued employment. In exchange for the wage cuts, workers would receive production bonuses based on the company’s profit earnings. Over the next three years, however, these bonuses totaled far less than the 25 percent wage give-back, and by 1989, the mill workers were making far less than they had expected.[359] During the life of the contract, the company modernized the mill and made cut backs anyway,[360] and ultimately, IWA International President Bill Hubble would denounce the profit sharing scheme and urge IWA locals to oppose them.[361] To make matters worse, the IWA’s concessions had also included language allowing G-P to begin contracting out what was once union logging divisions to gyppo firms, thus eliminating union membershipwhich robbed the millworkers of significant economic clout provided by the formerly unionized loggers—and further depressing wages and working conditions throughout Mendocino County.[362]

Wayne Thorstrom summarized the dismay felt among the IWA Local 3-469 rank and file members as well as many loggers in the county declaring:

“Through the union, we developed a lot of new safety precautions for the company and now that all the G-P loggers are going to be eliminated eventually, all these guys are going to be out in the cold. Who’s going to represent them? These are the guys these big companies think they can spray, and spray, and not warn them ahead of time. We’re going backwards instead of forward. I believe in organized labor. Who’s going to represent these fellows?”[363]

Sierra Club activist Ron Guenther shared Thorstrom’s dismay, opining:

“A lumber workers union that asks the State Legislature for sustained-yield legislation to protect the future of the forest industry…and which acts in solidarity with forest workers poisoned by the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation at Juan Creek is subject to immediate mass firings of its members. Union woods crews, truck drivers, and support crews are eliminated and replaced with others more amenable to speeding up the pace of forest destruction and increasing corporate profit. With top timber industry executives being paid close to $1 million a year, and with the industry raking in many hundreds of millions in exploitive profits each year, deep wage cuts are demanded of local union members to increase corporate profit and ‘efficiency.’”[364]

By 1986 and 87 the already cutthroat logging business in Mendocino County became extremely so, with the locals gyppos not only trying to underbid each other, but facing added competition from gyppos brought in from out of the area by the logging corporations (especially G-P and L-P) to further accelerate the race to the bottom. Under these circumstances, the unions had no chance of winning a purely defensive campaign, and the fate of both the forests and timber unions seemed to be certain doom.

Nevertheless, L-P successfully quieted the environmentalists by temporarily curtailing the deployment of aerial herbicides. This was certainly due to the combined opposition of the timber unions and environmentalists, at least partially, but it was also due to the adoption of new tax regulations at the California state level making spraying less economical. Hitherto, companies could shift the burden of spraying onto the backs of the taxpayers, but now this had changed. L-P Chief Forester Chris Rowney conceded as much by declaring, “Spraying is less viable as an option because spraying expenses will have to be capitalized, and intensive [silvicultural] methods become very expensive in this context.”[365] Perhaps in response to the burst of joint protest of greens and unions against L-P, Simpson announced their intention, in May of 1985, to engage in manual release (rather than use Garlon) on a 72 acre clearcut northeast of Blue Lake in Humboldt County.[366]

This proved to be an empty promise in the long run. Simpson continued to spray Garlon-4 on Yurok tribal lands near the Klamath River for years.[367] Meanwhile, smaller operators, such as Barnum Timber, also announced their intent to aerially deploy 2,4-D in the Hydesville and Rio Dell areas of Humboldt County, which drew opposition from activists based in Arcata, who organized under the banner of the California Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides (CCAP).[368] Many residents, the City Council, and Mayor of Rio Dell initially protested Barnum’s intent[369], but were eventually “convinced” by the Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner’s office that the spraying “posed little danger”.[370] No doubt the fact that businesses interests—including the Fortuna Chamber of Commerce, which represented both Corporate Timber and tourist interests—did what they could to blunt opposition to the spraying.[371] No coalition like the one that formed in Mendocino County in response to the spraying of the loggers at Juan Creek happened in response to any of these later sprayings.

To make matters worse, in a calculated move that split environmentalists and the IWA, after years of fights over Sally Bell Grove in the Sinkyone Wilderness, Georgia Pacific offered it to the public in a land swap, without first negotiating with the IWA, very similarly to L-P’s and Simpson’s exchange the previous decade in Redwood National Park to the north. Some environmentalists counted the acquisition as a victory[372], but the cost was bad blood between them and the unions.[373] Don Nelson opposed the deal, fearing that it would cost union loggers their jobs, rather than focusing his and IWA Local 3-469s energy on resisting the cutbacks demanded by G-P.[374] Much of the progress made to heal the wounds and divisions that the timber corporations had sown between the environmentalists and the timber workers’ unions since the expansion of Redwood National Park was quickly lost. As if this weren’t bad enough news, something was afoot just to the north in Humboldt County that would make Harry Merlo’s union busting look like child’s play.


4. Maxxam’s on the Horizon

“There’s a little story about the golden rule: those who have the gold, rule”

—Charles Hurwitz speaking to Pacific Lumber employees in December 1985

In the town of Kilgore, Texas was born a tailor’s son,
From the killing of the Indians he learned how the west was won.
His name was Charlie Hurwitz and he terrorized the land,
His killing field was Wall Street and his gang was called Maxxam…

—lyrics excerpted from Maxxam’s on the Horizon, by Darryl Cherney

By the fall of 1985, the Pacific Lumber Company (PL), based in southern Humboldt County, had existed for over 115 years and remained a virtual eye in the hurricane of class conflict, capitalist boom and bust, and ecological battles that raged throughout the Pacific Northwest. The company had been established in 1869 along with the company town of Forestville with the help of two Nevada venture capitalists named A. W. MacPhereson and Henry Wetherbee for a grand total of $750,000. [375] It was, in fact, the first foray by absentee owners into the redwood lumber industry of Humboldt County, predating even the California Redwood Company. Although it didn’t commence actual lumber operations until 1887, it grew quickly, and by the last decade of the 19th Century, it was the largest lumber company in the county. [376] By 1904, P-L owned 40,000 acres of timberland and its mill (“A”) operating on two ten-hour shifts, could produce 300,000 feet of cut lumber daily. By 1909, the construction of a second mill (“B”) increased the company’s productivity to a whopping 450,000 feet per day with one eight-hour shift working in both mills. The milling complex was one of the largest such facilities on the Pacific Coast. The town’s population increased from 454 in 1890 to over 3,000, and the company’s workforce numbered at least 2,000. [377]

There had been but one significant change in Pacific Lumber’s ownership over its history. In 1905, Maine lumberman Simon J. Murphy acquired the company with the help of east coast investors. [378] Upon acquiring the company he changed the name of the town to Scotia, in honor of his family’s roots in Nova Scotia. [379] It was under Murphy’s leadership that the company instituted its “welfare-capitalist” paternalism in a clear attempt to stave off attempts by the IWW (and other unions) to gain a foothold among Pacific Lumber’s employees. [380] In an effort to ensure that peace would reign supreme, the company closed its saloon, “an infamous whorehouse and gambling parlor” known as the “Green Goose”, in 1910, and replaced it with a bank. That establishment was later transformed into Bertain’s Laundry, which would at one time become the largest cleaning establishment in the county. [381] By the second decade of the 20th Century, Scotia was one of the nation’s most developed company towns, boasting of two churches, two banks, a saloon, a hospital, a schoolhouse, a library, a clubhouse, and a large company owned general store. It also included several cultural and social institutions, including four fraternal orders and a volunteer fire department. [382]

The IWW spared no vitriol at the obvious—and essentially overt—attempt by the employing class to steal their thunder, but the scheme worked. [383] The company wasn’t ever entirely free of dissenters, and there was at least one attempt at a wildcat in 1946 during the Great Strike. [384] Yet, the company remained nonunion throughout its history, resisting organizing attempts by the IWW, various AFL unions, and the IWA, even though ironically it was the threat of unionization that had inspired P-L to implement its benevolent dictatorship in the first place. [385] When Murphy’s grandson, Albert Stanwood Murphy, assumed the role of Chairman of the P-L board of directors, he carried on and enhanced his grandfather’s practices. [386]

While the Murphy family was anti-union, they were far more conservation minded than most and they instilled that ethic into Pacific Lumber’s logging practices. This didn’t happen overnight of course. It took some prodding from Save the Redwoods League in the 1920s to convince them to consider the preservation of old growth redwoods, but unlike most timber companies, P-L embraced sustainable logging. Under the direction of Albert S. Murphy, who inherited the company in 1931, Pacific Lumber introduced selective logging practices as opposed to clear cutting, and limited old growth logging to no more than 70 per cent of inventory, and the company continued the practice from then on. The rest of the timber industry scoffed at P-L’s methods, but the environmental movement hailed them as revolutionary. [387] It bucked the economic trends of capital, adopting one of the most sustainable logging practices in all of the Pacific Northwest, so that by 1985, it possessed the largest inventory of privately owned old growth redwood left in the world. [388] Every year it would sell approximately 40 to 50 million board feet of redwood lumber without depleting its standing timber resources, and as time passed, those vast stands of old growth redwoods became the envy of the other companies. Bud McCrary, vice president of Big Creek Lumber in Santa Cruz in 1985 declared, “Pacific Lumber has done an excellent job. Their concept of conservative forest management has paid off for them…They’re the guys in the white hats in the logging business. They’ve been a long term company with high ideals.” [389]

Pacific Lumber also eschewed short-term profit in favor of long term economic stability. In 1955, when logging and mill related deaths were at a major peak, and often accepted as the cost (though, of course, not to the employing class) of doing business, the company adjusted its production practices which resulted in an 80 to 90 percent reduction in untimely fatalities. After a major flood in Humboldt County in 1964, P-L declined to claim assessed valuations. They could have legally done this, but in doing so would have deprived the county’s general fund of much needed revenue. Certainly, P-L’s sustainable logging meant less short-term profit, but by all estimations yielded better long-term gain. A marked contrast could be seen, for example, in the company’s logging in the Mattole and Eel River watersheds which, by contrast to the other logging companies in the same area were as different as night and day. [390] The company applied this philosophy to its workforce as well. They rented the houses in Scotia to its employees at below market rates and maintained a “no layoff” policy during economic downturns in the lumber market. [391]

Pacific Lumber was an icon of stability, not at all like Georgia-Pacific, Louisiana-Pacific, Simpson, or Boise-Cascade. Although Pacific Lumber workers also lived in nearby towns, including Arcata, Carlotta, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Hydesville, Rio Dell, the majority of the workers desired to live in Scotia. Albert Murphy’s son, Stanwood A. Murphy, described the benefits of life in Scotia in 1971 thusly:

“After (a new employee) has put in ninety days on his mill job, he can get on the list to move into Scotia, where a comfortable one bedroom company bungalow, with a garden and a lawn on a quiet residential street rents from under $60 a month (in 1971). Water and sewage and garbage removal are free. Every five to seven years, the company will repaint his house, inside and out, free. As he moves up in the company, he can move to a large house. He has good accident and health coverage, and a choice of a pension plan or an investment program…If his son or daughter qualifies for a four-year-college, he or she will receive a thousand-dollar scholarship from the company.

“If he chooses to reject the moderate’s course, if he is frequently absent from work, guilty of drunkenness, fighting or reckless driving, if he is an offensive neighbor, mistreats his family, or gets himself heavily into debt, he will feel the pull of the company reins. A man who has applied for a house in Scotia may be kept waiting six months, a year, or forever, because of his behavior; a man living in a company house, who fails to give the yard a minimum of care, may find a company garden crew coming by to cut his lawn and weed his flowers for him, a service for which he will be billed. The pressure is subtle, but firm.

“…Pacific Lumber deducts eighty-five dollars a month from his check for rent, water and garbage. He pays no personal property tax. When something goes wrong with his household plumbing, if one of the kids breaks a window or the electricity goes out...just calls the company plumbing shop or the carpentry shop or the electrical shop, a man is sent out promptly, and there is no bill...

“We’re a paternalistic company. I know that’s a dirty word, but it’s accurate. We lose money on the town. We figure it’s worth it, to keep a good crew here.” [392]

Virtually every board foot composing Scotia’s more than 272 houses, and each timber in its hospital, all of the siding enclosing the Scotia Inn, and all of the logs that provided the columns for its elaborate Winema Theater was made of redwood harvested from its holdings and milled in its enormous mill complex. The company boasted of 300 acres of log ponds and debarking equipment, and stacks of drying lumber a mile long and a quarter mile wide. [393]

* * * * *

For a time, it seemed, the Murphy dynasty were as unchanging and as steadfastly enduring as the ancient redwoods themselves. Albert Stanwood Murphy ran the company until 1961 and was succeeded by his son, Stanwood A. Murphy Sr. However, in 1972, Stanwood succumbed to a heart attack and died in Scotia in the home of one of Pacific Lumber’s workers. Although Stanwood’s sons Stanwood Murphy Jr., affectionately known as “Woody”, born in 1951, and his younger brother Warren, born in 1953, were considered scions of the dynasty, ironically under P-L’s paternalistic practices, they were also considered far too young to grab hold of its reins. Both of Stanwood’s sons had been encouraged, by their father, to work their way up through the ranks of the company in order to prove their worth, and—though they were literally the favored sons with an almost guaranteed inside track—their father’s untimely death happened while they were far from the proverbial finish line. [394] Instead, the board of directors promoted two higher seniority executives, in succession, to follow Stanwood Murphy. Then they hired the third, company accountant Gene Elam, from an outside source, Arthur Young. [395] Their choice had been partly motivated by a desire to diversify the company’s assets in order to ensure long term stability. Given Stanwood’s death, the loss of a Murphy at the helm—at least for a time—raised hitherto unknown concerns about the future of the venerable lumber concern. [396]

Under Elam’s watch, Pacific Lumber’s timber production fared very well, and yet it also continued to follow the Murphys’ practices of sustainable forestry. By the fall of 1985, the company owned approximately 193,000 acres of timberlands in Northern California. Almost 145,000 acres of that was redwood, and the remainder was Douglas fir. Most estimates suggested that at least 12,000 acres of old growth redwood were owned by P-L, and that represented 40 percent of all remaining old growth at the time. P-L carried timberlands on its books at cost—$34 million, or $176 per acre. The land it owned, however, was worth $25,000 per acre of old growth, and $1,000 per acre for new growth. [397] Of its lumber production, the split was 30 percent non-redwood; 35 percent old-growth redwood; and 35 percent residual or younger growth redwood at the time. [398] The 800 P-L employed in Scotia were but a fraction of its entire workforce. [399]

Scotia seemed like an island that had managed to escape the modern hyper capitalist timber industry. At one time there had been as many as 200 company towns located throughout the American west, but even as early as 1980, Scotia had become a living relic. [400] Even in the days when it wasn’t, Scotia was unique, representing a genuinely happy kingdom in contrast to the slave labor conditions that existed in many other company towns. [401] After the closing of the last working timber mill in McCloud, California at the foot of Mt. Shasta in Siskiyou County in 1979 by Champion International, Scotia became the last existing lumber company owned company town in the United States of America. A workforce of nearly 800 worked at the Scotia mill, a third of who lived in the town with their families. [402] In addition, all of the support work, from the local grocery market, to the street and park maintenance, to the blacksmiths (whose job it was to forge logging and milling tools), to the janitors and office staff were employed by P-L. [403] Still, as the IWW had tried to point out, much of this serenity was an illusion, an outlier of an exception that went against the rule of the realities of Corporate Timber, and as it turned out, P-L’s desire to preserve its isolation would ultimately lead to its undoing.

Elam did diversify the company in the early 1970s, but only to a point. He began the process of reducing the company’s huge cash reserves (which Stanwood Murphy Sr. had believed made the company prone to attract a potential corporate raider), by investing them in a huge pension fund for the company’s employees he helped create. [404] By 1985, P-L had become the leading producer of both gas and plasma cutting and welding equipment. This portion of the business contributed 58 percent of P-L sales and 46 percent of its operating income in 1984. Lumber accounted for only 28 percent of the company’s sales that year, but 50 percent of its net income. [405] The company’s timberland was worth $1 billion, according to some estimates; its cutting and welding division was worth $250 million. Additionally P-L owned 3,400 acres of Sacramento Valley farmland, a downtown San Francisco headquarters building, three sawmills (including Mills A and B in Scotia as well as another in Fortuna), and 274 homes. [406] In spite of Elam’s best efforts, however the company was still very “cash rich”, its pension fund overfunded by approximately $60 million, and its numerous assets could be quickly liquidated in a hostile takeover. [407]

Furthermore, in 1975 the owners had made what seemed like an innocuous decision to list the company on the New York Stock Exchange. In 1984, P-L earned $44 million on revenues of $281 million. [408] As a result, the company paid out a large chunk of its value to stockholders. In 1984, dividends equaled 61 percent of net income. [409] To prevent a takeover, none of its shareholders, including the Murphy’s family members owned more than five percent of its stock. [410] Analysts estimated the value of the company’s assets at $50 to $70 per share [411], but due to its sustainable forestry practices and its paternalistic policies, it traded at only $29 in the fall of 1985. [412] Pacific Lumber (or “PALCO” as it came to be known) was an ideal business if one assumed that businesses described in economic textbooks actually existed. In the real world however, under the increasingly speculation oriented phase of capitalism ushered in by the economic policies of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, Pacific Lumber was a plum ripe for the picking. [413] Still Scotia and Pacific Lumber carried on, much as they had before, somehow seemingly protected from the pressures of the outside world, much like Rivendell in J.R.R. Tokein;s fictional world of Middle Earth.

* * * * *

All of that would come to an abrupt end in the middle of autumn of 1985. Throughout that summer there had been hints that somebody was taking an unusually strong interest in Pacific Lumber, but the clues were so subtle, so hidden that they escaped the notice of the company’s ten member board of directors—which included Suzanne Beaver (Stanwood Murphy’s widow), Gene Elam, and the latter’s predecessor, Robert Hoover, whose duties included monitoring such activity. This was often difficult, because even then there were thousands of trades made daily, and even a single buyer taking a particular interest in one company might not have any major significance. There was no way that the stewards of the Murphy Dynasty could know that a single buyer who purchased just under a million shares of the company—just below the five percent maximum threshold established by the recently passed Hart-Scott-Rodino act—was anything more than a typical player in the rustle and bustle of the New York and Pacific Stock Exchanges. The casinos of Western Capitalism were a fair distance away from the everyday concerns of the Pacific Lumber Company and its relatively happy kingdom. Then again, it might have all of the significance in the world, but there was no way to be sure. [414]

Then, in the last days of September, rumors began to circulate much more heavily among the shareholders and workers of Pacific Lumber and the residents of Humboldt County that someone—a mysterious financier from back east—was making a serious play for the company. Normally Pacific Lumber’s stock traded at about 25,000 shares daily, but on Monday, September 25, 1985, 100,000 shares changed hands. Usually the value of the shares fluctuated by no more than a dollar per day [415], but the next day the stock rose from $29 per share to $33, and reached $38 the following Monday, September 30, at an unheard of volume of 350,000 shares. [416] Most of the company’s stock was owned by small shareholders and had been in their families for many years. None of them were likely to be engaging in such unusual activity. It was therefore not surprising at all that the sudden peak in activity set off alarm bells. [417] One of the P-L board of directors’ primary duties was to ferret out and investigate such rumblings should they prove to be more than just static, but what they didn’t know was that those responsible for the unusual trades had done their homework well in advance and knew very well how to mask their activity.

Then, quite out of the blue, the man who had the answer sought out the one most responsible for asking the question. Early on the morning of September 30, 1985, just after 5:30 AM, a man named Charles E. Hurwitz contacted Pacific Lumber President and Board Chair Gene Elam revealing his plans to purchase the old lumber company for $746 million. [418] He was the CEO of a New York based mortgage firm known as the Maxxam Group and he had already acquired 994,000 shares of Pacific Lumber’s common stock (just under 5 percent of the total) and was proposing to purchase the rest. [419] He was offering $36 per share for the company’s estimated 21 million shares of common stock, for a total of $823 million. [420] Hurwitz declared Maxxam would finance the purchase offer with $700 million in privately placed debt and bank financing with the rest to be provided from general corporate funds. [421] $400 million of the debt securities would be placed by Drexel Burnham Lambert (DBL), Owned by one Michael Milken, who was acting as the dealer manager of the tender offer, while Irving Trust Company would lend up to $300 million. [422] Meanwhile, Maxxam announced that it was boosting its stake in another publically traded firm, UNC Resources, to 19 percent and was seeking regulatory approval to acquire as much as 51 percent of that company, perhaps in order to use its $102 million in cash reserves to acquire P-L. [423] Elam, acting on advice from the P-L board’s corporate legal counsel Ed Beck publically declared that “he could not comment” on the rumor’s veracity, but privately he knew it was the cold, hard truth. [424] Demonstrating that he was quite serious, Hurwitz upped his offer to $38.50 per share on October 1. [425]

He may have been a man of mystery to the people of Scotia, but in the world of high finance Charles Hurwitz was well known for hostile takeovers and greenmail. [426] He was not an old man, in fact he was only 45, but he had already earned a reputation for being one of the most ruthless speculators and unscrupulous businessmen in the nation, skilled at using millions of dollars to control billions in corporate assets. He was an expert raider and greenmailer, ruthless and unyielding, “adept at acquiring a minority stake in a company and then using it to gain control or to force the company to buyout his position for a profit,” and like Harry Merlo, not adverse to skirting the boundaries of the law when it suited him. [427] Even among the capitalist class, Hurwitz and his ilk had been considered extreme, perhaps best personified by the character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 Oliver Stone movie Wall Street. There was some speculation by Standard & Poor’s Stock Reports, that he had targeted Pacific Lumber because acquiring it would have diversified Maxxam’s portfolio, allowing him to avoid filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as an investment company, which carried with it a much more stringent set of regulations. [428] However, Maxxam was just a piece of Hurwitz’s vast financial empire, which was built on three key investment bases that were intertwined in a complex financial ownership arrangement designed to shelter and protect assets and avoid scrutiny. At the time, Maxxam was the name of his real estate company based in New York City, while his other two divisions were Federated Development Company in Houston and MCO Holdings in Los Angeles. His business holdings included 13 shopping centers in western New York State, a large savings and loan in Texas, a large resort in Puerto Rico, and much more. [429]

Hurwitz had built this empire quickly and mercilessly. He was a self-described farm boy from eastern Texas, but at age 24 he opened his first brokerage, a mutual fund called Summit Group, on Wall Street and created a $4 billion oil, real estate, and financial empire. In 1971, while managing Summit, he was charged with violating antifraud regulations in connection with stock trading. The matter was resolved in his favor when he signed a consent decree without admitting guilt. Seven years later, however, after an insurance company he owned collapsed, he was charged with mismanagement and fraud by government regulators. Those charges were also dropped. [430]

Since he had already earned a reputation as a calculating and brutal wheeler and dealer, he began to keep a reclusive profile, rarely granting interviews or making public appearances. But, while Hurwitz may have personally been incommunicado, he was as active as ever in the business world. In 1978, he began accumulating stock in the L.A. based McCulloch Corporation, which had began as a chainsaw company but had long since diversified its financial activities. At that time, the company was drowning in debt and hamstrung by litigation. Hurwitz acquired 13 percent of its shares, valued at a total of $8 million. In spite of heavy opposition from McCulloch’s old guard, Hurwitz successfully placed two of his lieutenants, Teledyne cofounder George Kozmetsky and New York attorney Ezra Levin on its board of directors. He then bided his time until 1980, engineering a coup and taking over its chairmanship. [431] According to one McCulloch manager, “Charles came across as so warm and caring that it took almost two years to realize we’d lost control.” [432]

With the return to neoclassical laissez faire capitalism in the 1980s, extremists like Merlo and Hurwitz were no longer as reviled among their class, and even though they alarmed their fellow capitalists by pushing the envelope, the latter secretly welcomed the financial benefits such activity brought about. Within this increasingly dog-eat-dog atmosphere, Hurwitz was as busy as ever. Under his leadership, the McCulloch board’s first act was the elimination of monthly management committee meetings, the termination of management’s costly stock-option plan, and the sale of its 14 jets. Hurwitz then spun off McCulloch’s energy division, renaming it MCO Resources, and sold the remainder, including its coal properties, for a $115 million during the energy boom at the end of the Carter Administration. Then, in 1982, Hurwitz used McCulloch, in which he controlled 60 percent of the company’s shares, as a vehicle to capture Simplicity Pattern Company, a sewing pattern producer for $48 million. Like Pacific Lumber, Simplicity was cash-rich, with a sizable pension plan. [433] Hurwitz took his profit by reducing the employees’ annual pension fund allocation—which had remained unchanged for 37 years—from $10,000 to $6,000, even after promising to leave it untouched. [434] He then offloaded the Pattern Division to another company, Triton Group, renaming the remainder Maxxam in 1984. [435] Hurwitz retained 11 percent of the old Simplicity Pattern company and transformed Maxxam into the real estate investment company it was now known as through additional acquisitions. [436]

Beginning in 1983, Hurwitz fought a decade long battle with the southern California town of Rancho Mirage. Located east of Palm Springs, it was known as “the Playground of Presidents”, and was one of the wealthiest municipalities in the United States. Hurwitz attempted to finance the construction of a Ritz Carlton Hotel and estate housing on the lambing grounds of the endangered bighorn sheep that lay within the city limits. The bighorn were well loved and had been chosen as the town’s official emblem, even to the point of being embossed on the town’s business cards. Unbeknownst to his fellow shareholders, Hurwitz used worthless collateral from another one of his companies to finance the purchase of the land. [437] Hurwitz initially had the support of former president Gerald Ford and rubber-fortune heir Leonard Firestone as partners. [438] The residents of Rancho Mirage on the other hand, many of them famous actors and entertainers, including Frank Sinatra and Susan Marx (Harpo’s widow), were incensed, and fought a long a bitter battle with the Texas financier. They overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative to stop the construction of the hotel and housing, in reaction to which Hurwitz sued the city. [439] In a moment of fearfulness, the city council caved in to Hurwitz, anxious that the city might go bankrupt in a protracted legal battle with the financier, who seemingly had deep pockets. [440] Ironically, Hurwitz’s fellow shareholders eventually sued him—in 1992—for $30 million for misrepresenting the nature of the collateral, which turned out to be worthless, but that time the hotel had been built and the lambing ground destroyed. [441]

Hurwitz was far from finished, however. In 1984, he threatened a hostile takeover of Castle & Cooke, while the latter’s management was mired in a failed attempt to acquire Dr. Pepper. [442] Hurwitz acquired 11.8 percent of the company’s stock, and, in an act of greenmail, forced the shareholders to buy back the stock he had purchased at $70.8 million, a 25 percent premium above the market price. [443] Hurwitz walked away with approximately $9 million in profit for a mere three months’ effort, and left an empty shell in his wake. The now emaciated Castle & Cooke merged with Flexi-Van Corporation in early 1985. [444]

Signs everywhere pointed to Hurwitz engaging in similar machinations to acquire P-L, and he was evidently prepared for every eventuality. Though the venerable lumber company was a juicy target for a takeover, its directors had thought they had taken appropriate counter measures, including incorporating various protective clauses in the company’s bylaws—such as a requirement for 80 percent shareholder approval of a sale of the company—to ensure that it was still a more difficult takeover opportunity than most. [445] Hurwitz had purchased five percent of the company’s common stock already, but he could not immediately acquire more even if he had the money, because in doing so he would have violated Hart-Scott-Rodino and would also have to receive permission from a supermajority of the P-L’s stockholders. [446] Clark Bowen, vice president and resident manager of Shearson Lehman / American Express in Eureka, was certain that Maxxam was driving up P-L’s stock in another greenmail attempt, but in retrospect, that may have merely been Hurwitz’s fallback position. The Texas raider had much bigger plans for Pacific Lumber. On Thursday, October 17, two weeks after the initial spike, profit-takers drove the P-L stock to a high of $40 per share before closing at $39 at the conclusion of the day’s trading. [447] Even the New York Stock Exchange’s normally permissive watchdogs took notice of the activity and initiated an investigation into the unusually heavy trading that took place and by their own estimations “uncovered significant evidence of insider trading” and stock parking, but chose not to pursue the matter further. [448]

That Hurwitz had silent partners in his takeover efforts was evident, the only questions were how many there were and their identities. In time, it would be revealed that one of these shadowy allies was Boyd Jeffries, chair of the Los Angeles brokerage firm Jefferies Group, Inc., who later plead guilty to parking stock for the former. [449] Hurwitz instructed Jefferies, to purchase $40 million worth of P-L stock, worth about 2.3 percent of the company’s total value, to avoid violation of Hart-Scott-Rodino. [450] On September 27, P-L stock was trading at $34 a share, but Jeffries sold his shares of the stock to MCO Holding Company for an extremely charitable amount of $29.10 a share, which, considering the volume, was one of the most “philanthropic stock sales ever seen on Wall Street.” [451] Evidently, Jeffries’s purchase had been designed to hold the stock for Hurwitz, after the latter had reached the Hart-Scott-Rodino threshold [452] and was anxious to acquire P-L. [453] Hurwitz had gambled, however, on the board of directors being unaware of the 80 percent supermajority requirement (since P-L had never seriously been the target of a takeover during their tenure), hoping they would instead assume that only a simple majority was needed. [454] Hurwitz had guessed correctly, but he had an unexpected complication.

Another mysterious figure involved in Maxxam’s stealthy acquisition of Pacific Lumber’s stock was none other than the infamous Wall Street speculator Ivan Boesky. Allegedly unbeknownst to Hurwitz at first, DBL’s Michael Milken instructed Ivan Boesky to also purchase nearly 5 percent of P-L’s stock, which he did just prior to Hurwitz making his initial move. Boesky eventually made a tidy profit of $950,000 from this venture, and it explained the initial spike in P-L’s trading activity. [455] This was Milken’s attempt to hedge his bets, just in case Maxxam was unsuccessful in its attempts to convince the P-L board to agree to its tender offer, and it also theoretically shielded DBL from charges of stock parking. [456] Boesky, who would later be implicated for insider trading that netted him several million dollars, and reveal all of these connections to the SEC was to Milken as Jefferies was to Hurwitz. [457] Milken’s and Boesky’s machinations almost doomed the deal however, because other Wall Street sharks unconnected to the collusion had sensed an opportunity and jumped into the fray on Thursday, September 26 threatening to drive the price of P-L’s stock up beyond Hurwitz’s planned tender offer. Ironically, Hurwitz was saved by Mother Nature, of all things, in the form of Hurricane Gloria which shut down the stock market on Friday, September 27. None of this information had been uncovered by the P-L directors either. When trading resumed on Monday, Hurwitz made his move. [458]

* * * * *

Hurwitz also apparently had silent partners within Pacific Lumber, or at the very least he could count on specific key personnel to assist him in these efforts. One of his most willing collaborators was an ambitious up and coming executive by the name of John Campbell. In 1967, Campbell, a native of Australia, had married Cindy Carpenter, the daughter of one of the current P-L directors, Ed Carpenter, who had also been Stanwood Murphy Senior’s best friend. Campbell had always been considered ambitious and Machiavellian to the point of ruthlessness, and he had a much different vision for the future of the company than the Murphys. Indeed, Campbell, who had been trained in Australia as a banker, had much more in common with Harry Merlo than Stanwood Murphy Sr. He considered the conservative P-L logging practices, including its prohibition on clearcutting, as an embarrassment, since it greatly underutilized the company’s profit potential. Due to his family connections, however, Campbell had been regarded as almost being one of the Murphys himself and, like Woody and Warren, had been put on the same management track. By 1984 he had climbed the company management ladder to the point where he was second in command in the management of P-L’s production chain in Scotia, under the direction of executive vice president of lumber production, Warren Flinchpaugh. [459]

Flinchpaugh, by contrast, was very much a true believer in the Murphy’s traditional management and production policies, to the point where he butted heads with Gene Elam, sometimes even withholding production figures from the P-L president in San Francisco. According to existing company practices, however, even though Elam may have been the president, it was the production boss in Scotia who actually set the pace. Campbell knew this and planted the suggestion in Elam’s mind that Flinchpaugh had looked the other way when one of the gyppos that contracted with P-L had been double dipping. Flinchpaugh denied the accusations, but Elam took them at face value without conducting a thorough investigation, and after pressuring his subordinate for several months, the now maligned executive applied for early retirement. No doubt the innuendo and finger pointing, some of it possibly stoked by John Campbell, helped influence Flinchpaugh’s decision, but Elam had already hoped to replace his underling in favor of one more communicative. [460]

Campbell was now in charge and he wasted no time in proposing changes. He had intended to ramp up annual lumber harvesting from 130 million bf to 170 million, but, he needed the P-L board’s approval for such a radical departure from P-L’s existing practices. Even though Elam had welcomed the newly appointed executive vice president’s ambition and production oriented management philosophy, the P-L president and the rest of the board were averse to abandoning the Murphys’ logging policies. Campbell hoped to make them see otherwise, however, and called upon the services of the company’s forester manager Robert Stephens to make his case before the P-L board during their September 1985 meeting. Ironically, Stephens had usually been charged with defending the company’s sustainable logging practices and progressive environmental policy before critics many times and had often performed beautifully. [461]

Stephens was nothing if he was not a company man, but he was more than willing to do Campbell’s bidding. But, when questioned by the board, especially director Mike Hollern of Oregon, who was also a true believer in the Murphy philosophy and quite knowledgeable on forestry issues himself, Stephens could not offer any substantive proof that the liquidation logging practices currently in trend at the time would meet the long term conditions that the existing P-L practices offered. The directors tore Stephens’s arguments to shreds. Campbell watched the affair stone-faced, and then later roundly excoriated his underling for embarrassing him in front of them. Expediently, however, Campbell contacted Elam and informed his superior that Stephens had been thoroughly chastised for his incompetence, all the while secretly still hoping to implement his more aggressive, profit-oriented logging philosophy. [462]

* * * * *

By this time Woody and Warren Murphy had come of age and were in their early 30s, but neither brother was in any position to resist the unfolding drama. The elder Murphy had always desired to work for Pacific Lumber and had truly learned the business by taking on one lumber production assignment after the next. He eventually found his way to the P-L corporate office in San Francisco to work in sales and attend college to learn corporate law and business administration. [463] Many of those close to P-L had originally assumed that one day, he would be the next president of Pacific Lumber, but he didn’t turn out to be what most would call “executive material”, even in the anachronistic company that employed him. Woody was always a logger at heart and he decided—against the better judgment of his father—to return to the woods, which he did for a time, running one of the P-L road crews for the better part of a decade. Less than a year before Maxxam’s attempted merger, after an ill-fated exchange with one of his superiors, he complained to John Campbell, hoping to invoke his family name. Instead, Campbell fired him and Murphy earned the dubious honor of being the first member of his family ever to be fired from the dynasty. [464] In spite of this, he continued to hold one percent of P-L’s stock and remained fiercely loyal to the company, even though he started his own gyppo firm, Woody Murphy Logging and Construction in Field’s Landing north of Rio Dell. “You take (PL) away from me and it’s like taking a vital organ out of me,” he declared in response to Maxxam’s threat. [465]

Woody decided to act, and he called upon another long time scion of Scotia and childhood friend, William Bertain. Bertain was the youngest of ten children of the last man to own the town laundromat that bore his family name. He was also something of a contradiction. Like Murphy, he had grown up in Scotia, but had chosen a career in law, originally attempting to practice in San Francisco, but having returned to Humboldt County after feeling like a fish out of water in a corporate office. He was a staunch and fairly conservative Republican, similar in temperament to Barry Goldwater or Ronald Reagan, and yet he had a reputation for fighting for the underdog, and he was personally horrified by the possibility of an outsider from Texas using Wall Street money to destroy his childhood home. He had successfully fought against the location of a sewage plant on Humboldt Bay, but he was hardly “anti-business”, having helped Woody get his own startup on proper legal footing the previous year. Bertain was not a specialist in securities law and informed his client that he needed to research their options before taking action. Woody requested that his younger brother, Warren, be included in any legal action they took, but Bertain disabused of the notion explaining that his younger brother was in an even more difficult position than himself. [466]

* * * * *

Indeed, he was. Warren Murphy had also traveled the path dictated by his father. He looked and acted the part of a corporate executive, however, and had been appointed P-L’s manager of lumber operations a few months before Hurwitz’s initial foray. Like his brother, he too owned one percent of the company’s stock. [467] If his brother wasn’t appointed P-L president, Warren almost assuredly eventually would be—unless Hurwitz had his way. [468] Warren worked very closely with John Campbell, his immediate supervisor, who had also been a longtime friend. In Warren’s mind, if he was “Michael Corleone”, and his older brother, “Sonny”, then Campbell would almost assuredly be “Tom Hagen”, the family “consigliere”, and in general, the ambitious executive ostensibly played the part. Warren had gained limited bits of information from his mother, but her understanding of the complex and byzantine drama that was unfolding was limited at best. His instinct told him to charge into battle, but he held back until various potential “White Knights”—potential alternate suitors who could potentially outbid Hurwitz—courted by the board of directors began showing up. At this point, the younger Murphy decided to act and contacted Elam and Hoover by phone, in a conference call that that was witnessed by John Campbell. [469] Elam instructed Murphy, “in no uncertain terms,” to stay out of the way. [470] At this point, Campbell suggested to Murphy that the fate of the company was in the hands of the directors. Murphy, still thinking that the executive was a trustworthy ally, believed him. [471]

* * * * *

The P-L board of directors, including Gene Elam, had indeed initially appeared steadfastly opposed to Maxxam’s advances. Pacific Lumber had shielded itself, or so they thought, from hostile takeovers in 1981 by adopting several limiting provisions, including staggered terms for directors and a requirement that the board consider “all relevant factors, including social, legal, environmental, and economic effects” when faced with a merger proposal or tender offer. [472] On October 9, they not only rejected Hurwitz’s offer, they filed a lawsuit against Maxxam, charging that Hurwitz was “a notorious takeover artist…(whose) background demonstrates a conspicuous absence of integrity, competence, and fitness necessary to control or manage (a firm such as Pacific Lumber).” [473] They also charged that Maxxam’s offer of $38.50 per share was “inadequate”, and they could cite as proof the opinions of several respected financial analysts. For example, Christopher Charles of Wolf Hansen & Co. estimated that P-L could sell in the high 40s. [474] Then they contacted a number of “white knights”. Speaking for his fellow directors, Elam declared,

“The board was unanimous in rejecting this inadequate bid by the Maxxam interests and is determined not to allow the great company to be acquired at in inadequate price…It seems inconceivable to me that a company and its stockholders can be subjected to a disruptive and possibly (fraudulent) tender offer where the financing is not secured and there’s no assurance that the money will ever be there.” [475]

Reaction among the Pacific Lumber workers and townsfolk of Scotia was apprehensive, but optimistic. P-L had stood for over a century and—in their minds at least—the company was about as untouchable as one of its old growth redwoods. In the words of San Francisco Examiner reporter David Abramson:

“Far removed from the acoustically padded boardroom, where the company’s executives would wage their battle with the silent thrust and parry of weighty documents and legal precedents, the workers in Scotia were filled with confidence. ‘We’re going to win this battle,’ Mel Berti the butcher winked to all his customers. After all, most Scotians reasoned, Pacific Lumber had been through three major fires, two thunderous earthquakes, and floods that washed away a dancehall and most of their timber, and that hadn’t stopped them. Even the Great Depression only put a dent in the production line. ‘That first bid’s a joke,’ Randy Jeffers told his buddies on the road crew. ‘Pacific Lumber’s worth a whole lot more than that. Anyway, no one’s going to pop our bubble.’” [476]

In truth, however Elam had, at best, been saber rattling, because the Pacific Lumber board of directors was far more pragmatic than their loud proclamations would suggest at first blush. The lawsuit had been the first in a three prong strategy which also included protection of the company’s cash reserves (including the $50 million pension fund and surplus) in case the takeover succeeded in spite of their efforts, and—unbeknownst to the shareholders, workers, and their families—a “dignified” surrender. Elam had mobilized an army of advisors including Robert Hoover, the chairman of the board of Pacific Lumber, the prestigious law firm of Watchell, Lipton, Rosen, and Katz, and the investment bankers Saloman Brothers. Strangely, however, Roger Miller, representing the latter advised Elam that unless the board could secure a better tender offer, the majority of the shareholders would vote to sell out to Maxxam anyway. Should the board choose to fight the takeover, the stock prices would likely soon return to their initial price of $29 per share, which left the board open to shareholder lawsuits for not maximizing the value of their stock. One did not acquire the keys to the P-L kingdom without a shrewd—and sometimes dispassionate—business sense. [477] Hurwitz may have been reviled, even among his fellow capitalists, but he had done his homework. He knew that according to Pacific Lumber’s charter, the company was required to remain responsible not just to its finances but to the shareholders, employees, and its communities. [478] He countersued the P-L executives for trying to block his offer, charging that “the executives had breached their fiduciary duties by guaranteeing themselves a share of an estimated $60 million in surplus assets in the company retirement fund.” [479]

As a hedger, if Hurwitz couldn’t persuade the Pacific Lumber directors to go along with the plan, there were others who easily could. Roger Miller had warned Elam and Hoover to place little faith in the anti-merger protections that supposedly bulwarked the company from a takeover, stating that their legal standing was at best dubious. However this was only part of the story. [480] As it turned out Saloman Brothers were as motivated by greed as anyone and they had held several meetings with DBL through intermediaries and though both groups stood to gain whether the merger took place or not, according to their respective retainer agreements, both ultimately stood to gain more if the merger went through. The two groups had met prior to the tender offer and when it seemed the sale might be in danger of failing, they met again, privately, to strategize on how to make it succeed. After having devised their strategy, each met with their retainers. [481] Then, on Monday, October 21, Hurwitz and his DBL advisors met privately with Elam and his Saloman Brothers team. The Maxxam CEO increased his purchase offer to $39.30, and then again to $39.50. Elam refused both overtures, at which point Maxxam’s representatives prepared to leave and continue their hostile takeover attempts through other means, including further lawsuits if necessary. [482]

Hurwitz had one further ace up his sleeve in the person of P-L director Michael Coyne. Coyne had been brought into the Pacific Lumber fold and made a major shareholder when the company had acquired his welding and cutting business. Coyne was not a Hurwitz ally, but he stood to gain far more if the sale went through. He also broadcast his emotions quite openly and Hurwitz, being sly and cunning, was able to read him like an open book. Sensing that Elam as about to blink, the Maxxam CEO used a third party banker who knew Coyne personally to convince the latter to nudge Elam for one more round of negotiations. [483] The P-L president agreed, and Hurwitz upped his offer one last time to $40. The next day, Elam convened a meeting of the board of directors and presented the latest offer, and Miller once again counseled that $40 per share was the best likely offer they would receive. This time, the board took his advice. [484]

On Wednesday, October 23, 1985, the P-L directors announced that they had agreed to a merger with Maxxam. [485] In addition to the sale price, the board agreed to drop all litigation against Maxxam, stop pursuing any higher purchase offers, and to relinquish its hold on the pension fund. In turn, Hurwitz agreed to retain the current management, have Gene Elam be appointed to the new board of directors, and to maintain all existing employee benefits and compensation, but only for three years. [486] Hurwitz also agreed to defend the P-L board if the shareholders charged it with breaching their fiduciary duties. Officially this made the would-be hostile takeover into a friendly one. [487] In less than a month, Huwritz had managed to quite literally steal Pacific Lumber, a company worth $1.5 billion, for a mere $834 million. [488]

* * * * *

For the people of Scotia, the Pacific Lumber workers, their town, their houses, their entire existence for three generations, had just been sold out from under them. One anonymous P-L stockholder summed up the feelings of many by saying, “The company has been raided from the outside by a previously unknown corporate raider, and I’m under the distinct impression that some employees and large stockholders feel they have been raped thoroughly—but legally”. [489] Company foreman distributed bulletins announcing the merger. Long time employee, 49-year-old Fred Elliot recalled, “It felt like someone had died.” [490] Several Scotia residents and Pacific Lumber workers expressed their anger and dismay to reporters anonymously, in fear that they would be the first to go when the inevitable restructuring began. “Just last week they vowed to fight the takeover and even had a lawsuit against Maxxam …Why the sudden turnaround?” asked one. “I feel we’ve been sold down the tubes…and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it but wait and see what happens,” exclaimed another. [491]

Many of the employees were convinced that the Pacific Lumber board of directors had stabbed them in the back, all for the sake of lining their own pockets. To begin with, there were 34 executives, including Elam, who had stipulations in their personal contracts guaranteeing them “golden parachutes” of at least $100,000 each should the company be acquired in a merger. [492] Elam rebutted these accusations arguing that that the P-L directors had added the severance provision the previous year, well before Hurwitz had bought a single share of the company, precisely as a bulwark against a hostile takeover, because the six key administrators would be “expected to put up a bloody fight.” [493] However what he hadn’t revealed is that Hurwitz had agreed to increase these amounts in exchange for the directors’ silence.

Director Michael Coyne, had publically declared that Maxxam’s offer of $40 per share was the best the company had received, and he indicated that the board’s vote had been unanimous. [494] However, Coyne had personally benefitted from the sale, and he had not been a part of the extended Murphy “family” for very long. [495] Grover Wickersham, a San Francisco securities attorney and P-L shareholder of 20 years, disagreed with Coyne stating, “I think the board’s decision…was totally inconsistent with everything they have said previously to the shareholders. The course of action with the highest integrity would have been to present this action to the shareholders.” [496] Furthermore, Suzanne Murphy-Beaver contradicted Coyne declaring, “This was like duck soup (to Hurwitz). We all felt rushed but we (also) felt we had to be fair to the shareholders. Nobody on the board was in favor of this merger.” [497] Apparently many residents of Scotia agreed, and reportedly hung both Charles Hurwitz and Gene Elam in effigy outside one of the main buildings in Scotia. [498]

There were a few members of P-L’s extended family who apparently approved the change. For example, Stanley Parker, the former traffic manager at the company’s Scotia mill, and self appointed company historian, opined:

“I’m convinced company officials made a strong effort to find another buyer who would retain the company’s programs of looking to the future. They probably failed because there isn’t as much value in the company’s standing timber as you might think…I’m unhappy that the old management, many of which I’ve known personally for several years, is going. I have some company stock and I stand to make some money out of this, but I really don’t want to.” [499]

Parker’s assessment of the apparent decline in standing timber was based on old information however, because a visual cruise had not been conducted of the company’s complete holdings since 1956. [500] In his ill fated attempt to convince the old regime to embrace clearcutting, Robert Stephens had estimated P-L’s standing timber inventory to be approximately 5.2 bbf, and though this estimation was later dismissed as a poor assessment, it was more likely to have been a deliberate fabrication by Stephens and Campbell [501], even though it was accepted most as truthful. [502] Hurwitz himself had apparently suspected that Stephens’s figures had been off, because he had arranged for “surreptitious” flyovers through DBL, and quite possibly assessed that P-L had more standing timber than believed [503], a fact which was verified by an up-to-date timber cruise performed by the timber consulting firm Hammond, Jansen & Walling just after the takeover. [504]

Perhaps no one was more stunned by the announcement than Warren Murphy, and though he felt betrayed by the board, including his mother, this was but the beginning of the tragedy for him. He immediately sought out his friend John Campbell and expected his boss, the man who currently occupied the very office once used by his father and grandfather to join his fight; he could not have been more wrong. No sooner had the words left Warren’s mouth than Campbell took the wind out of his sails and informed him that since the board had made its decision, the matter was settled, and just to be clear, his supervisor repeated himself. This was effectively the end of their friendship, but if the younger Murphy had known the full truth, he would perhaps have been no less devastated. [505] Just weeks before Hurwitz had made himself known, William Bertain, of all people, had inadvertently clued Campbell in to the odd market fluctuations affecting P-L’s stock during a “Ducks Unlimited” benefit in Scotia. Privately sensing that new ownership might give him the opportunity he sought to increase P-L’s lumber harvesting, Campbell, (like Elam, Hoover, and Coyne) prepared to hedge his bets. [506]

Knowing that they faced an uphill battle, both Woody and Warren Murphy laid out their own strategy. Although he was no longer an employee, Woody Murphy was well liked by long time Pacific Lumber workers and their family members, and they looked to him for leadership. After several discussions the two brothers and their sister, Suzanne Murphy-Civian, retaining Bill Bertain as their counsel [507], filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, October 30, in San Francisco federal court charging that Hurwitz’s offer of $40 per share was less than the company’s long term worth. [508] Murphy-Civian declared, “To pay for the acquisition of Pacific Lumber, (Maxxam) will have to abandon the company’s historic sustained-yield policy and strip one of the world’s largest privately held stands of virgin redwoods.” Warren Murphy added, that the increased cutting rate likely to occur under the new regime would also cause timber prices on the North Coast to drop. [509] The three collectively owned three percent of P-L’s stock, and refused to sell their shares to Maxxam, [510] Woody Murphy justified the suit arguing that he and his fellow shareholders, who included no small percentage of the company’s employees, had been misled. “The stockholders are getting stampeded into a deal they aren’t fully aware of. The 80 percent rule was set up to prevent just what is happening—a hostile takeover,” he declared. [511]

Gene Elam, on the other hand—who had publically denounced Hurwitz one month previously—now sang a different tune, claiming that the deal was a good one for the P-L stockholders. He also dismissed the lawsuits as being groundless reminding everyone that the board, including Suzanne Beaver, the mother of the three Murphys, had voted unanimously to approve the sale. “It was a unanimous vote of all ten members—I was there…No one’s pointing that out, are they?” [512] Woody Murphy accused Elam of betrayal, suggesting that the reason for the latter’s turnaround was motivated purely by the aforementioned severance packages should Hurwitz dissolve the current board. Even though Hurwitz claimed he would not do this, his past practice suggested that the financier could not be trusted. Either way, Elam couldn’t deny that he had nothing to lose by throwing in his lot with the new regime. “His severance agreement is more than $193,000. He has a golden parachute, and it’s hard for him to be very objective in this kind of deal. He’s bought,” accused Woody Murphy angrily. [513]

Elam argued that Maxxam’s takeover would actually be a boon, declaring, “We don’t think employees have any reason to worry about their jobs. In order to service the (buyout) debt, there’s going to be more work, not less.” In the same instance, however, he uttered essentially contradictory statements saying, “In my opinion, it would be foolish for him to make changes in the present policies towards (P-L’s conservative cutting practices and paternalistic employee benefits). I’m counting on the fact and listen to what we have to say.” Elam offered no explanation on how Hurwitz was going to accomplish that in light of his increased cutting likely to be required in his debt servicing efforts. An anonymous fellow P-L director contradicted him, however, commenting, “Those [Maxxam] guys are going to go in and haul down all that redwood timber in about 10 minutes.” [514] Woody Murphy went a step further declaring, that given Hurwitz’s past dealings, he would likely not only destroy P-L, but the entire North Coast economy as well:

“The more timber you put on the market, the less valuable it becomes. It’ll hurt every mill on the coast…Hurwitz can guarantee that things will be great for three years and then, when he can’t service his debt, he can sell all (of the company’s) assets, close the mills, and leave with the money in his pocket. He’s not responsible to anyone but himself. We need someone who cares about the people in this area.” [515]

Elam responded, “Woody Murphy is incorrect on a lot of things.” [516] While that statement may have been true in a broad sense, it was not in this particular case. In Hurwitz’s 41 page document describing the specifics of his tender offer, which had yet to be made public, on page 18 there was clearly written proof that he considered at least doubling P-L’s lumber harvesting and selling off many of its assets, just as Woody Murphy had suggested. [517]

Elam, not content with merely defending his position, then tried to paint the Murphys and Bertain as malcontents. He declared that he had spoken with over 600 P-L employees during that week alone, and that in his estimation, he left them convinced that the sale was a positive development. [518] Murphy disagreed, stating, “I’ve had 15 to 20 calls a day and no one wants this. People feel they’ve been sold out. I got about a dozen calls just last night from people telling me they’re behind our suit 100 percent.” [519] Another unnamed employee, a company forester, confirmed this saying, “It’s a masterpiece of understatement to say we’re concerned. The things (Elam and the board) have done don’t really reassure anybody.” [520] As if to blunt any accusations that the Murphys were engaging in a coup, Woody disclosed that each of them stood to make at least $8 million on the sale of their approximately 600,000 shares apiece. Woody Murphy put it succinctly, “The money is a burdensome thing. I would have liked to keep the company going like it has for 117 years.” [521] The Murphy’s had been raised with the idea that Pacific Lumber was the proverbial “goose that lays the golden eggs,” and they were not about to participate in killing it.

* * * * *

None of these trivial matters concerned Charles Hurwitz, though. He was used to legal battles, as he had spent a good deal of his adult life involved in them. Very often he had the help of sympathetic, often arch-conservative judges. In the case of Pacific Lumber, none was more helpful to Charles Hurwitz than San Francisco Federal Court Justice William Schwarzer, an appointee of Hurwitz’a political ally, Gerald Ford. Time and again, he would issue decisions in favor of Maxxam. [522] Late on Friday, November 1, 1985, Schwarzer made his initial ruling in what would become an epic legal struggle. He dismissed the Murphy-Civiane lawsuit blocking the sale of the company to Maxxam and Hurwitz outright. [523] When the Murphys’ legal team requested access to DBL’s financial records, a standard discovery procedure in similar legal proceedings, Schwarzer refused. “You could have knocked us over with a feather,” recalled Woody Murphy ruefully. It was apparent that the judge had a bias. [524] Bertain would prove to be a tenacious opponent however, and appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco within a week. [525]

At least one motivation of the Murphy lawsuit was to delay the sale of the company, and though the Murphys had experienced a setback, they were not the only aggrieved parties sharing that desire. There were at least two other lawsuits by different groups of shareholders still pending that were very similar in nature to the one filed by the Murphys. [526] Woody Murphy and his siblings could take solace in the fact that the other lawsuits were still hindering Hurwitz’s ability to raise the money to complete the purchase, which he was required to do by November 8. [527] Eureka attorney Clayton R Janssen filed a suit on behalf of shareholders Fred W. Slack, Janice Slack, and Marjorie Bussman alleging that the P-L board of directors had failed in its responsibility to consider the social, environmental, and economic impacts on the employees and the affected communities before accepting Hurwitz’s offer in violation of Article 10 of P-L’s Articles of Incorporation. [528]

That suit was joined by a third. Gene Elam had claimed that the board had attempted communication with 100 potential “white knights”, but apparently none had expressed interest in buying Pacific Lumber. [529] However, in a third lawsuit opposing the merger, plaintiffs charged Elam and his fellow directors with engaging in collusion with Maxxam arguing that, “Prior to the agreement, there was a tender offer made by a local company for $911 million ($42 per share), and Elam threw him out of the office. He wouldn’t even talk to him.” The P-L executive responded by claiming that the other buyer “didn’t want the liabilities,” which when deducted from the offer reduced the potential purchase price to between $35 and $36 per share. [530] San Francisco lawyer David Gold and Arcata attorney John Stokes filed the class action lawsuit on behalf of P-L stockholders William Fries and John Lippert calling for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the merger in Humboldt County Superior Court. [531] Gold’s and Stokes’ arguments echoed those of Janssen’s, noting the board of directors’ initial rejection of Maxxam’s purchase offer followed by their sudden about face two weeks later. They also noted the irregularities in the initial stock purchases in which Ivan Boesky. Gold and Stokes also alleged that the directors had fast-tracked an increase in the severance packages of the aforementioned 34 executives in response to Hurwitz offer thus explaining their sudden reversal. [532]

Superior Court Justice John E. Buffington, in contrast with Schwarzer, did find merit in Gold’s and Stokes’ arguments and ruled in favor of the shareholders, issuing a TRO halting the sale until a preliminary hearing set for November 25. It also barred Maxxam from acquiring any additional stock until then. In his legal opinion, Buffington declared, “There is no denial of the fact the takeover company and the board reached certain agreements during negotiations and that there was a significant change in security benefits. In my opinion, the circumstances surrounding these changes and agreements need to be brought out.” Gene Elam seemed unimpressed with the ruling, however, declaring:

“I have the utmost confidence the board’s action will be found to be consistent with the high standards of integrity for which the Pacific Lumber Company has always been known. The board, when faced with a hostile takeover did everything it could to provide the most value possible to its shareholders and to protect the interests of all its employees. The charges against the board are without any merit whatsoever.” [533]

As was to be expected, Maxxam planned to appeal the ruling. [534] Woody Murphy, representing his two siblings as well as himself was elated, stating:

“I’m very pleased the court saw fit to issue a restraining order. I feel it’s a first step in saving Pacific Lumber from Maxxam…We’ve got a good chance, but we’re in the 12th hour and we need to get hold of the other stockholders and let them know there’s a group that’s trying to stop this takeover. I don’t care if they’ve got a million shares or only one…I want to talk to them.” [535]

The Murphys decided to use the added time to attempt a leveraged buyout of their own. Meanwhile, other opponents of the Maxxam takeover organized adjacent campaigns.

* * * * *

The resistance to Maxxam was joined on yet another, rather unexpected front. Many of the rank and file workers at Pacific Lumber—the one major timber company in northwestern California that had never recognized a union—were so fearful of losing their jobs, they sought help from the IWA. IWA Local #3-98 business agent Tim Skaggs publically revealed that the union had been meeting with several rank and filers in an unofficial capacity in order to determine the potential viability of an organizing campaign, in response to phone calls for help from several of the workers. The workers who sought union representation evidently hoped that presence of a legally recognized union bargaining unit might induce either Maxxam or the P-L board to back out of the sale, or at very least limit Maxxam’s ability to downsize the workforce. In the event that the latter did, a union contract could at least require that layoffs be conducted in order of seniority. Noting that P-L had been union free for much of its history, Skaggs urged potentially hesitant workers to consider that they were living in a whole new reality:

“The employees have to understand they can’t deal with management as individuals anymore, particularly if they find themselves with an owner who lives thousands of miles away and doesn’t know the lumber business. They’re going to have to deal with the company as a group with some power.” [536]

Maxxam responded with full page paid advertisements in various local publications, signed by Charles Hurwitz himself, addressed, “To the employees of the Pacific Lumber Company,” Stating:

“We were attracted to invest our money in Pacific Lumber largely because of its people and its tradition, history, and values. Each of you is very much a part of the great company that Pacific Lumber has become over the years. Your dedication and hard work have made it a fine company of which you should be very proud. I respect you for your efforts and I want you to know that I believe you are essential to Pacific Lumber’s continued success in the coming years. In fact, I believe that together we can make Pacific Lumber an even stronger company—serving the interests of its employees, customers, and communities.

“We want you to understand that we are committed to running Pacific Lumber as an operating company—now and in the future. We have a significant interest in your Company’s (sic) long term growth and development and we expect to be part of it for many, many years to come. We recognize your importance to our mutual success, and we have therefore taken steps to assure continuity for you and for the Company. We have agreed to continue all of the employee benefits and programs, as requested by your board of Directors…

“Your Board of Directors has unanimously approved our proposal.” [537]

This only angered the workers further. Pacific Lumber shipping clerk John Maurer of Carlotta, a ten year employee and fifteen year Humboldt County resident, who had served in Vietnam and later enrolled at College of the Redwoods in Eureka, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics before signing on at the company, led this charge. After reading Hurwitz’s statement, he contacted Warren Murphy and informed the latter that he and his fellow workers wanted to help fight the takeover. Murphy, who realized that he couldn’t legally participate in any efforts to discredit Hurwitz due to his and his sibling’s efforts to engage in a leveraged buyout referred Maurer to Bill Bertain. The attorney advised Maurer to organize a petition drive to be published in the form of a protest letter as a paid advertisement in the local press. Maurer along with several others, including P-L millworker Charles “Kelly” Bettiga, blacksmith Clarence “Pete” Kayes, and monorail mechanic Lester Reynolds began circulating the petition at work on the morning of Friday, November 15.

As luck would have it, John Campbell was out of town, meeting with Elam in San Francisco, but he got word of the revolt through the word of an informant who contacted him. When the vice president heard of the efforts he immediately sent word to the frontline supervisors and foremen to shut it down. Some of the foremen responded instantly, but others—sympathetic to the petition—dragged their feet. Campbell then chartered a flight back to Humboldt County to quash the budding revolt, but it was already too late. By 11 AM, as many as 340 P-L workers, a whopping 40 percent of the company’s Humboldt County employees had signed the protest letter and very likely that number would have been larger had Maurer and his allies managed to expand their efforts beyond Scotia. Even as it was, the effort was unprecedented for the Pacific Lumber employees who had not participated in an employee revolt since 1946. [538] The ad, which ran on November 17, 1985, read:

“Some people are comfortable with the efforts of Charles Hurwitz and his Maxxam group to establish ownership of the Pacific Lumber Company. Most of us certainly are not! We, the employees who have signed this, do not feel that this impending takeover would be in the best interest of ourselves, the shareholders, and the communities in which our company serves. Most of us are the hardworking individuals who feel that PALCO was an honorable, well-serving company, with a heritage that we could be proud of—not only a secure place to work, but one which dealt conscientiously with the preservation and proper management of our vital resources: our people and the redwoods.

“In all earnestness, we do not feel that a company of real estate investors from the east coast can manage resources such as ours with the consideration that has been shown all these years by the Murphy Family. We wish to protect the integrity of our company, which has served our community so well…It is our sincere belief that if the company’s leadership were back in the hands of the Murphy Family, the company’s business, our environment, and the communities in which we all live will continue to prosper…” [539]

* * * * *


Still others joined the fight. The resistance to Maxxam’s takeover also drew the support of environmentalists. The Humboldt Greens expressed their support for the stunned P-L workers and shareholders. A meeting held in Garberville, on October 28, 1985 drew organizers from Fortuna to Briceland. Those attending unanimously rejected the takeover and called to a return to the original ownership. They pledged to ally themselves with the efforts of the P-L stockholders to block the takeover as well as the workers and townspeople. [540] Tim McKay of the Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC) in Arcata stated,

“There is a lot of apprehension here. They (were) the most stable lumber company in our region and they are about to go into liquidation-of-assets mode. It may be the last boom in the boom-and-bust history of Humboldt County. That Maxxam would do this was evident in their takeover offer. They would need funds ‘substantially in excess’ of Pacific Lumber’s then-current profits to pay off the purchase debt, and were thus ‘considering selling P-L’s cutting and welding subsidiary and increasing the company’s annual lumber production.’” [541]

On November 9, 1985, the NEC joined in the legal fight against Maxxam, petitioning the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to withhold any action on the takeover until Maxxam completed an environmental impact statement (EIS) as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. “Such a major shift in policy from P-L’s tradition of sustained-yield forestry could lead to increased sedimentation in the Eel River and more economic troubles for a region already suffering from high unemployment,” declared McKay. [542]

Even local business interests worried about the potential economic troubles that might result from the Maxxam takeover. Henry Smith & Co. analyst Alan Tate pointed out that even simply boosting the lumber output might be insufficient to answer all of Maxxam’s debt obligations, and further echoed the concerns about depressing the local market with a glut of lumber. Added to that, the loss of support from increasingly vocal environmentalists could further hurt the company’s economic standing. [543] Kent Driesbock, director of the Eureka Economic Development Corporation admonished the Humboldt County business community to take steps to mitigate the impact of the potential changes that might result from the merger, including especially the diversification of the local economy—no easy task in a county that was still very heavily dependent upon timber. He also warned it would take time to absorb the impact of displaced workers. The county had already endured several layoffs, as well as the union busting labor dispute at Louisiana Pacific, and conditions at Simpson Timber were not appreciably better. [544]

The public at large was also largely vocal on the merger, and expressed their opinions in the editorial pages of the local press. Without exception every letter opposed the Maxxam takeover. The most articulate example was penned by David Simpson, speaking on behalf of the students and faculty at Petrolia High School. [545] Many, such as Bill Barton [546] and F Carmichael [547], feared that Hurwitz would engage in slash and burn logging in stark contrast with the old Pacific Lumber’s sustainable forestry practices. Scotia resident Carol J. Fielder, whose husband had been an employee of P-L editorialized in favor of the Murphys and against Hurwitz. [548]

Even the local press itself was divided on the merger. Naturally the environmental publications opposed it. By contrast, the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, whose political orientation was staunchly right wing, editorialized in favor of the sale opining, “If not Maxxam, somebody else. That’s what many say. It is obvious that in 1985, the Pacific Lumber Company has become ripe for sale, merger, or a merged-sale…Change is often painful, but necessary, for progress.” [549] Bruce Lang, news director at KIEM-TV in Eureka had a more neutral take, declaring, “Some people are worried, but some sort of like it. Pacific Lumber has been sort of a deity up here. Now, it will be down there with the rest of us.” [550] The Eureka Times-Standard, on the other hand, in spite of its conservative political orientation editorialized against the takeover declaring:

“We’ve got trouble. Right here in timber city. With a capital ‘T’, and that rhymes with ‘P’, and that stands for power play…

“(Maxxam’s) ‘quick profit’ policy can play unhealthy dividends to a community which has thrived on the timber industry for over a hundred years…

“Those who own P-L stock should think twice before selling off their shares…” [551]

As the dissent grew, the battle to thwart Hurwitz and Maxxam continued. On November 8, 1985, Suzanne Beaver resigned from the Pacific Lumber board of directors in order to join her children in their fight. “She realized (that) she was in an awkward position in this whole affair. She wanted to be on our side, but she couldn’t do that if she stayed on the board,” declared Warren Murphy. [552]

The revolt seemed to be gaining momentum, until, on November 12, Maxxam representatives revealed that Hurwitz had purchased 13 million shares of P-L’s common stock, approximately 60 percent of the total, prior to Buffington’s restraining order, thus giving Hurwitz a total of almost 65 percent overall. The corporate raider announced that he was prepared to purchase the remainder of the common stock if the appeal was lifted; Hurwitz needed 80 percent in order to complete his takeover. [553] However a three judge panel of the First District Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied requests by both Maxxam and the P-L board of directors to overturn the TRO. Gold, Stokes, and Bob Janssen (who was still representing Slack, Slack, and Bussman) were elated. [554]

Their triumph was short lived, however, because two days later, Maxxam filed a countersuit in the San Francisco Court of appeals charging that Buffington’s court lacked jurisdiction on the matter. The suit named judge Buffington and the two stockholders, Fries and Lippert, whose suit brought about the TRO as defendants. [555] The following week, Judge William Schwarzer again dashed the hopes of Maxxam’s adversaries, finding in favor of Hurwitz’s challenge to Buffington’s jurisdiction. [556] Gold and Slack appealed the decision, but the 9th Circuit Court affirmed Schwarzer’s ruling, though the court also allowed the appellants to appeal the decision again, which they did to the US Supreme Court. [557] The defendants seemed confident that the courts would eventually brush aside the legal challenges against them. Seemingly unconcerned with the unpredictable outcome of the legal battle, the P-L board of directors proceeded with plans to construct a 25 megawatt cogeneration plant in Scotia. P-L public affairs manager David Galitz signaled his support for the new regime, declaring that Hurwitz supported the construction of the facility, as indicative of the corporate raider’s intentions not to sell off P-L’s assets. [558] Those with more to lose, however, were taking no chances.

The fight over the body and soul of Pacific Lumber reached the desk of Supreme Court Justice William Renquist on November 25, 1985. The justice, temporarily at least, put the brakes on the merger by granting an extension for both sides to submit arguments on Judge Schwarzer’s decision within 48 hours. [559] While this was happening, another group of shareholders, led by The Murphys and Bertain filed still one more lawsuit, this time in Maine where Pacific Lumber had been originally chartered, alleging breach of trust on the part of the current P-L board of directors, under Section 910 of that state’s Corporation Law. The suit demanded that the shares that already been sold to Hurwitz be placed in trust pending the outcome of this new legal challenge. [560] Hurwitz’s sale offer was set to expire on November 30, but Renquist’s ruling cast doubt on the legal status of that deadline. [561] On November 27, Judge Buffington extended the TRO until December 9 to give Renquist more time to make a decision. [562] However, the Supreme Court Justice didn’t need it. On November 29, he ruled in favor of Maxxam. [563] Meanwhile, Maxxam reported substantially lower earnings for the third quarter of 1985, dropping from $15.9 million, or $1.29 per share for the first three quarters of 1984 to $908,000, or $0.08 per share. The revelations further raised fears by critics of the takeover that Hurwitz would accelerate logging and sell off some of P-L’s assets to service his debt. [564]

Bertain had not limited his tactics to lawsuits. He also attempted to outflank Maxxam by contacting as many political representatives and lawmakers who served the political jurisdictions—whether local, state, or federal—in which Pacific Lumber operated. At first this seemed to work. At the attorney’s urging, a quartet of mayors of local communities, including Craige McKnight of Rio Dell, Fred J. Moore Jr of Eureka, Julie Fulkerson of Arcata, and Michael Allen of Fortuna, issued an open letter opposing the sale. In the letter, the four declared:

“P-L’s dedication to sustained yield harvest has made it a pioneer in the prudent management of the North Coast’s greatest resource, the renewable resource of trees. Pacific Lumber’s practice of sustaining the forest predated, in fact, was the foundation for modern, environmentally sound forest management.

“As the North Coast environment nurtures us all, so P-L has nurtured the North Coast environment. The prospect of a fundamental change in the Pacific Lumber Company concerns us.” [565]

California State Assemblyman Dan Hauser, a Democrat whose district included Humboldt County and home office was located in Arcata, also issued a strongly worded statement in the form of a letter to Hurwitz warning against altering the existing P-L company practices by the new regime, including anything that might put the employees’ jobs at risk or glut the timber market with old growth redwood. Hauser, who chaired the Assembly Subcommittee on Timber, warned Hurwitz that the panel would be “scrutinizing Maxxam’s policies toward the land base and the employees you inherit.” [566] Likewise, Democratic Representative Doug Bosco, whose congressional district included most of the northwest California coast made similar proclamations, saying that, “He was prepared to take whatever steps are necessary” to prevent Maxxam from liquidating P-L’s assets, including stricter forestry regulations. [567] However, even this was not to be. After a meeting in New York with Hurwitz, Bosco changed his mind and began dismissing the campaign against the takeover as nothing more than “east coast hype”. [568] The other lawmakers eventually caved in as well.

At this point, Hurwitz openly declared victory, even though there were some that refused to give up. The first week in December, officials of the Maxxam Group declared that it had officially mailed payments for the 60 percent of the shares it had pledged to buy from the willing stockholders. This announcement was revealed in a letter written by Pacific Lumber executive vice president, John Campbell, and sent to the company’s employees, in which he also admonished them to reject IWA Local 3-98’s unionization overtures. [569] Campbell’s letter was not well received, and by this time much of Scotia, including most of the workers, were giving him the cold shoulder. Before Maxxam’s appearance, practically everyone in the happy Pacific Lumber kingdom was in good terms socially, even to the point of being on a first name basis. Now things were different, and John Campbell in particular—though he may have been the man in charge of lumber operations in Humboldt County—was a pariah as far as the townsfolk were concerned. None of this seemed to faze him much however, and he devoted his energy to assisting his new master, even to the point of suggesting how Hurwitz might increase lumber production and liquidate assets most effectively. [570]

On December 11, attorney Donald B. Roberts, representing a group of Pacific Lumber employees, including Pete Kayes, John Maurer, and Lester Reynolds filed a lawsuit of their own against the takeover in Humboldt Superior Court. The class action suit named Maxxam, its subsidiaries, Hurwitz, the P-L board of directors, and several John Does as defendants. It charged that the P-L directors were “using their positions of control and dominance…and their knowledge of private corporate information to pursue a scheme…which (would) deprive Pacific Lumber’s employees of substantial benefits to which they would be entitled under the Pacific Lumber retirement plan,” namely the $50 million pension fund. Although not directly connected with the Murphys’ efforts, the latter still seemed buoyed by this new battlefront while regaining hope in their own efforts. [571]

Ostensibly hoping to calm the worker’s fears and quell dissent among their ranks, Hurwitz made a visit to Scotia, accompanied by Gene Elam at John Campbell’s suggestion on December 16. [572] He made a dog and pony show of shaking nearly 800 workers’ hands, smiled, and made a lot of small talk. Hurwitz may have been reclusive, but he was capable of at least seeming affable. [573] The new owner encountered mostly tentative and apprehensive employees, though there were a few who openly expressed skepticism and quiet—though obvious—defiance. Kelly Bettiga, a third generation employee with a reputation for outspokenness, recalls being disgusted with the entire affair, especially Hurwitz’s apparent indifference to the changes he had wrought. [574]

When Hurwitz approached the monorail mechanics’ department, at least one of them with a head for economics wondered how Hurwitz intended to pay for all of the debts he had incurred. As John Campbell and Gene Elam led their new boss to the shipping department, they worried about how their new boss would react to the strong anti Maxxam sentiment displayed there, mostly in the form of graffiti and signs bearing slogans such as “Axe Maxx”, “We’ve been Maxxed”, and “Where’s Uncle Charlie?” Charlie didn’t seemed bothered. Instead, he shook more hands, and then approached John Maurer who was watching from a distance, trying to stomach what he was witnessing. Hurwitz then ran his hands over a sample of P-L’s old growth clear heart redwood about to be shipped out and commented that they sure were good looking stock. “They’re the finest boards anywhere,” responded Maurer professionally, but coldly. [575]

Following the tour, Elam and Campbell led Hurwitz to the Winema Theater where the second companywide meeting since the takeover convened. The three addressed the assembled crowd from on stage. Elam gave a long speech in which he dismissed the claims of those suing the board and Maxxam as baseless—gesturing coldly towards Warren Murphy who sat among the higher executives on the stage, while Murphy bit his tongue and bided his time as best he could. [576] Hurwitz then attempted to reassure everyone that Maxxam was a “builder and not a liquidator” and that they “were long term investors”, statements which would soon become the standard pro-Maxxam party line. [577] He humorously waved off the charges against him by saying that he hoped his mother didn’t hear them (neglecting to mention that she was dead). [578] He then fielded many questions, including the level of control he would exercise over the daily management of Pacific Lumber, to which he responded that he would only intervene “if the profits aren’t there.” [579]

John Campbell answered most production related questions and announced that there would be a modest increase in harvesting levels, perhaps no more than 20 percent, but that the employees would benefit from the overtime. He also claimed that—contrary to claims made by critics—most of the work would still be done in house. When the aforementioned mechanic questioned Hurwitz on how the latter intended to address the costs incurred by the debt, the CEO responded, “cut back on electricity.” Much of this seemed to pacify many of the apprehensive workers and their families, other than Kelly Bettiga who fumed silently, sitting near the front of the audience. [580]

Thinking that he had won over the crowd, Hurwitz uttered a statement, which was quoted in Time Magazine—that bore naked the corporate raider’s hubris for all to see. With a slight chuckle, he declared to the 800-plus employees of Pacific Lumber, “There’s a little story about the Golden Rule—those who have the gold, rule.” [581] Hurwitz would later claim that he had been making a joke. Kelly Bettiga, didn’t think so. Hurwitz essentially had just declared, “greed is good,” as far as the millworker was concerned. He recalled wanting to “stand up and strangle the arrogant son of a bitch,” but instead watched helplessly as almost everybody (other than himself, a handful of other dissidents, and Warren Murphy) laughed ever louder, especially Campbell. [582] However, other equally angered P-L workers did not recall the reaction being as favorable. According to 42 year company veteran Wiley Lacey, “When Hurwitz told the P-L employees (that), he pissed a lot of people off. When you threaten somebody’s pension, there’s a lot of hard feelings.” [583]

* * * * *

Still the Murphy’s soldiered on. Just before the end of the year, Warren and Woody Murphy contacted Hurwitz attempting to convince the latter to sell Pacific Lumber at an unspecified amount exceeding $40 per share. The Maxxam CEO laughed and explained that he “just wasn’t interested.” [584] Meanwhile, the Pacific Lumber board of directors decided that shareholders owning stock as of January 10, 1986 would be eligible to vote on the proposed sale at a stockholders’ meeting in Portland, Maine on February 25, and mailed proxy statements to them. The Murphys’ legal maneuvers in Maine were kicked back to Judge Schwarzer’s court in San Francisco, so they re-filed their suit there on January 25, 1986, seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the shareholder vote on the proposed merger. [585]

Hope seemed elusive for Bertain and the Murphys at this point, primarily because the judges had thus far denied their efforts to engage in discovery which—if allowed—would have revealed evidence of insider trading and collusion, but they had at least two small bits of evidence they could potentially rely upon. First, Bertain had received calls from Ivan Boesky’s office inquiring about the attorney’s legal plans, which was an odd coincidence at least, but pointed to deeper involvement by the speculator in Maxxam’s own dealings. The second was Hurwitz’s takeover plans that had been filed with the SEC. Somehow, an anonymous individual within P-L’s management had smuggled copies of it to Bertain. [586] The attorney leaked the documents to the Eureka Times-Standard, who reported on their contents on December 28. The article reported that Hurwitz’s plans included increased lumber harvesting. As suggested, this was due to the $870 million debt incurred by Maxxam in the takeover. The documents also stated that, “The purchaser may also consider selling portions of the company’s timberlands.” [587]

The flummoxed Maxxam spokesmen moved quickly to quell potential opposition. P-L public relations manager David Galitz argued that since the document was filed during the early stages of the takeover, that Charles Hurwitz “may have changed his mind on some points.” [588] Hurwitz refused to speak to reporters or publically comment, however. [589] John Campbell claimed that the increased harvest had nothing to do with the merger and been in the planning stages for at least two years. This was, of course, a gross distortion of the truth, because the P-L board had refused Campbell’s and Stephens’s proposals just three months earlier. [590]

Campbell also cited “market conditions” as the reasoning behind the increase, citing decreased shipments of top-grade old growth products from other mills in the region. Campbell attributed that to the federal government’s purchase of private old growth forests when Redwood Park expanded in 1978 [591], a contention that had already been proven to be a lie. [592] However, the biggest untruth of all was the citation of “market conditions” at all, because these had never truly been a consideration at the old Pacific Lumber which had bucked the trends for decades before Maxxam appeared “on the horizon.” [593] Emboldened by the revelations, Bertain declared, “we want the court to conduct a full hearing on all the issues surrounding the (merger) proposal).” [594]

On February 12, however, Judge Schwarzer dashed the Murphys’ hopes, as well as all other stockholders hoping to stop Hurwitz a third time, rejecting every claim they had made. In his ruling, Schwarzer declared, “(P-L’s board of directors acted) in the best interest of the shareholders and the corporation. It is abundantly clear (the board) did not rush into the arms of Maxxam…(there is) no evidence whatever (to the contrary).” [595] According to one of Bertain’s assistants, the judge made no efforts to conceal his bias against the plaintiffs:

“We didn’t even get the opportunity to cross examine witnesses, because the judge would not allow a full evidentiary hearing. We simply made our oral arguments. When we were finished, Judge Schwarzer started reading from his ruling, which he had written before we even began.” [596]

The usually good natured Bertain was even more direct, angrily exclaiming to the judge and opposing council, “well I hope you’re happy; you’ve just signed Humboldt County’s death warrant!” [597]

As if to signal that the matter was final, Pacific Lumber officials along with representatives of General Electric held a ceremonial “golden shovel” ceremony kicking off the construction of the new cogeneration plant in Scotia on Thursday, February 20. The ceremony was attended by Gene Elam, P-L power plant manager Rich Sweet, and Humboldt County District 2 supervisor Harold Pritchard, all of whom still insisted that the new plant proved that Maxxam would not upset the balance that the old P-L had maintained for so long. [598]

Even this didn’t put an end to the last minute attempts at a legal miracle. At Bill Bertain’s suggestion, John Maurer and his wife, Laurie, organized a petition to demand that the city of Rio Dell oppose the merger under Article 10 of P-L’s Articles of Incorporation which required the company to solicit information regarding potential merger impacts on cities and other legal entities from the municipalities directly affected by such an event. [599] Rio Dell city attorney Robert Zigler had informed the council of the option but declined to represent the city, leading the latter to retain Eureka attorney Arnie Braafladt, whose legal fees were paid for from donations made by the petitioners. [600] The organizers obtained 150 signatures from the town’s residents in less than 24 hours, and they felt confident that mayor McKnight, who had already been on record as opposing the merger, would support their efforts. Indeed, at the Rio Dell city council meeting on Tuesday, February 18, the city council, led by the mayor agreed to take the matter under advisement and hold a special session two days later to make their decision. [601] Their hopes were short-lived.

The petitioners were the victims of extremely bad timing. Very early on the morning of February 18, a flash flood brought on by a freakish winter rainstorm that blasted Sonoma, Mendocino, and Southern Humboldt counties washed out a bridge that also carried the mains that provided Rio Dell’s fresh water supply. On top of that, a fire erupted in one of the buildings in the battered town’s downtown commercial district. John Campbell arranged for a temporary source of water to be supplied from Scotia and then ordered a battalion of P-L’s water trucks to put out the fire. When Campbell heard of McKnight’s willingness to invoke Article 10 twelve hours later, he threatened to cut off the emergency water rations. Two days later, when Laurel appeared before the Rio Dell City Council meeting on February 20, armed with a petition signed by 150 of the town’s residents, McKnight betrayed the dissidents. After a 30 minute closed door session with city council, the officials refused to take up the matter. [602] McKnight’s official explanation was that the council had three motivating factors: first, there was a very real possibility Maxxam would countersue the city as it had Rancho Mirage; second, Rio Dell had good relations with Pacific Lumber, and third, the potential damage was “strictly theoretical, so far.” [603] This was the last straw. On February 25, 1986, at the shareholders’ meeting, Hurwitz got his supermajority. The deal was done.

* * * * *

Reaction among many of the workers, stockholders, and Scotians was now one of resignation. Long time P-L employee, Idella Kent declared, “I feel as though an era has ended with this merger. People aren’t going to feel that this is home the way they did, or that they can put down roots here.” [604]

Her fellow employee, Randy Jeffers added, “Even people in this town who don’t own a dime of this company feel like they own it. It hurts like hell when someone comes along and tells you that stockholders come first and employees are number two.” [605]

Don Filby who had served as a manager of lumber operations for more than 32 years said, “Over the years there was an obligation to the community and with the change in ownership, that obligation will be lessened.” Another unnamed worker stated, “There has been an underlying change. (Now) there’s a mistrust of the people who are running the company.” [606]

Scotia pastor Stave Frank opined, “In Scotia, you can’t separate the community and the workplace. It’s not just a job here; it’s a way of life, a family. After the takeover, people saw that way of life as being vulnerable. And the question is, will that way of life be maintained over time?” [607]

In some cases, the resignations were literal. Warren Murphy could not stomach serving for the new regime and ended his relationship with the company that his family had literally built. In a last act of betrayal, Campbell told his former friend that he and his family could remain in his residence in Scotia “for as long as he wanted,” but issued an eviction notice the very next day. [608] The Murphy family would have no role in the new management structure. Said the last would be scion of the dynasty that was no more, “My grandfather and my father shared a vision. If you take care of the resources and take care of the people and put out a good product, everything else runs itself. What will be missing now is that whole paternal feeling.” [609] He was to be followed by John Maurer who vowed to continue his fight against Maxxam, but not directly under Hurwitz’s economic thumb. [610]

As predicted by critics of the takeover, many of the directors that had approved the sale benefitted from it. Gene Elam retired from Pacific Lumber, golden parachute and all, earning in excess of $424,863. [611] When asked, the former exec would not comment on the reasons for his resignation. [612] He was replaced by William C. Leon, one of Hurwitz’s lieutenants who served as head of other Maxxam holdings. Vice president, general counsel, and secretary Ed Beck exited with $201,280. Although executive vice presidents Thomas B Malarkey Jr. and John Campbell as well as vice president Vincent C. Garner did not resign, they were guaranteed severances of $243,000, $169,815, and $200,000 respectively should they leave the company within the next two years. [613]

As feared, the purchase of Pacific Lumber had given Hurwitz a substantial debt. His junk bond interest obligations by far exceeded the entire average annual P-L profits. [614] Maxxam began liquidating assets and accelerated timber production, but not by a mere 25 percent. Within a year, lumber harvesting literally doubled, [615] and the increased production overwhelmed the Scotia Mill. To handle the increased old growth lumber production, Pacific Lumber announced, on April 4, 1986, the purchase of an existing mill in Carlotta that Louisiana-Pacific had plans to shutter, laying off 100 nonunion employees. The facility had operated with two eight-hour shifts daily, and was equipped to handle 60 million bf of old growth timber which had been depleted due to recent overcutting on nearby federal lands. P-L promised to interview some of the furloughed workers, but would ultimately hire only a portion of them. [616] P-L planned to open the mill on May 19, 1986 and use it to mill old growth Douglas Fir harvested from the nearby Van Duzen river area, on land purchased from L-P a few years previously ironically enough.

The mill was now expected to handle about 30 million board feet of lumber per year under the new regime. IWA Local 3-469 business agent Don Nelson, speaking on behalf of some of the existing P-L workers who had contacted the union about organizing, relayed fears that the new soon-to-be P-L employees would be paid the same wage as they had been under L-P’s regime, and even suggested that the union was looking to establish a new local in Rio Dell, but P-L employee relations director Steve Hart denied these charges, claiming that any new hires would earn the same wage as all other existing company mill workers, which was higher than the nonunion mill workers at L-P. Pacific Lumber only hired fifty of the workers, however leading further credence to the contention that under Hurwitz’s watch P-L would indeed be the new L-P. [617]

Pacific Lumber did hire new workers, including 25 loggers to work in the woods, but most of them were gyppo operations that already contracted with P-L or other logging concerns. [618] Many of the additional workers that were employed by the company had been recruited from out of state, no doubt to blunt the IWA’s union organizing efforts, which Maxxam opposed as much as the old P-L. [619] Proof of Hurwitz’s antiunion sentiment could be seen in the handling of the building of the new cogeneration plant. It went ahead as planned, using non-union labor from out of the county even though unionized building trades workers were readily available, and General Electric had originally contracted with Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local #471 for its construction. According to union representative Gary Haberman, Maxxam hired a company from the Gulf of Mexico to work on the plant. The labor was brought in mostly from Wyoming. Union organizers checked the power plant parking lot and reportedly 34 out of 46 cars had out-of-state plates. Thus, not only was the work not going to local residents, the State of California wasn’t even getting the vehicle registration fees, thus demonstrating that many of the claims about the merger benefitting the local economy had been empty talk. [620] The IWA Local 3-98 union organizing attempt itself fizzled. John Campbell claimed that the IWA’s efforts had met with resistance from “most workers”, but in all likelihood that statement was also a lie. [621]

As for the workers benefits, which Hurwitz promised to leave untouched for three years, there were no guarantees that these would be extended after the three-year deadline. Hurwitz quickly terminated the annual cost of living increases that were paid out of the $55 million pension surplus, but he remained obligated to provide for the vested pension benefits covering more than 2,600 beneficiaries. To meet this condition, Maxxam signed a $37.3 million contract with Executive Life Insurance Company in early 1986, despite objections by Vincent C. Garner and advice against such actions by independent consultants. Additionally, the Executive Life bid had been received late, after all the other competing bids had been reviewed, and was delivered directly to Maxxam instead of Garner as stipulated in the competitive bid proposal. As it turned out, Executive Life was the primary subsidiary of the First Executive Corporation which was a purchaser of junk bonds used to fund a certain takeover of a certain Humboldt County lumber company, although Executive Life chairman Fred Carr (another Maxxam ally) denied any collusion and claimed no knowledge of the overfunded pension plan at the time. Garner, however was highly suspicious of the selection and took the matter to his superiors only to be shined on. This led to his resignation from P-L as well. Under the Executive Life annuity plan, there were no provisions for the cost of living increases as before, and evidence suggested that the plan was no longer insured. This meant that the P-L retirees as well as vested former and current employees risked losing all of their benefits should Executive Life declare bankruptcy. [622]

Pacific Lumber, which once stood in stark contrast to the robber-baron practices of Georgia Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific, was now under the control of Charles Hurwitz, a man who was virtually indistinguishable in the temperament or business practices of Harry Merlo. But could this have been avoided? In all likelihood the answer is “no”. In a very real sense, the Murphy dynasty had dug its own grave, slowly, shovel by shovel even as it thought it was ensuring its long term stability. Under ideal, storybook conditions in enlightened economic textbooks, the sort of welfare capitalism Pacific Lumber instituted, ironically to thwart the “socialism” of the IWW, left it open to the vampire capitalism of which Hurwitz and Merlo represented the vanguard. P-L public affairs manager David Galitz almost hit the nail on the head when he declared, “It is unfortunate that the myth existed that we were controlled by one working family. Once we were listed on the New York Stock Exchange and bought by pension funds and investment brokers, they became our true owners. Perhaps it’s too bad we didn’t realize that.” [623] In fact, it was the IWW slogan, “Capitalism cannot be reformed” which best described the fatal flaws in the Murphy Dynasty’s paternalistic endeavor, even if it took almost three quarters of a century to prove it. The situation seemed dark indeed, but fortunately, a new dawn was about to break, once again in Humboldt County, the crucible of radicalism in the timber industry.



5. No Compromise in Defense of Mother Earth!

“One man, Charles Hurwitz, is going to destroy the largest remaining block of redwoods out of sheer arrogance. Only we the people can stop him.”

—Dave Foreman, October 22, 1986.[624]

Well I come from a long, long line of tree-fallin’ men,
And this company town was here before my grandpappy settled in,
We kept enough trees a-standin’ so our kids could toe the line,
But now a big corporation come and bought us out, got us working double time…

—lyrics excerpted from Where are We Gonna Work When the Trees are Gone?, by Darryl Cherney, 1986.

On the surface, very little seemed to have changed in Scotia for its more than 800 residents, but deep down, they all knew that the future was very much uncertain. Some seemed unconcerned, such as 18 year Pacific Lumber veteran Ted Hamilton, who declared, “We’re just going on as always,” or his more recently hired coworker, millworker Keith Miller, who had been at the company less than six years and who stated, “It doesn’t bother me much.”[625] Indeed, many of the workers seemed to welcome their newfound financial prosperity. [626] However, there were at least as many workers whose assessments were quite pessimistic, including millworker Ken Hollifield, a 19 year veteran who opined, “I’m sure this place won’t be here in five to seven years.” Former millworker and then-current owner of the Rendezvous Bar in Rio Dell, George Kelley, echoed these sentiments stating, “For 2½ years they’ve got a good thing going. After that they don’t know what’s happening.” Dave Galitz dismissed the naysayers’ concerns as typical fear of change, but careful estimates of the company’s harvesting rates bore out the pessimistic assessments. In the mills and the woods, however, production had increased substantially, to the point that many were working 50 and 60 hours per week. If there was to be any organized dissent, it would be difficult to keep it together, because the workers had little time to spare.[627] There seemed to be little they could do outside of a union campaign, and the IWA had neither been inspiring nor successful in their attempt.

Deep in the woods however, the changes were readily obvious. In 1985, the old P-L had received approval from the California Department of Forestry (CDF) to selectively log 5,000 acres.[628] With John Campbell at the helm, under the new regime, the company filed a record number of timber harvest plans (THPs) immediately following the sale, and all of them were approved by the CDF. There was more than a hint of a conflict of interest in the fact that the director of the agency, Jerry Pertain, had owned stock in the old Pacific Lumber and had cashed in mightily after the merger. [629] Since the takeover, the new P-L had received approval to log 11,000 acres, 10,000 of which were old growth, and there was every indication that these timber harvests would be accomplished through clearcutting.[630] Pacific Lumber spokesmen who had boasted about the company’s formerly benign forest practices now made the dubious declaration that clearcutting was the best method for ensuring both long term economic and environmental stability.

P-L forester Robert Stephens claimed that the old rate was unsustainable anyway, declaring, “About five years ago, it became apparent that there is going to be an end to old-growth. We simply cannot operate on a 2,000 year rotation.”

Public affairs manager David Galitz repeated what would soon become the new regime’s gospel, that clearcutting had actually been in the works for some time before the hint of a merger, even though in actual fact, this was untrue.

Pacific Lumber’s logging operations which had hitherto been idyllic by comparison now outpaced those of even Louisiana-Pacific and Georgia-Pacific. They tripled their logging crews, bringing in loggers from far away who had never known the old Pacific Lumber and had no particular loyalty to the fight to prevent Hurwitz’s plunder of the old company. [631] Most of the new hires were gyppos, and there were rumblings among the old timers that the quality of logging had decreased precipitously. In John Campbell’s mind, such inefficiencies were likely to be temporary and any small losses that occurred were more than offset by the much larger short term gain. The expense to the viability of the forest, however, was never entered into the ledger.[632] One resident who lived very close to the border of Pacific Lumber’s land relayed their impressions, writing:

“I live at the end of (the) road in Fortuna. Maxxam’s Pacific Lumber logging trucks drive by our house six days a week now. (It has) never been like this in the past. Ordinarily, logging was five days a week in summer…

“From Newberg Road you can look up and see the damage they are doing to the badly eroding hills, now bare of third growth. They are logging third growth from their graveled road now. As the trucks come by, it is amazing to see how small their (logs are), like flagpoles.

“What will be the value of their property when all of the trees are gone? Are they trying to eliminate all other competition—L-P, Simpson, etc.—as their long-range goal?”[633]

Environmentalists expressed alarm and outrage at the sweeping and regressive changes that had been instituted now that Hurwitz had assumed control of Pacific Lumber. John DeWitt, executive director of Save the Redwoods League, the organization that had been instrumental in coaxing the Murphy Dynasty to adopt sustainable logging practices in the first place, expressed these fears stating, “We thought they practiced excellent forestry over the past 125 years and deplore the fact they’ll double the cut. It may result in the ultimate unemployment of those who work at Pacific Lumber.”

Robert Stephens countered, “From the standpoint of getting your timber growing vigorously, this is the best method.”

John DeWitt responded by declaring, “In the short term, (clearcutting) may be a good method, but in the long term, it will destroy the productivity of the soil. The forest will not be able to grow trees.” The company’s estimates suggested that if they cut at this new rate, doubling the 1985 harvest of 300 million bf, they would deplete their supply of old growth timber in twenty years, leaving them with only managed second growth stands, not all of which would be harvestable.

NEC director Tim McKay also chimed in, declaring:

“Clearcutting might be the best method if you consider only certain criteria. Ultimately the systemic reduction of the forest to an even-age stand of trees eliminates the habitat diversity that existed prior to clearcutting. We’re being asked to believe that all of this complex ecosystem being thrown away is not all that important.”[634]

Maxxam’s debt servicing was of no less concern. According to company documents filed with the SEC, Hurwitz reorganized Pacific Lumber, separating its timberlands and forest products operations from its highly profitable welding division. He redistributed the debt so that $550 million was assumed by the former and $200 million by the latter.[635] Then Maxxam dumped several of P-L’s assets, including a 100,000 square foot office building in downtown San Francisco, 4,000 acres of San Mateo County timberland, 3,400 acres of farmland in Sacramento Valley, and more than 4,000 of its 189,000 acres of redwood and Douglas fir timberlands. Following that, they transferred P-L’s lucrative welding operations to other subsidiaries.[636] This followed Hurwitz’s established patterns and it raised just as many doubts about the long term future for Humboldt County’s economy.[637]

* * * * *

In spite of the existing North Coast environmental organizations’ opposition to P-L’s unprecedented changes, they all already had full plates and were not set up for the drastic countermeasures that Maxxam’s rapid devastation warranted. Fortuitously, there was a new militant environmental movement ready to rush in where angels feared to tread , founded by Bart Koehler, Dave Foreman, Ron Kezar, Mike Roselle, and Howie Wolke in 1979, which they called “Earth First!”. In April 1983, this new movement carried out their first act of militant nonviolent civil disobedience in defense of ancient forests, appearing out of nowhere in the Siskiyou National Forest in Oregon to stand between a running bulldozer and a tree. This was the first act in what became an ever and rapidly escalating campaign in protest against the liquidation logging by Corporate Timber. These acts involved tree spiking (driving large nails into trees in order to hinder the cutting and processing of timber), tree sitting (which involved the suspension of small platforms high up in the tree’s canopy), activists chaining themselves to timber equipment, and forming human barricades on logging roads by setting their feet in cement-filled ditches or burying themselves in rock piles.[638] Such forms of civil disobedience were not new, though they had rarely been used in defense of wilderness before, and Earth First! was a typical environmentalist organization. Its adherents described it as “the radical environmental movement” and its guiding principle was (and still is) “No compromise in defense of mother Earth!”[639]

Earth First’s founders had each been involved in various environmental organizations, including especially the Sierra Club, but had grown disillusioned with the latter’s post-David Brower era pragmatism and tendency to compromise with those they felt were responsible for the development (and hence destruction) of wilderness areas. They were inspired by the writings of Ed Abbey, whose bestselling novel, The Monkeywrench Gang, a fictional action-adventure tale about four environmentalists-turned-guerilla saboteurs, whose actions climax with the destruction of the Glen Canyon dam in Arizona. On a more practical level, Earth First! had been influenced by ecologists such as Rachel Carson[640], Aldo Leopold[641], James Lovelock[642], Arne Naess[643], Kirkpatrick Sale, Henry David Thoreau, and of course, John Muir. They took their inspiration from dissidents within the mainstream environmental movement, including David Brower.[644]

The founders of Earth First! positioned themselves as the radical opposition that Brower thought the Sierra Club should be, and they did so unapologetically. Even the use of the exclamation point in their name, a decision made very early on by Dave Foreman, was intended for shock value.[645] Their “No compromise!” position was an articulation of their thinking, that when it comes to the viability of life on Earth, making deals with its despoilers in the interests of pragmatism might save “half a loaf” today, but in the long run would result in the eventual collapse of the entire bakery. This resonated with a great many disillusioned environmentalists, and right from the beginning, Earth First! attracted many adherents through its regular periodical, Earth First! (later renamed the Earth First! Journal), its colorful actions, and its grassroots organizing—which was accomplished largely through the vehicle of traveling slide presentation and music shows, featuring the many naturalists and musicians who had joined the movement.[646]

If this has a familiar ring to it, it should. Earth First! was to the environmental movement what the IWW was to the union movement, and this was not completely coincidental either. It had been rumored that Ed Abbey’s father had been a dues paying member of the IWW, and Dave Foreman confirmed in 1991 that he consciously looked to the IWW for inspiration:

“When we formed Earth First! in 1980, we consciously tried to learn from the strategy and tactics of left social movements. The Wobblies were certainly one group we were drawn to. I even published a Little Green Songbook, taking after the Little Red Songbook of the IWW. I’ve talked to Utah Phillips and some old Wobblies; I am really attracted to a lot of what they have to say…” [647]

Fittingly, Earth First! tended to be composed of a substantial number—though not exclusively—of working class people in contrast with the mainstream environmental movements who tended to be more oriented towards middle class professionals.[648] However, they never saw themselves as a “left wing” organization. Indeed, Dave Foreman once said of Earth First! “We aren’t left, we aren’t right, we aren’t in the middle, (and) we aren’t even in front or behind. We aren’t even playing that game!”.[649] Earth First!er Roger Featherstone elaborated:

“There are as many different opinions in the EF! movement as there are flyspecks in a barn. Earth First! cuts across the political and social spectrum. There are as many folks in EF! who think of themselves as conservatives as there are those who identify with the Left. There are more working class folks in EF! than in most environmental organizations, but we also have some entrepreneurs and even a few wealthy supporters. What unites us is our fight to save wilderness and our belief that Homo-Sapiens is only one of a myriad of equally important species…We aren’t big on conformity.”[650]

Cofounder Howie Wolke agreed, stating that he had wanted Earth First! to appeal to:

“…not only wilderness fanatics like myself, but also to a wide variety of people who are not and have never been locked in to the narrow dogma of the straight environmental movement. I’m talking cowboys, auto mechanics, musicians, construction workers, wilderness guides, bouncers, cooks, dish-washers, welfare bums, topless dancers, and white collar office workers.”[651]

Even the founders themselves shared this diversity. Dave Foreman had a “typical” middle class background.[652] In fact, in his early twenties, he had been a Goldwater Republican and a member of William F. Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom—hardly what one would expect from a leader of new radical movement. He had enrolled in the Marine Corps Officer Candidates School at Quantico (to avoid being drafted and sent to Vietnam) and had soured on the experience, which ultimately caused him to jettison many of his conservative political beliefs.[653] By contrast, Mike Roselle had working class roots, had been a high school dropout, and had been part of the student antiwar movement during the Vietnam War. He later worked in the oil industry as a wildcatter, before embracing environmentalism. [654] Earth First! was nothing if not unusual.

As one would expect, Earth First! certainly didn’t appeal to the right. This was largely due to the movement’s advocacy of “monkeywrenching”, essentially a form of covert guerilla sabotage which took on many forms, including the removal of survey stakes, the sabotage of earth moving equipment, vandalism, and “tree spiking” (the driving of large nails into standing tree trunks as a deterrent to logging), among others.[655] Although such actions were not “officially” sanctioned by Earth First! the movement, Dave Foreman, the individual, coauthored and edited a book called Ecodefense: a Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, and while it included a carefully worded disclaimer, it was still essentially pegged as being an Earth First! product. The Earth First! Journal hocked it along with a large selection of other books and Earth First! merchandise, and that publication featured a regular column titled “Dear Nedd Ludd” (after the Luddites of England), which consisted of further monkeywrenching techniques, some of which were added to later editions of the book. Ecodefense advised against the use of explosives and firearms however, and stressed that monkeywrenching was and should remain nonviolent, including towards humans, but to conservatives this mattered little. Their biggest complaint was that Ecodefense advocated the encroachment into and the damage to private property, which was violence as far as the right was concerned. To them, Earth First! were a band of terrorists.[656]

However, Earth First! didn’t exactly endear itself to the traditional left either for many reasons, including its tendency to eschew class analysis in its environmental critique of the status quo. Many Earth First!ers traced the destruction of the Earth to industrial activity in general, destructive technology, and the “myth or Western Progress” rather than the consequences of capitalist economic practices. They rejected class struggle philosophically as being “anthropocentric”, ultimately secondary or even irrelevant to the long term viability of the Earth’s biosphere. At times, prominent spokespeople, including especially Dave Foreman, actively resisted attempts by organized minority tendencies within Earth First! to introduce class struggle and state-power analysis into the debate, ostensibly in fear that too much emphasis on such things might distract from ecological issues.[657]

Earth First! wasn’t a reactionary movement, per se. It’s adherents did have a very highly developed ecological consciousness, often referred to as “Deep Ecology,” which maintained—among other things— that organized human activity should regard ecology and the web of life as its deepest and most essential priority, above all else, including human concerns.[658] It also adopted an advanced environmental philosophy often called “Biocentrism”, which held that each species played an important part of the web of life and had an intrinsic value of its own well beyond the human-centered “Anthropocentrism”. These were fairly valid and advanced theories based on at least partially on peer reviewed biological science and careful observations of nature and human’s civilization’s regard (or disregard in most cases) for it.[659]

Dave Foreman guided a good deal of Earth First!’s vision from the beginning (though he was quickly joined by a great many other deep ecologists with similar perspectives). However, many of these sensible perspectives were layered upon a questionable foundation which drew from at least two sources that divorced environmentalism from class struggle. Rather than incorporate a body of work that deconstructed the capitalist economic tendencies to privatize wealth and socialize or “externalize” its costs and consequences into biocentrism, they tended to reject such ideas as irrelevant. Instead, Earth First! turned to Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons and the unapologetically reactionary theories of Cambridge professor Thomas Malthus, in particular his Essay on the Principle of Population, to explain the economic forces that drove the destruction of the environment. Both of these seminal documents were deeply flawed, however, even on biocentric grounds.

Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons, written in 1968, is accepted by many as a well reasoned ecological argument that “multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”[660] While perhaps never intended as such, Hardin’s theories were used—time and again—as arguments in favor of both “private” property and strict government regulation of “public property”, by different constituencies, naturally. However, Hardin made it quite clear where he stood, and that was in staunch support of privatization.[661] But there is no ecological basis for such a stance. the actual distinctions between “private” and “property” are nowhere near as simple as one would imagine, since “private” property is sanctioned by the “public” government in the form of deeds, laws, and law enforcement agencies—usually favoring the capitalist class—and “public” property is often exploited by private interests, a critique many Earth First!ers, including Foreman, actually accepted, and logically so. Private property is a relatively recent invention by human beings and is not recognized by nature in any fashion.[662]

Anarchists and Socialists alike have many cogent critiques of Hardin’s on socio-economic grounds. Murray Bookchin, whose writings often critiqued Earth First! from both anarchist and ecological perspectives argued that Hardin’s notion that life is a “war of each against all” and based on “survival of the fittest”, sometimes referred to as The Law of the Jungle was long ago dispelled by anarchist Peter Kropotkin in his famous work Mutual Aid, a text that ought to have comfortably found a place in Foreman’s body of literature (but didn’t).[663] Eco-socialist Ian Angus noted that Hardin provided no supporting evidence to support his theories and, if anything, actual studies of the commons in England and Germany, including those by Frederich Engles, showed the opposite to be true, that the people sharing the commons managed them quite well through mutual self-regulation, a form of laissez-faire communism, if anything.[664] The pioneering studies conducted by the late Elinor Ostrom, which ultimately won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2009, proved both Bookchin and Angus were correct, and that Hardin’s theories were wrong, on both economic and ecological grounds.[665]

There are likewise numerous problems inherent in Foreman’s taking inspiration from Malthus. The latter’s theory seems logical enough on ecological grounds. He argued that human population always expands until it exceeds the available food supply. Specifically, population tended naturally when unchecked to increase at a geometrical rate (1, 2, 4, 8, 16), while food supply increased at best at an arithmetical rate (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). [666] In other words, the destruction of the Earth’s many unique habitats and biodiversity was primarily a result of the sheer numbers of human beings, not their socio-economic relations, and therefore concerning oneself with class is ultimately futile if they’re genuinely concerned about the environment. Indeed, it was Malthus’s writings which led Garrett Hardin himself to promote what he called, “lifeboat ethics” an argument against aiding those in need on ecological grounds, and no doubt this explains some of the link between Malthus and bourgeois environmentalism.[667] Anarchists and socialists alike, however, for over two centuries, have consistently pointed out the weaknesses in Malthus’s writings, and they have had plenty of motivation to do so.

Malthus, who was born in 1766 and died in 1834, was not an environmentalist, and his treatise was not motivated by environmental concerns, but rather a defense of class privilege, in response to the utopian ideals of his contemporary, William Godwin, an early pioneer of anarchism. Godwin had been a protestant minister, but he had resigned from the clergy. Inspired by the French Revolution, he went on to advocate a society based on equality and the abolition of private property, and he married the feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Their daughter, Mary Shelley, wrote the original story of Frankenstein, which was essentially a condemnation of the industrialists’ mistreatment of both nature and the working class. Such ideas were an anathema to the thoroughly reactionary Malthus, who was himself an Anglican clergyman. Malthus argued that starvation and want were divinely inspired to teach virtue and the dangers of sin—though he never offered an explanation on how the wealthy managed to avoid it.[668] In fact, Malthus never used the term “overpopulation” in his writings, and—if anything—welcomed the thinning out of human numbers [669], a rather ghoulish perspective that some Earth First!ers seemed to themselves promote from time to time.

Malthus’ radical adversaries were not so enamored with their contemporary, however. Godwin quickly challenged Malthus, arguing that population growth (or lack thereof in some cases) could always be traced to the socio-economic effects, but he was not alone.[670] Marx and Engles were particularly quick to pounce on Malthus's "theory" as being quack pseudoscience in defense of the ruling class.[671] Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid was partly written in response to Malthus, and all other elitist justifications of class privilege that supposedly relied on biological science.[672] Even Malthus's conservative contemporary, the economist David Ricardo, castigated his fellow conservative's arguments as being class ignorant—noting the quantity of grain available is completely irrelevant to the worker if he has no employment, and that it is therefore the means of employment and not of subsistence which put him in the category of "surplus population".[673]

To his critics, Malthus was espousing dogma, not science, and as it turns out, the former were correct. For one thing, Malthus offered no basis for his arithmetical ratio, as well as the admission that he was forced to make in the course of his argument that there were occasions in which food had increased geometrically to match a geometric rise in population thereby invalidating his own thesis.[674] This has been proven without as shadow of doubt in modern times. The rate of population growth peaked in the 1960s and has been declining ever since, in spite of a consistent increase in available food supply. And this is not a case of limited supply either. According to the United Nations, in 2007, there was more than enough food available to give every single person 2800 kilocalories per day, enough to make every person on the planet overweight. By 2030, with population growth continuing to decline and agricultural output predicted to rise, the UN forecasts enough food will be grown worldwide, despite a global estimated population of 8.3 billion, to give everyone 3050 kilocalories per day.[675] That Malthus would make such an error is understandable, because he wrote his treatise four decades before the emergence of modern soil science in the work of Justus von Liebig and others which demonstrated that food production could be increased quite easily.[676] That others who know better would continue to champion such flawed theories is, however, inexplicable.

In spite of the fairly well established critiques of both Harden and Malthus, many Earth First!ers, including Dave Foreman, stubbornly refused to let go of them as foundation stones for their own ecological philosophy. Indeed, as their critics—particularly Bookchin—continued to point out the glaring weaknesses in Foreman, et. al.’s particular brand of Deep Ecology, Foreman and his fellows only grew more entrenched in their views, and as such Earth First! gained a rather disdainful reputation among traditional leftists. At times the bickering between the two radical tendencies even grew downright nasty, even to the point where Foreman and Bookchin routinely engaged in broadsides in print directed at each other. While Foreman may have had a point, that what everyone in the 1980s assumed to be “the left” (namely Soviet and Chinese “Communism”) left a great deal to be desired on ecological grounds, Bookchin, et. al, were no less right to challenge Foreman on the reactionary turkeys he had hung around his own movement’s neck, and there was good reason to do so. Instead of providing a way forward out of the morass of destructiveness wrought by western capitalism and eastern “communism”, these philosophically reactionary underpinnings led Earth First! down the path of misanthropy.

Such misanthropic underpinnings—coupled with their right-”libertarian” political origins thoroughly explain some of the highly controversial stances taken by Dave Foreman and Ed Abbey who were considered by many to be Earth First!’s principal spokesmen. Both Foreman and Abbey had issued highly controversial public statements not only calling for limiting immigration to the United States, but had gone as far as to suggest that the nation’s southern border should be closed and patrolled by armed military forces. Humboldt State University Professor Bill Devall, himself an Earth First!er, interviewed Dave Foreman for Simple Life, wherein Foreman said, “Letting the USA be an overflow valve for problems in Latin America is not solving a thing. It’s just putting more pressure on the resources we have in the USA,” a statement he later claimed to regret.[677] However, he made similar pronouncements a year later in the Earth First! Journal.[678]

Ed Abbey went a step further, cosigning a document titled, An Open Letter to Congress, subtitled Our Borders are Out of Control. The text of the letter began:

“Hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and billions of dollars of narcotics are being smuggled into the United States. While these are two distinct problems, they have a common denominator—an open border. At a time when millions of Americans are in poverty and drug use has reached epidemic levels, we cannot continue to wink at wholesale violation of U.S. sovereignty.”[679]

The signers included several union representatives, police agencies, Ed Abbey and—of all people—conservative one-time Washington state governor, Dixie Lee Ray, whose positions on the environment were about as diametrically opposed to those of most Earth First!ers as one could get.[680] The sheer irony in such positions is that supposedly under the logic of Deep Ecology, nature shouldn’t recognize national sovereignty, particularly human created boundaries!

Foreman also uttered rather unfortunate statements about famine stricken Ethiopians in the Simple Life interview, specifically:

“The worst thing we could do in Ethiopia was to give aid—the best thing would be to just let nature seek its own balance, to let people there just starve. . .the alternative is that you go in and save these half-dead children who will never live a whole life. Their development will be stunted. And what’s going to happen in ten years’ time is that twice as many people will suffer and die.”[681]

While Foreman claimed that these words were often quoted out of context—and certainly this is possible—even in their entirety, they come across as racist and insensitive. Such statements were hardly scientific in any case, even in a deep ecology sense. Humans are part of nature, so one could argue that providing aid to starving Ethiopians is nature’s way of being “bountiful” as easily one could argue that allowing them to starve was Malthusian regulation of the population. Given the level of western colonialism that still very much exists in the so-called “third world”, the starvation of Ethiopians had as much to do with class stratification within the Ethiopian society as any “natural” process. There were and are far more convincing arguments against overpopulation, even class conscious arguments, but Foreman’s statement, even if taken out of context only served to isolate Earth First! from potential supporters.

More controversial still, were the dismissive attitudes of these same prominent spokespeople towards timber workers themselves. For example, Dave Foreman was quoted as saying, in 1991 in a well publicized debate with Murray Bookchin:

One of my biggest complaints about the workers up in the Pacific Northwest is that most of them aren’t ‘class conscious.’ That’s a big problem…The loggers are victims of an unjust economic system, yes, but that should not absolve them for everything they do…Indeed, sometimes it is the hardy swain, the sturdy yeoman from the bumpkin proletariat so celebrated in Wobbly (sic) lore who holds the most violent and destructive attitudes towards the natural world (and toward those who would defend it).[682]

While this may have been true in some cases, there was absolutely no proof that this was universally true, nor was it necessarily usually true. There were many timber workers who didn’t fit this stereotype. For example, in the words of Mendocino gyppo operator Walter Smith:

“We have a feeling for the place we work. We have a feeling for the land and the forest as a whole—as a place where we like to work because it is enjoyable to be there, because it is the forest. And in the hopes what our children will be back there doing the same work someday…On the other hand, there are ramifications we have no control over—the land owner. The landowner owns it, and he tells us how he wants it done. Of course, we have the option of not doing it. Then it becomes an option of economics: Do we want to work or do we not want to work?

“We can’t influence (Louisiana-Pacific) at this time. We’re just ants on a big ant hill. We can give them our opinion, but that doesn’t really go very far. And as a matter of fact, a lot of times our opinion is held back because they do hold the strings. Not just L-P, all the timber companies. If you want to work, if you want to even sell the timber—we could get a job with a private land owner, say someone who wanted to do some tree thinning and a little forestry and we like the job and went to do it. If we’re on the shit list, that person isn’t going to be able to sell their logs if they know that we’re working for them. The timber industry can come down on people…

“We complain sometimes about the fact that we don’t think the best job is being done, but we do it anyway and we try to do it as well as we can under the Forest Practice Rules that are in place at the present time…I think that a lot people often see loggers as being pretty heartless, go-getting people. They’re really hard working, that’s for sure. And I find that when it comes to wildlife, loggers will go out of their way to protect or avoid hurting forest animals. I don’t know too many loggers who would squash a squirrel on purpose or squash a fawn…” [683]

The irony in Foreman’s and Abbey’s stances was that they did not actually speak for the Earth First! The vast majority of them, including cofounder Mike Roselle, often disagreed, either in part or altogether, with Foreman’s and Abbey’s perspectives, and many were vocal in their opposition within the pages of the Earth First! Journal and elsewhere.[684] Holding spokespeople accountable to the rest of Earth First! was somewhat difficult however, because from the start it was agreed by its founders that Earth First! would have little or no structure. As Edward Abbey once described it:

“Earth First! is not an organization. It doesn’t have a president, a vice president, or even a secretary. It doesn’t have any officers at all. It doesn’t have a headquarters or a hindquarters. Who’s their leader? It doesn’t have a leader. We’re all leaders, and there’s thousands of us running around loose!”[685]

It was common to hear many Earth First!ers declare that it was “a movement, not an organization.” [686] As such, local Earth First! groups often took on their own, individual character, but—in spite of the apparent lack of cohesion—Earth First! also did manage to organize itself into a seemingly unified whole. Earth First! grew rapidly, just as the IWW did over a half century earlier. In fact, in the 1980s, in the United States of America at least, Earth First! was one of the most vibrant, fastest growing radical movements in existence. [687]

Whatever their intent, or the roots of their founders, Earth First! typically found itself struggling most against multinational corporations anyway, simply because they were the biggest polluters. Earth First!, was in practice unrepentantly anti-capitalist when capitalist interests directly threatened wilderness biodiversity. This was particularly true in the case of government sanctioned livestock grazing (by private interests) on public lands. [688] Earth First! first sounded the alarm (outside of the indigenous movements in Brazil) about the destruction of the tropical rainforests in order to provide vast acreages of cheap grazing land so that US based fast-food corporations could produce cheap hamburgers. Naturally this meant that Earth First! had to confront large fast food corporations, particularly Burger King.[689] In the course of their struggles, Earth Fisrt!ers, including even Dave Foreman, did adopt some pro-worker stances against specific corporations with which it struggled against on ecological grounds, not so much out of a sense of solidarity—though this was evident also—but in recognition of the interrelatedness of their adversaries’ enemies. For example, one proposal by Earth First! to reform the USFS included the demands such as “preference to worker-owned timber companies for bidding on federal timber”; “Require all companies operating on public lands to be labor intensive”; and “A prohibition on the export of raw logs”.[690] Anticipating “just transition”, Local Earth First! groups would even call for reparations for displaced timber workers through the creation of wilderness restoration jobs.[691]

* * * * *

At the time of the regime change at Pacific Lumber, no Earth First! group had yet formed in southern Humboldt County. The process for establishing Earth First! contacts was somewhat ad hoc. Earth First!ers would organize road shows, travel to various locations, principally those where ecological battles were being fought, and give presentations that included information, both spoken and visual (often in the form of slide shows) and sometimes spoken word or live music. Through these efforts, various Earth First! groups had been established throughout northwestern California. Already many of them had participated in ecological campaigns, including the coalition against L-P’s Garlon spraying in Mendocino County, the fight to preserve and expand the Sinkyone Wilderness, and against the bulldozing of a road from Gasquet (in Del Norte County) to Orleans (in northeastern Humboldt County) through Yurok Indian land threatening forestlands located near there. The nearest Earth First! groups were in Ukiah to the south in Mendocino County, and in Arcata to the north. The Arcata group had been established the previous year, after Mike Roselle had made a stop there on one of the road shows, and Bill Devall was the principle contact, but the group was already mostly defunct.[692] The campaigns that had involved the existing Earth First! groups were largely winding down or in a lull, and neither the Ukiah nor the Arcata Earth First! group seemed eager to take on the fight to stop Maxxam, in part because Earth First! focused primarily on defending public wilderness lands and P-L was “private property”. [693] Fortunately, Earth First! was about to receive an infusion energy from two eager young newcomers named Greg King and Darryl Cherney.

Greg King originally hailed from Guerneville in Sonoma County, though he had roots in Humboldt County. The King Range wilderness area was named after his ancestors who had settled in northern California several generations previously, and were—ironically enough—some of the earliest loggers in the region.[694] King, himself, was an investigative reporter who had joined in the environmental movement in response to Louisiana-Pacific’s timber harvest practices in Sonoma County along the Russian River. According to King, he caught L-P in the act of violating several of the state’s forestry laws in its harvest of second growth redwoods there, but the CDF had chosen to ignore the rules in favor of the corporation, in spite of public protests over the transgressions. Two of the violations were environmentally related, whereas the third was a violation of property laws, in which L-P had neglected to notify three of the 20 landowners adjacent to and within 300 feet of the logging site. King wrote and published twenty articles about the issue and received the Lincoln Steffens award for Investigative Journalism awarded by the Sonoma County Press Club and Sonoma State University. King later got involved in the campaign to save Sally Bell Grove in the Sinkyone against Georgia-Pacific’s clearcutting. He recalled:

“I was so amazed and horrified at what I saw, I decided the area up here could use a lot more work ecologically. If that is what was being allowed to happen to the virgin redwood forests up here, I just couldn’t be hanging out in Sonoma County and still trying to work on the issues up here.” [695]

True to his word, he moved to southern Humboldt County and continued to work as a freelance journalist, submitting ecologically oriented articles to various publications, including The Nation.[696]

Meanwhile, Darryl Cherney, a former English teacher and child actor with a penchant for songwriting and an interest in ecological issues himself, arrived in California just about the same time that Maxxam raided Pacific Lumber.[697] Cherney was born in New York City in 1956.[698] At age five, while riding his tricycle around West 57th Street, he had the good fortune to be “discovered” by Tony Schwartz, the famous television producer who produced the infamous anti Barry Goldwater “Daisy” commercial for the Lyndon Johnson presidential campaign.[699] At age six, Cherney began playing music and his talent developed quickly. Between the ages of six and eleven, Cherney starred in three dozen TV, radio, and voice-over commercial pitches for various products, including Ivory Snow, Upjohn Unicap chewables, High Grade Baloney, Hunts Catsup, and Bosco Chocolate Syrup (“the art of making Bosco”). After that, he went on to earn a BA in English and a Master’s Degree in Urban Education, both from Fordham University. In 1982, while traveling on the West Coast, Cherney walked among the ancient trees of Humboldt Redwoods State Park and knew he wanted to relocate to California permanently. [700]

In October of 1985, Cherney headed west to stay.[701] On his way south from Oregon, Cherney stopped to pick up a Cheyenne Indian hitchhiker named Kingfisher. Cherney explained that he desired to live off of the land, and Kingfisher responded by admonishing Cherney to settle in Garberville, California, in southern Humboldt County, which Cherney did. Kingfisher had practically guided Cherney straight to the doors of EPIC in Garberville, who were deeply involved in the fight to save the Sinkyone wilderness area from the chainsaws and axes of Georgia-Pacific.[702] He managed to make a marginal living as a caretaker and building manager at the old Bridgewood Motel in nearby Piercy.[703] In exchange, he was able to live there rent free and earn a very small sum of money for basic needs.[704] Cherney quickly involved himself in Redwood forest issues, the fight to save Big Mountain, and Central American Solidarity work. When Cherney heard of the Maxxam takeover, he was initially surprised that cutting old growth redwoods wasn’t illegal altogether, and felt that a strong community response was needed.[705] He had never heard of Earth First! before he saw a sticker on the door of the EPIC office showing a clenched fist Earth First! logo.[706] He asked around and learned of the contacts in Ukiah and Arcata, but that neither group was especially active at the time.[707] Cherney met Greg King in the course of an action to save Sally Bell Grove during the Sinkyone campaign, and the two had become good friends.[708]

The two made an effective team. King was adept at dissecting THPs as well as a skilled reporter, but he was at heart most at home walking deep in the forest, much like Henry David Thoreau. Cherney, on the other hand, was—much like his singer-songwriter persona—very much drawn to the media spotlight. Both agreed that something needed to be done in response to the Maxxam takeover of P-L.[709] Cherney took on the leadership role immediately and appealed to local activists to stand up and be counted, even though sometimes—with all of the crises affecting the environment locally and worldwide that “sometimes we might feel like (Hans Brinker) putting his finger in the leaking dyke, only to find two new holes (had) appeared.” [710] In due time, King and Cherney decided to call an Earth First! meeting in southern Humboldt County, and announce the formation of their new group, the “Redwood Action Team” (otherwise known as Southern Humboldt Earth First!). They were soon joined by others interested in stopping this new threat to the already devastated old growth forests of northwestern California, including EPIC, Greenpeace, the Humboldt Greens, the local chapter of the Sierra Club, and the socialist leaning Peace and Freedom Party.[711] The new group quickly became adept at utilizing the local and vibrant community and environmental press in both Humboldt and Mendocino Counties, including the Anderson Valley Advertiser, Country Activist, EcoNews, Mendocino Commentary, and Mendocino Country.

In spite of the urgency, the new Earth First! group didn’t immediately rush into battle against Maxxam, because they were relatively unknown. Their first demonstration consisted of rally, held in August 1986 (less than a year after Maxxam’s takeover of Pacific Lumber) in the safe and relatively friendly confines of Arcata Plaza against the World Bank and the latter’s policy of financing the liquidation of old growth forests around the planet. The destruction of the tropical rainforests—included in the broader description of ancient woods—was recognizable to a much larger audience, and that target served to draw people’s attention to the depletion of temperate old growth much closer to home. In contrast with Foreman, Cherney established from the get-go that this Earth First! group would be sympathetic to the plight of the timber workers, declaring:

“With this entire region being logged out at an alarming rate, the timber companies will be looking to foreign countries more and more. Loggers here will be out of work quickly unless they want to work as cheaply as in Indonesia. Local companies must become interested in sustained yield, which also translates into sustaining jobs for northern California.”[712]

Shortly following their debut, at the California Earth First! rendezvous in Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Redwood Action Team announced their next demonstration, specifically targeting Maxxam to immediately follow the gathering.[713]

Earth First! organized a public protest against the corporation on October 22, 1986 in San Francisco at the PALCO corporate offices at Sansome and Washington Streets. Since Cherney and King were relatively unknown, the two lined up Earth First! cofounder Dave Foreman (from Arizona) and none other than David Brower (from the San Francisco Bay Area) as keynote speakers. The protesters called for an international boycott of all redwood products until old growth logging was banned. After a rousing speech given by Foreman, in which he declared, “What right do we have to think we can make a buck by cutting down 1,000-year-old-trees to make picnic tables and planter boxes for yuppies on their patios?” the 70 assembled demonstrators let out the signature Earth First! coyote howl.[714] Then, Brower came right to the point, opining:

“For many years, Pacific [Lumber] was the best lumber company in the business, managing its lands on a sustained-yield basis, (but with the vastly accelerated cutting rate under the new regime, Pacific Lumber will be) stealing natural resources from future generations adding instability to the North Coast.”[715]

This initial environmentalist protest against Maxxam would be followed by hundreds more over the coming quarter century. Right from the start, however, P-L management had anticipated the demonstration and had closed the offices for the day. Maxxam issued a statement in response to the event declaring, “Pacific Lumber Co. has adhered strictly to a policy of responsible forestry…for over 100 years and…remains firmly committed that policy,” never once admitting that the increased timber harvests were contradictory to the Murphys’ old logging methods, a point hammered home by Foreman and the other speakers. [716] The P-L executives, mostly getting ready to close the San Francisco office for good and move their operations south to the MCO offices in Los Angeles scoffed and pondered what sort of reaction the activists would receive in Scotia.[717]

Suspecting that the company’s official statement was a lie, in early November, 1986, a small group of Earth First!ers led by Greg King, risking arrest for trespassing on private property, hiked into the woods of Pacific Lumber for a firsthand look at the threatened redwood stands. They had been motivated to such action by news of a new logging road into the forest sited by a sympathetic pilot.[718] While in the forest, they could easily see the contrast between forests once logged by company under the previous ownership, which were decidedly logged yet spaced every twenty to forty feet were “small” old-growth trees left to regenerate the forest. King said, “Although the tract looked logged, it also looked like a viable forest. In today’s world of Nazi logging, the old Pacific Lumber was a gem.”[719] Passing through an area being clearcut, they came to a large, more than 3,000 acre stand of untouched roadless virgin forest at the highest point Little South Fork of the Elk River and Salmon Creek that had been rumored to exist. Due to its relatively large size, the 96 percent elimination of the original redwood biome, and the absence of similar redwood groves within a 25-mile radius, it was quickly identified as one of the world’s most important biological remnants. [720] Another local Earth First!er, Larry Evans, named it “Headwaters Forest”, because of its location. [721] Greg King described Headwaters thusly:

“Walking across a landing at least a half-acre in size, we slowly approached what I knew then to be a legendary forest: steep, classic California coastal ridges, flowing for miles into the far distance, divided by year-round pure water streams, and choked with huge redwood trees that sprouted before Christ’s birth. This particular area was approximately (3,000) acres—never logged, rarely even walked upon, one of as many five such tracts owned by Pacific Lumber that may not exist (except as wasteland) in five years.

“They were grand, these free-flowing trees, huge dancing branches in the wind. I absorbed their peace, their energy, their life that supports so many wild animals, including a few humans. I stood, stared, breathed deeply, and felt their power. I was unabashedly awed. Yet concurrently I felt tragic, forlorn, as if embracing a friend, a lover, moments before what I know will be her brutal torture, rape, and destruction.”[722]

King and his companions were soon discovered by Pacific Lumber forest manager Robert Stephens and Carl Anderson, the P-L security chief who was, “the size of a refrigerator”. Stephens asked the visitors what they were doing.

“Hiking” responded the Earth First!ers, to which Stephens responded,

“(How would you like it if I were) walking through your front yard?” (as if Stephens himself lived in and personally owned Headwaters forest). King and his companions were warned against further trespassing and then escorted out of the forest.[723] They perceived, however, that in order to monitor what they assumed would be an ever increasing onslaught, they could not honor Stephens’ admonishment. Their reasoning was certainly justifiable on environmental grounds. Headwaters Forest and five other nearby smaller but similarly diverse old growth groves now threatened by Maxxam’s accelerated clearcutting represented a crucial habitat island at the midpoint between Redwood National park to the north and Humboldt Redwoods State Park to the south some 80 miles apart. Preserving this newly identified ecological gem in the middle of both was perhaps critical to the long term survival of old growth redwood forests at all. To make sacred the notion of “private property”, a concept and status that was literally unknown, save for a mere fraction of this forest’s lifetime, was, in their eyes, tantamount to ecological suicide, or perhaps even genocide. [724]

Earth First! wasted no time in responding. The next demonstration against Maxxam took place in Arcata at the town’s central plaza on November 25.[725] Other participants included members of the local chapter of the International Indian Treaty Council, who were appreciative of Earth First!’s opposition to the G-O Road. [726] This time, Cherney and King were the keynote speakers, and again, the similarly sized crowd of demonstrators howled enthusiastically in response to them. As some had done in San Francisco, a handful of skeptics pooh-poohed the event, perhaps thinking, “Arcata doesn’t count. This college town has fifteen different places to buy tofu. The meat-and-potatoes part of the county is where it all really matters.” Nowhere was that sentiment displayed more than among the staff of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, a publication which routinely ran paid advertisements from L-P, P-L, and Simpson, and whose editorial positions were, for the most part on the far right of the political spectrum. They explained to Darryl Cherney—who questioned the workers' absence in Arcata—that only if Earth First! had the cajónes to march into Scotia itself, would they bother to show. Darryl responded that the newspaper wouldn’t be disappointed.[727]

Sure enough, Earth First! mobilized a third time on December 3, though this time they did so under the name of “Save the Loggers’ League”. Cherney had chosen this name because, in his words, “No matter how active the environmentalists become, the key to success on the Maxxam issue rests with the woodworkers. If they don’t believe they need help there’s little anyone can do for them.”[728] In anticipation of the event, Darryl Cherney had created a newsletter with the same name. The publication was sent, by mass mailing, to post office boxes in towns with heavy woodworker populations, including Scotia and Carlotta. It included an appeal to fight Maxxam in order to protect the workers’ jobs, a story about the return of Paul Bunyan—who could find no more trees to cut, a description of the Maxxam corporate structure, quotes from timber workers as well as Maxxam themselves revealing the latter’s crassness, and a humorous description of the endangered species known as “The Scotia Logger”, (Latin name Sequoius Devourus Beerdrinkusi); the benevolent former owner, the “Woody Murphy” (Latin name Hometownus Sustainus Murpholi); an outside predator, the “Greenbacked Hurwitz” (Latin name Treeranosaurus Maxxamus Profitus); and the strange long-haired, tree-loving creature known as the “Humboldt Hippie” (Latin name Environmentallus Hippus Freakus), who was actually the friend of the Scotia Logger even if the latter didn’t realize it yet.[729] The newsletter even included the following statement from IWA Local 3-469 representative Don Nelson:

“The greatest manmade disaster ever to befall the redwood forests of Northern California is occurring today with the sale and profit taking at Pacific Lumber Company…The last remaining Redwood Region company town will soon be a thing of the past, a subdivision will likely replace it, The economy of Humboldt County will boom for a few short years while the overcut is occurring but then the fall that will come will be worse than we’ve ever seen before. People will be jobless, tax bases will disappear, (and) the North Coast economy will founder…

The federal and state governments must take immediate action to control timber harvesting by the redwood companies at a level that will be sustainable over the long term now while there is still timber available to harvest. You must act now to prevent the clearcut, break-up, and destruction of the finest single timber property in Northern California.

The people’s right of eminent domain must be asserted to prevent the destruction of the economy of Humboldt County and Northern California. The stability of the economy of Northern California redwood region depends on timber being available to harvest each year. The former Pacific Lumber Company owners dedicated their lands to sustained production of high quality forest products. Now the lid is off. The race is on the cut as much of their redwood timber as can be harvested. A production cycle such as we have never seen in this area is beginning. When the boom is over, the redwood lumber industry will be a fragment of history.” [730]

Darryl Cherney had stressed that the activists would frame their message carefully:

“We will not be venting anger towards the woodworkers…ultimately we are all environmentalists, with varying standards. Loggers want and need forests too. We want to bridge the gap now that we have something in common: a fear that Maxxam is going to sell Humboldt County down the road.”[731]

True to their word, approximately 70 marchers carried banners, chanted, prayed, and sang songs written by Darryl Cherney, with a deliberately chosen pro-timber theme, marching into the heart of Scotia itself. They issued a list of demands to the company which included a return to sustained yield policy and a halt to the cutting of old growth redwood trees, pledging that if these demands were not met, they would continue their call for an international boycott of redwood products. They also passed out many copies of the STLL newsletter.[732] Mike Roselle, who joined the marchers, noted the significance of the efforts to reach out to the affected timber workers, declaring, “Before companies were the ones holding demonstrations and crying ‘Save our Jobs’. Now it’s the conservationists saying ‘save our jobs’.”[733] The marchers circled the mill and ended with a Native American prayer.[734] There were reportedly no counter demonstrators to contradict Roselle’s optimistic assessment, though in most estimates the few workers who weren’t busy slaving away at their mandatory sixty-hour workweeks regarded the mostly “hippie” looking protesters with curiosity above all else.[735]

The press spin on the “Save the Loggers League” message was varied, however. The McNeil Lehrer News Hour devoted fifteen minutes to the event, including coverage of Darryl Cherney performing his pro timber-worker anthem, Where Are We Gonna Work When the Trees are Gone, in spite of an acute case of laryngitis.[736] Eureka Times-Standard reporter Gina Bentzley did quote maintenance worker Fred Elliot, but the latter repeated a standard Corporate Timber talking point, that there were more trees preserved in parks than one could see in a lifetime, which missed the point of Earth First!’s message entirely.[737] Elliot’s perspective was no doubt influenced by a leaflet published preemptively by P-L management warning the workers and residents of an invasion of “eco-terrorists”. On the other hand, EcoNews noted that the response from many Scotians was “varied”, but quoted some anonymous workers who viewed the demonstration favorably, noting that many even flashed “thumbs-up” gestures. One resident declared, “I used to work for the company, but got a job in Arcata so I could get a better feel for a secure future.” Another resident, still employed at P-L stated, “You know everybody in town is thinking pretty much the same thing, but no one will organize together, let alone go public. We’re sure our days are numbered.”[738]

As the new year began, the Earth First!ers immediately stepped up their efforts. On January 1, 1987 Greg King mailed out dozens of letters to federal and state officials, environmental organizations, and even a few timber industry heads urging them to meet with Earth First! and negotiate a solution to the problem presented by Maxxam’s accelerated harvest. “Otherwise this will be a battle with years of litigation and civil disobedience,” the activist declared.[739] Much to everyone’s surprise, P-L president John Campbell answered King’s letter and arranged to meet with his adversary in Scotia. The meeting, which lasted less than an hour, accomplished little more than reinforce to both sides that the other would not budge without a fight. Campbell declared that King was at best naïve, and at worst a threat to the long term livelihoods of the timber workers under P-L’s employ. By contrast, King perceived Campbell to be condescending and dismissive of the longer term consequences of Maxxam’s accelerated timber cut. The encounter concluded with Campbell curtly declaring the meeting had ended.[740]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, EPIC—whose acronym accurately spelled out the struggle that was about to ensue—led the environmentalists’ legal fights against Maxxam. In fact, there was no legal nonprofit better equipped and more dedicated to fighting such a war, and they were more than prepared to do so, having established their reputation through EPIC vs. Johnson. Although “Woods” Sutherland and Cecilia Gregori, along with many other EPIC members and volunteers, had attended the initial Earth First! meetings, for strategic purposes, although they often worked alongside of and in concert with Earth First!, they kept their legal game plan independent of the latter. [741]

Environmentalists of all stripes were convinced that the CDF had been dragging its feet on complying with the ruling. So far, the CDF hadn’t done much beyond adding a list of questions with a yes or no check-off box to the THP submission forms.[742] Pacific Lumber had filed an unprecedented number of THPs since the Maxxam takeover but there was no indication whatsoever that the CDF was considering the cumulative impact of the logging proposed therein, especially on old growth dependent species, such as the tailed frog, Olympic salamander, and the Northern spotted owl, any more than they had done in any past harvest plans.[743] Since the beginning of 1987, P-L had inserted a disclaimer into its THP applications which read, “Transition from old-growth to young-growth provides beneficial environmental effects (1) Increased wildlife habitat and carrying capacity. (2) Increased wildlife species diversification…,” and the CDF foresters seemed content with this explanation. Ross Johnson (the “Johnson” mentioned in EPIC vs. Johnson), did concede that the CDF had its hands full, but he also revealed that his considerations were primarily economic, namely Corporate Timber’s bottom line.

“We know we’re going to be getting a lot of heat this year over old-growth cutting. The state is committed to balancing the needs of timberland owners with the needs of the environment. To a forester, old-growth trees don’t produce. People who manage forests in an industrial sense want trees that are growing in order to produce a continuing crop, so they cut the old trees. There’s no doubt that (Pacific Lumber has) doubled the amount of timber they want to cut.”[744]

Johnson’s attempt to find “balance” between the short term needs of profit oriented capitalism and environmental considerations, and his labeling of old growth forest stands as “unproductive” betrayed his ignorance of the emerging scientific consensus that business as usual was detrimental to the long term health of the forests as well as the viability of a timber based economy. His words were not altogether different from those of David Galitz who declared, “We’ve been here for 118 years and we could be here for another 100.”[745]

EPIC wasted little time in taking on both Maxxam and the CDF. Their first legal success came in February 1987 after they challenged the CDF approved Pacific Lumber THP 1-87-50HUM which proposed clearcutting 144 acres of old growth forests, most of it redwoods at Elk Head Springs on the divide between Humboldt Bay and the Van Duzen River watershed. Citing EPIC vs. Johnson, “Woods” declared that the CDF failed to show that it had adequately assessed the cumulative impact of Maxxam’s accelerated logging and that, “(CDF) should deny the THP and require a full environmental impact report.” He also indicated that EPIC would file additional challenges and even a lawsuit if necessary if the CDF didn’t comply with the letter and the spirit of the law, stating, “This is the first of a number of THPs we will be reviewing very closely.”[746] EPIC stood by their guns, and after much critical public comment at the review team meetings, Pacific Lumber withdrew THP 1-87-50.[747] Although this was a victory, it was hardly earth shattering. A fellow Earth First!er, Mokai, reasoned that the THP withdrawals were less a result of any growing democratic control over the CDF than the CDF’s actions as a willing legal advisor to Pacific Lumber, helping them redesign their THPs more effectively from a legal standpoint.[748] Still, it was an auspicious beginning.

* * * * *

Elsewhere, Bill Bertain resumed his “David versus Goliath” struggle against Maxxam’s questionable stock trading that had facilitated the takeover of P-L in the first place. He had plenty of incentive to do so. In the summer of 1986, Drexel Burnham Lambert’s Ivan Boesky had been implicated for insider trading. As a result, the Securities and Exchange Commission had begun conducting investigations of twelve companies that had engaged in transactions with DBL, including Maxxam, in its takeover efforts at Pacific Lumber.[749] On February 2, 1987, Business Week, published an article condemning Hurwitz as “an opportunist who borrows heavily to gain control of a company and then milks it of cash to finance his next raid.” [750] The next month local PBS television stations KQED in San Francisco and KEET in Eureka aired a half-hour documentary called “Takeover” which featured Earth First!ers and woodworkers—including John Maurer, who had quit the company in disgust by this time—condemning Maxxam’s acquisition of PL.[751]

Maxxam had anticipated the negative press, however. In order to whitewash their image, they retained the P.R. firm of Hill and Knowlton (H&K) for just such an eventuality, which was ironic given the fact that the very same firm had originally been hired by the old P-L Board to craft press releases against Maxxam.[752] H&K’s efforts resulted in a three part front page series in the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, written by Enoch Ibarra. The series was a collection of exaggerations and strawman arguments designed to make it look like Maxxam’s critics were predicting immediate economic ruin.[753]

The first installment touted a study commissioned by Maxxam by the Oakland, California based consulting firm Hammon Jenson and Wallen which argued that P-L could continue at their current, increased harvest rate for another twenty years before returning to the harvest levels of the old Murphy-run Pacific Lumber. The article did cite concerns about sedimentation raised by the North Coast Environmental Center (NEC), but for the most part it attempted to paint environmentalists as pessimistic doomsayers, making irresponsible and unlikely predictions. At one point it stated, “(Andy) Alm (of the NEC) does concede that much of the concern on the environment is ‘speculative’” as if Alm, the NEC, and environmentalists in general were making numbers and predictions up out of thin air rather than careful, peer-reviewed science.[754] This was an unfair dismissal. Environmentalists, including those at the NEC, could only use the best available figures they had available to them—since much of the data on private timber lands was proprietary—but what information they did have available to them was sufficient enough to make a conclusive case that all was not well with the health of the forest based on the loss of biodiversity.[755]

The second installment ostensibly dispelled the “myth” that P-L’s overcutting would “hurt the economy of Humboldt County in the short run,” and challenged the KQED documentary Takeover. It also presented the supposedly astonishing revelation that Maxxam had retained all of the employee benefits from the old regime. Nobody was arguing that any of these had (yet) disappeared, and it left unaddressed the arguments presented by Maxxam’s critics was that there was no way for Hurwitz to guarantee the benefits’ survival after twenty years if he maintained the current, increased timber harvest rate. The article also made the inadvertently damning admission (by the timber industry at any rate), using figured provided by the California State Employment Development Department, that the number of jobs in Humboldt County had already been reduced by two thirds, from 13,000 to 4,500 since the 1950s.[756] Since environmental activism against Pacific Lumber only dated to the previous year, blaming environmentalists for this job loss would be utterly ridiculous and the recitation of the figures, at best, were a non-sequitir.[757] The article restated P-L’s arguments that their increased cutting—hence increased employment—were offsetting job losses by workers at the other companies, namely L-P and Simpson, thus helping the economy. Again, however, this only dealt with the immediate term, not the conditions that would exist after the twentieth year—a fact that Don Nelson was quoted in the article as pointing out. Finally, the article touted the 250 additional employees the company had hired since the Maxxam takeover[758], but didn’t mention that many of them had been hired from other states.[759]

The third piece was much like the other two, this time addressing the concerns, by Pacific Lumber workers mostly, that Maxxam would sell the houses in Scotia. Steve Hart, director of P-L employee relations had gone on record saying that the rent for the houses in Scotia which then stood at $250 per month, would remain at that level for the foreseeable future.[760] P-L Public Affairs manager David Galitz responded to the claims that Maxxam would sell the houses in Scotia by declaring, “That we’re going to sell off this community and (sic) one house at a time—that’s absolutely asinine![761] Neither Ibarra, nor anyone else in the article cited any hard evidence that Hurwitz didn’t have plans to do exactly that. Maxxam had liquidated many of P-L’s non-timber assets elsewhere,[762] but interestingly Ibarra barely mentioned these, choosing to merely include a quote by Galitz explaining that the Public Affairs manager had orders by the Murphys to sell the San Mateo timber holdings and Sacramento valley farmlands before Maxxam’s appearance on the scene.[763] The article only alluded to the others—in the future tense, as if liquidation of them had not yet already happened—and it certainly neglected to point out that the liquidation of non timber assets had substantially increased on Hurwitz’s watch.[764] Ibarra went on to document P-L’s expansion before the Maxxam takeover—including the acquisition of 24,000 acres of timberland from L-P—as well as after, including the purchase of an L-P mill in Carlotta, as “evidence” that the workers’ benefits wouldn’t be liquidated.[765]

Not content with this, Maxxam followed up with a prepared statement by Robert Stephens making numerous accusations towards Greg King that painted him as uncaring outsider with no real roots in the community, insensitive to the Pacific Lumber workers, and being uninformed about forestry or anything having to do with Pacific Lumber; the statement was published in the Eureka Times-Standard and the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance as a paid advertisement.[766] King had already gone on record calling for a dialog with the Pacific Lumber timber workers. [767] Yet, that didn’t stop Stephens from making the absurd claim that King wanted to shut down Pacific Lumber altogether.[768]

Greg King quickly responded to the Times-Standard refuting every one of Stephens’ accusations.[769] King had been on record advocating that Pacific Lumber “return to harvesting 4,000 to 5,000 acres per year and to sustained yield.”[770] King not arguing against logging per se, but rather that the new pace was unsustainable:

“On March 17, following one of the season’s heaviest rains, crews used tractors, which caused large expanses of mud to slide down hills into streams. Such massive degradations have gone unchecked by the California Department of Forestry (CDF). PALCO’s seed tree removal cut is a de facto clearcut, taking old growth trees from tracts selectively logged within the past few years. PALCO is clearcutting its untouched stands. Sources close to PALCO say that large portions of the company’s virgin redwood and Doug Fir stands may be sold to other North Coast timber giants—such as Louisiana Pacific, Simpson Timber, and Georgia-Pacific—inciting the elimination of these forests within a few years.” [771]

As for job losses, King noted the possibility that the 250 or so new employees hired by P-L since the takeover might have to be laid off, but he called for taxpayer funded relief programs to assist them in finding new timber related jobs.[772] Darryl Cherney offered his own defense of Greg King in a letter to the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, suggesting that Maxxam’s statement was the pot calling the kettle black, that Hurwitz was the real outsider, and that conservationists were not opposed to logging, and wanted to see the old Pacific Lumber restored.[773]

Maxxam’s propaganda assault was no doubt also organized in anticipation of the opposition that would inevitably arise in response to the corporation’s plans to log the untouched old growth stands, including Headwaters Forest. Sure enough, in the spring Maxxam filed THPs 1-87-230, 240, and 241HUM with the California Department of Forestry. THP 230 proposed a clearcut of 111 acres of the last virgin forest on the Mattole River on Sulpher Creek, a stream that was undergoing extensive restoration due to past clearcutting. THPs 240 and 241 called for the harvesting of 265 acres from Headwaters Forest. As they had before, the CDF approved them without question.[774] This drew a quick response from Earth First and another lawsuit from EPIC.

EPIC was not alone in this case. They were joined by a group calling themselves “Concerned Earth Scientists”. Judith Waite, a graduate student studying geology, but not fully registered at Humboldt State University, sent a letter of protest identifying herself as part of CES, HSU Department of Geology & Environmental Systems”, to Dr. Gerald Partain, the director of the CDF, protesting the approval of the THPs. In a letter addressed to Waite, dated March 27, 1987, Don Christiensen, HSU Vice President for University Relations excoriated the activist for unauthorized use of the letterhead to legitimize her protest, charging that, “This university has no record of having authorized the activities or sanctioned the name of the organization”; that they had no record of Waite being a student there; and that they would pursue legal action if she continued her actions. Waite was convinced that the letter was politically motivated, perhaps prompted by Partain himself.[775] This was not an illogical deduction. Partain had been part of the CDF for three decades, and he was certainly no friend to the environmental movement.[776] And for that matter, HSU, a public university received a substantial percentage of its funding from private donations, particularly Corporate Timber.[777]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Earth First!ers responded by organizing actions against Maxxam on March 25 in several locations, including Marin County; at the Maxxam headquarters in Houston, Texas; and at the corporation’s shareholders’ annual meeting in Santa Monica at the Miramar Sheraton Hotel.[778] It was at this southern California action where Greg King—who, with the help of a newly formed group of Los Angeles Earth First!ers, had cobbled together enough funds to purchase a small handful of Maxxam shares—carried out his intent to meet with Hurwitz directly. After convincing a pair of unbelieving gatekeepers that he was indeed an actual stockholder, he gained entrance to the Starlight Room of hotel where the meeting was in progress. King initially attempted to dialog with Hurwitz outside of the meeting in the convention room, but failed.[779]

The Maxxam CEO evidently had a lot more on his mind than a few pesky “hippie” environmentalists. An independent group of Maxxam shareholders were angry that he had effectively shortchanged them in restructuring the complex relationship between Maxxam and MCO. As part of this move, P-L had been valued at $840 million, but consultants had meanwhile assessed its depreciation value in excess of $2 billion. After a lengthy report announcing the merger of Maxxam and MCO into a single financial entity—which no doubt would enrich Hurwitz and solidify his empire still further—King attempted to address the shareholders but was denied the opportunity. Hurwitz would not be swayed by appeals to reason or citizenship.[780]

In response, Greg King and Darryl Cherney then unveiled their ambitious plans to take the protests against Maxxam to a national level. Earth First held two further protests against old growth logging, one at the College of the Redwoods on April 8 and the other at the CDF in Fortuna on April 16.[781] They then announced that the third week of May, beginning on the 17th, would be a “Week of Outrage Against Maxxam” with actions in every location where the corporation had an office or operations. Furthermore, the demonstrations would involve direct action, including various instances of civil disobedience.[782] The actions were heavily promoted in the area of every location where a part of it was scheduled to take place, and by the looks of things, it would be Earth First!’s most complex demonstration yet.[783] Since the protests would involve a large degree of civil disobedience with a potential arrest risk Earth First! coordinated the planning through a loose federation of “affinity groups”, which facilitated decentralized, bottom-up planning as opposed to centralized top-down planning, following in the footsteps of the IWW, and other radical libertarian movements.[784]

The week before the week of outrage was set to commence, environmentalists continued to try and fight the THPs before the CDF during its weekly harvest review team meeting at the local office of the agency in Fortuna. On Thursday, May 7, 1990, four members of EPIC as well as King and Waite attended the review to address their concerns about the impact of the THPs on the nearby wildlife habitats and watersheds. Registered Professional Foresters Dave Drenman and Steve Davis, speaking on behalf of the CDF, argued that the proposed harvests posed no significant impact to the existing wildlife, though one of the pair based their conclusions on the existence of “plenty of other habitat for the wildlife to move into.” When questioned by King on the basis for which the CDF arrived at their determination, Drenman responded by declaring that the approval of the THPs was based on “the best available information they had.” The environmentalists then asked if any THP had ever been denied on the basis of significant adverse impact on wildlife habitat, to which the CDFs foresters had to answer in the negative. Then when asked if the THP process was not in fact actually based on economic considerations, one of the foresters admitted it was.[785]

This was a damning admission, and it is likely that it was an open secret that corporate timber would likely have preferred not be stated “on the record.” If P-L had hoped to manufacture consent, an inexperienced RFP had just blown it for them. In anticipation of the Week of Outrage, Earth First! had been handed a PR victory on a silver platter. Unfortunately, the very next day, the wheel of fortune would take a 180-degree turn.



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

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.[786]

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.” [787]

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. [788]

As described by Dave Foreman in Ecodefense:

“Tree-spiking is an extremely effective method of deterring timber sales, which seems to be becoming more and more popular. If enough trees are spiked to roadless areas, eventually the corporate thugs in the timber company boardrooms, along with their corporate lackeys who wear the uniform of the Forest Service, will realize that timber sales in wild areas are going to be prohibitively expensive.” [789]

There was much confusion over the origins of tree spiking. It is, in fact, a very old tactic, predating Earth First! by at least a half century. Indeed, the IWW, itself, was credited with inventing it—and many of its contemporary members accept this as historical fact [790]—although truthfully, the notion that the IWW used tree spiking was a scare story concocted by the employing class to discredit the IWW in its fight for the eight-hour day in 1917. [791] Logging employees sometimes did spike trees in many locations, during the early days of the IWA, including the North Coast, but there is no proof that the tactic was ever actually used or even advocated by the IWW. [792] This knowledge escaped some Earth First!ers who held to their own theories on its origins. Dave Foreman believed that environmentally conscious loggers devised the tactic in 1983 to protest clearcutting and the destruction of Elk habitat. [793] Fellow Earth First!er and Sea-Shepherd Society founder “Captain” Paul Watson claimed to have invented tree spiking himself, but either this was a statement made in ignorance or an outright fabrication. [794] In all likelihood the origins of tree spiking predate the twentieth century, but nobody for sure knows by how much.

The first known Earth First! tree-spiking happened in the Siskiyou Mountains of Oregon in 1983, on the Woodrat timber sale on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. Notice was given of the spiking, and some of the trees were marked with yellow ribbons to make them easy to locate and verify. In 1985, in southern Oregon, as part of Earth First!’s campaign to save Cathedral Forest in the Middle Santiam Wilderness—which had already seen road blockades, occupations of sites scheduled to be dynamited (where some of the Earth First!ers actually sat on the charges), and the first ever “tree sits”—Earth First! co-founder, Mike Roselle, sneaked into one stand of this forest and spiked several trees there. He then sent a letter announcing the spiking to the timber company awarded the cut signed “the Bonnie Abzug Feminist Garden Party” in reference to the heroine of The Monkeywrench Gang. The incident received much fanfare, but in spite of it, the spiking was ineffective, because the trees were cut (which Mike Roselle later admitted). Worse still, the tactic backfired, because the local press used it to discredit Earth First!, and Mary Beth Nearing, until then a dedicated Earth First!er, began distancing herself from the movement, as a result of the backlash. [795]

Over the next two years, tree-spiking took place primarily in Oregon and Washington, but also in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and British Columbia. Earth First! defended the tactic proudly, but in almost every case, tree spiking didn’t actually work. Usually the Forest Service or timber company responded by dispatching workers with metal detectors and—turning the tables on Earth First!—they would remove the spikes in a media circus. The tactic wasn’t very effective at driving up the price of timber sales either, because—since most spiking occurred on publically owned lands—it was the US Forest Service, and by extension the taxpayers—who bore the brunt of the costs, not the timber companies. Even in the case of spiking on private lands, the economic argument in defense of tree spiking failed, because the price of lumber was variable, and thusly, an increase in production coasts usually caused no appreciable drain on profits. [796]

Earth First!ers who advocated tree spiking claimed that it was not unsafe. The section on tree spiking in Ecodefense urges would-be spikers to take every precaution against careless acts that could potentially injure loggers or millworkers. Foreman, et. al. recommended against one type of tree spiking where the spiker aims for the base of the trees which is where the sawyer usually makes their cut, because of “the possibility, however remote the sawyer might be injured, either by the kickback of the saw striking the nail, or by the chain should it break when striking the spike.” [797] They also urged that spikers “(issue) a blanket warning after marking a few trees for demonstration purposes (with a spray painted white ‘S’), and spiking every tree in the potential logging area,” presumably because widespread spiking mitigated the potential risk associated with an isolated tree spike discovered inadvertently by a logger or mill worker. [798] Yet, most of the incidents of tree spiking, in Oregon in particular, were primarily angering timber workers, and by no means were they causing any deterrent to logging, and that was partly due to the employers’ willingness to sacrifice their mill employees’ safety to the sake of making a profit. [799]

Should a spiked tree make it all the way to the mill before being discovered, an affected log (could) literally bring operations to a screeching halt, at least until a new blade (could) be put into service.” Foreman, et. al. cavalierly assumed that no worker would be injured by this, because “in large mills, the blades are either operated from a control booth some distance from the actual cutting, or are protected by a Plexiglas shield.” [800] Foreman, however, admitted in 1987 to the Christian Science Monitor, that he had never actually seen the inside of a sawmill, and it went without saying that employers often cut corners in matters of safety (especially in nonunion mills). In most cases, the Plexiglas guards weren’t even used, and when they were, they were incapable of blocking all shrapnel that resulted from a sawblade hitting a spike, and in any case, workers were often forced to make adjustments to the machinery, while it was in operation, even though technically they were required to stay behind the glass shield. [801]

The primary motivator behind the timber industry’s lack of regard for its workers’ safety was profit, but they had other considerations in mind as well. Oregon millworker Gene Lawhorn once declared, “The timber industry doesn’t give a damn about the safety of its workers. They will knowingly run a spiked tree in there so they can point their finger at the environmental activists and say, ‘See, not only are they trying to take your jobs, they’re also trying to kill you.”[802] In one particular instance, at a Boise-Cascade sale in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, some spikes were missed by the metal detectors and those trees made it to the mill. There, the spiked trees damaged the milling equipment, breaking teeth off of several sawblades—which, in turn, caromed across the mill. Though no workers were injured, they were terrified and angered. Naturally they directed the blame at Earth First! (and no doubt, that was encouraged by their employers). [803] Given the negative publicity generated by tree spiking towards Earth First!, (which was encouraged by the Corporate Timber barons) it was not at all inconceivable that eventually a timber company might be crass and unscrupulous enough to use an injury of one of their own mill workers as a further P.R. weapon against Earth First.

Sure enough, on Friday, May 8, 1987, in the Louisiana-Pacific sawmill in Cloverdale, sawmill worker George Alexander was nearly decapitated when a tree spike shattered his sawblade. Alexander was but 23 at the time and recently married. He was a lifetime resident of Mendocino County and the son of a Willits logger. His wife, Laurie, was three months pregnant on that fateful day. Alexander was the off-bearer, whose job it was to perform the first rough cut on freshly cut logs, using an enormous band saw, to produce slices of wood that would in turn be sectioned into standard lengths and planed for commercial lumber. It was one of the most dangerous jobs in the mill. Alexander’s saw was a behemoth, sized for old growth logs, at 52 feet in diameter and 10 inches thick made of high tensile steel. If that blade should hit a hard knot or metal debris, the saw teeth were prone to breakage. [804] Such debris was actually quite common—not so much from tree spikes, though a few of those were likely to be left over from the 1940s during the IWA union loggers’ struggles with the employers then—from old nails, barbed wire fence fragments, insulators, even chocker chains from previous logging efforts, and the like that were overgrown as trees aged. [805]

Alexander was aware of the dangers of his job, but he was skilled in his profession and had an intuitive sense of the machinery, including every potential sound the saw might make. He was not, however, a company man. In fact, Alexander was rather disdainful of L-P and corporate logging in general; he saw L-P as an uncaring, greedy master, but more than that he opposed clearcutting. [806] Alexander said of L-P, (years later), “we’re not even people to them…all they care about is production.” Specifically, he protested L-P’s lax safety standards in the mill, and butted heads with dayshift foreman Dick Edwards, who was very much aligned with L-P’s corporate ethic. In the weeks leading up to the accident, conditions in the mill and the equipment had deteriorated beyond the company’s usually mediocre practices. Alexander’s band saw blade wobbled when it operated and cracks began to appear in it revealing metal fatigue. Edwards kept insisting that new blades were on order, but not yet available. [807] To make matters worse, the mill possessed metal detectors, but weren’t using them, despite their use being the company’s professed standard practice. [808] On top of that, L-P had already removed one spike from the log, but had sent it to the mill anyway. [809] On the day of the accident, Alexander almost elected to stay home from work. [810] As fate would have it, had he done so, his story—and perhaps history—would have turned out differently, because the replacement saw blades arrived the very next day. [811]

The trees being milled on the day of the incident had come from an especially controversial L-P cut on Cameron Road near the rural coastal southwestern Mendocino County hamlet of Elk. They had been cut as early as February, according to Mendocino County sheriff’s investigator Roy Gourley. [812] Residents and workers alike had condemned the cut, complaining about L-P’s liquidation of the forest as well as threatening their local water supply. [813] Loggers Kenneth and Walter Smith described the cut as shameful even by L-P’s standards (though both of them were opposed to tree spiking), [814] and Mark Hughs, who lived on Cameron Road stated,

“We’re really shocked. I’ve lived here 17 years and never seen anything like it. I drive down the road and hardly recognize it. I can see clear to Covelo through the clear cuts and skid roads. Loggers usually leave a buffer stand along the roads, but here there are just stumps. They’re taking out anything over six inches, leaving nothing but straggly little twigs. Here you buy this beautiful scenic property, surrounded by trees, and all of a sudden you find you’re living in the middle of a wasteland.”[815]

George Alexander, himself, would likely have been especially appalled at the Cameron Road slaughter, but being an expectant father, working in a non-union mill, in a timber dependent community, he had little choice but to do his job. [816]

Alexander’s saw was sized for much larger logs, but the spiked log was a relatively tiny, slightly less than 12-inches in diameter—what North Coast loggers derisively refer to as a “pecker pole.” He chose to make his cut down the middle. Halfway through the log, which measured 10-feet in length, the saw hit a 60-penny nail, exactly the sort described by Foreman, et. al. in Ecodefense. The nail had been placed and countersunk. Alexander had checked the log before cutting it, and saw no sign of the metal, and because his saw hit the nail square on, Alexander heard none of the familiar telltale warning sounds. Instead he heard a resounding “BOOM!” and then found himself lying on the floor practically drowning in his own blood. [817]

Although Alexander was partially protected by a helmet and plastic face shield, he was struck in his lower left jaw when a large, 12-inch piece of the shattered blade hurtled towards him. The fragment sliced completely through his left jawbone, severing his left cheek, cutting into his jugular vein, and knocking out most of his front teeth. [818] The blade fragment was wrapped around Alexander, and his coworkers had to cut it with a blowtorch while meanwhile preventing him from bleeding to death. [819] Russ Owsey, the Cloverdale plant manager described the accident as the worst he’d ever seen in his entire 16 year career. [820] Although L-P had no doubt already propagandized against “tree spiking Earth First! terrorists” long before this incident to the workers in the Cloverdale mill, Alexander’s initial reaction was to wring Dick Edwards’ neck. [821] He later explained, “If it had been a good saw, it would have handled the spike better.”[822] The mill, which employed 175, was shut down for a day while Alexander was taken to an emergency hospital at the University of San Francisco. [823]

The incident eventually caused quite a stir, and with it much condemnation from L-P. Oddly enough however, they didn’t issue a press release until one week after the incident. [824] But once they did, there was no mystery—as far as L-P and the Corporate Media were concerned—as to the perpetrators. An “unnamed” male L-P spokesperson connected the incident to Earth First!. [825] This was an odd accusation indeed. Tree spikings happened in California much less frequently than anywhere else, with no tree spikings—at least none by Earth First!—taking place in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. [826] In fact, the North Coast Earth First! groups had consciously made the decision not to use the tactic for strategic reasons, reasoning that it could alienate potential supporters. [827] Nevertheless, Lois Busey, another L-P spokesperson declared that Earth First! was “the type of group known for terrorist activities” like tree spiking, and in the same breath she also stated. “One of Earth First!’s mottos is ‘No compromise in defense of Mother Earth,” as if that statement were somehow automatically implicated them for the injury to George Alexander. [828]

In spite of all of the claims to the contrary, there was no conclusive proof that Earth First! had actually perpetrated the act. There was only L-Ps assertion that the act “may have been carried out by Earth First!”, the fact that Earth First! was known for tree spiking and monkeywrenching, and an unnamed L-P spokesman’s declaration that a Caterpillar wheel tractor-scraper at the site of the spiking had been damaged by someone filling in its fluid cavities with concrete. [829] The lack of any solid evidence confirming that Earth First! (or any environmental activist for that matter) had committed the act didn’t stop Mendocino County Sheriff Tim Shea from issuing a widely quoted press release full of doublespeak stating,

“This heinous and vicious criminal act is a felony offense, punishable by imprisonment in State Prison for up to three years. Still undetermined in the investigation is the motive of the suspect or suspects, to deter logging operations or inflict great bodily injury and death upon lumber processing personnel” [830]

The absence of any proof of a connection to Earth First! didn’t prevent L-P spokeswoman Glennys Simmons from distributing the tree spiking chapter of Ecodefense to reporters. [831] Not to be outdone, Harry Merlo, announced that L-P was prepared to offer a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrator of the spiking. [832] He explained, “I hope the reward helps law enforcement officials arrest whoever is responsible for this act. I also hope this horrible demonstration of the outcome of their action will lead these individuals to abandon their potentially lethal activities.” [833] Though he didn’t name them, Merlo was also convinced that environmentalists, specifically Earth First!ers were responsible, declaring, It was only a matter of time before this terrorism in the name of radical environmental goals caused serious injury. [834]

The media ate it up. “Earth First! Blamed for Workers’ Injury,” declared the Eureka Times-Standard [835] and “Tree Spiking ‘Terrorism’ Blamed for Injuries,” screamed the headline of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. [836]. The San Francisco Chronicle announced, “Tree Sabotage Claims its First Bloody Victim”. [837] The local, small-town press was not much better parroting the corporate press almost word-for-word. [838] Although they acknowledged there was no proof Earth First! had spiked the tree, they nevertheless implied that Earth First! had done so. Enoch Ibarra’s article in the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance bore the headline, “Sabotage Suspected in L-P Injury”, which itself didn’t necessarily single out Earth First!, but the penultimate paragraphs in the article did. [839]

Nancy Barth, a regular columnist for the Mendocino Coast based North Coast News, who described herself as a “moderate” and “concerned about the environment,” yet never seemed to actually support local environmentalists on any issues—outside of opposing offshore oil drilling—compared Earth First! to a rogues gallery of despicable characters and lunatics, such as Jim Jones (mass murderer of his People’s Temple cult in 1978 in Guiana), serial killers Charles Manson and Leonard Lake, and child kidnappers Kenneth Parnell and “Treefrog” Johnson—all of who had passed through Mendocino County at one time or another. Barth sneeringly referred to Edward Abbey as Earth First!’s “Chief Guru” and Dave Foreman as Abbey’s “Assistant Guru”, not even once acknowledging that Earth First!’s innately anarchistic organizational structure meant that said movement perceived—amongst its ranks at any rate—that it had no leaders, let alone gurus. [840]

Unfortunately, a handful of Mendocino County environmentalists hurt themselves almost as much by reacting to the accusations ambiguously, inadvertently adding weight to the claims that Earth First! might have indeed have been guilty. For example, Ron Guenther warned that tree spiking was likely to increase as outrage over L-P’s type of forestry and pursuit of profit continued unabated. He also stated:

“If L-P cares one iota about the long-term welfare of its workers, it will either get into responsible, sustained-yield, select-cut forestry or install some heavy-duty worker-protective equipment in all of its mills. I just feel a tremendous sorrow and empathy for anyone who is so desperate to get beans on the table that they would feel compelled to take a job with this awful Earth and people-hating corporation.” [841]

Although he insisted that Earth First! hadn’t spiked the tree, Don Morris still argued that spiking was acceptable as a guerilla tactic to be done covertly, which allowed for all sorts of unintended consequences. [842] Kim Moon Water, responding to the local press’s quickness to blame Earth First! for a tree spiking they likely didn’t commit [843] may have caused more harm than good by making pro-spiking statements that seemed to suggest that the ends justified the means. [844] This touched off a firestorm of debate that divided the community for months, in which environmental activists and family members of timber workers (most of them sympathetic to the environmentalists on most issues) debated over economics, the lack of power felt by timber workers, how deep ecologists could be so concerned with all species except humans, and whether or not one worker losing (part of) his face was as bad as thousands upon thousands of acres of slaughtered old growth forests. Most of the participants agreed on 95 percent of the issues, as usual, but the tactic of tree spiking created an emotional wedge between would be allies, even though, as Betty Ball pointed out, the tragedy at least forced the discussion. [845]

The reaction of most local residents, however, including many environmentalists was one of condemnation. Two years previously, just as Earth First! was getting going in Mendocino County, some prominent spokespeople for the Mendocino Greens had cautioned against spiking. [846] Even those sympathetic to Earth First! acknowledged that the latter would be blamed whether or not one of their own had spiked the tree, simply because they had advocated the tactic. [847] Even many of those critical of the Cameron Road cut expressed dismay at the tree spiking. For example, Mark Hughs stated, “We think (spiking is) a terrible thing, as bad as the clear cutting. That’s not the right way to go about it.” [848] Charlie Acker, who operated the Elk County Water District declared,

“People in Elk who know where that log came from are against (tree spiking), but on the other hand there’s a certain frustration. How do you get to these guys [L-P]? We’re losing our topsoil up there (on the ridges) and we’re down at the bottom of the watershed. Every year we watch (the Navarro River) turn the color of coffee with a lot of cream in it, because of L-P’s logging.” [849]

Long time forest activist Helen Libeu, who doubted that any Earth First!er was the guilty party in any case, stated, “spiking trees and such is in my view immoral, dumb, and counterproductive.” [850]

Earth First!’s cofounders who were regarded by the corporate press as “leaders” (whether intended or not) were no less ambiguous in their sensitivity to Alexander’s plight. For example, Dave Foreman said, “It was unfortunate that this worker was injured and I wish him the best.” [851] He also said, however, “I think it’s unfortunate that somebody got hurt, but you know I quite honestly am more concerned about old growth forests, spotted owls, wolverines, and salmon—and nobody is forcing people to cut those trees.” [852]

Likewise, Mike Roselle declared (writing under the pseudonym “Nagasaki Johnson”):

“Spiking is dangerous to fellow humans, and should never occur without warning! I think even the most misanthropic among us would agree with that. If it is indeed a defensive tactic, and not an offensive one, then we owe it to the unfortunate laborers who must slave away for corporate greedheads at a job that is already the most dangerous in this country.” [853]

But he also said, publically (using his own name), “This is probably the first time we’ve made international news, and we weren’t even involved in it.” [854] He further declared, “The bottom line here is that as a result of all this unfavorable coverage regarding spiking, people on the West Coast are acutely aware of the crisis that exists with our forests, and our role in trying to prevent it.”[855] Which risked leaving the impression that Earth First!, like L-P was willing to sacrifice a worker as a pawn (even as much as they sent Alexander their sincerest condolences), whether that was intended or not.

For their part, North Coast Earth First!ers denied that they had spiked the tree. The Redwood Action Team condemned both L-P’s accusations and reiterated their abstinence from the tactic of tree spiking:

“North Coast California Earth First! strongly condemns the timber industry’s recent heavy-handed tactics designed to bring woodworkers wrath upon environmentalists. Our efforts have not and will not involve tree spiking, destruction of private property, or devices that threaten harm to any life form, including humans. Industry’s spring media blitz, which inaccurately associates Earth First! efforts with malice toward woodworkers, is a blatant ruse.” [856]

Greg King noted that his Earth First! chapter, at least, had not engaged in any campaigns against L-P, at least not yet, and that tree spiking was a tactic that they did not use, though he clarified that he was not sure what Earth First!ers or environmentalists elsewhere might do. [857]

Darryl Cherney specifically added:

“Timber Companies such as L-P have traditionally blamed environmentalists for their shortage of timber lands. Now they are blaming environmentalists for their worker safety hazards. They should be ashamed of themselves for using the injury of this poor man to further their own political and economic motives.” [858]

The Ukiah Daily Journal sneered at these statements, claiming that they were sure that George Alexander would agree with them (which, as it was ultimately proven later, was not true), and further opining:

“The radical environmental organization Earth First! has yet to denounce tree spiking, a tactic described in the book Ecodefense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching, written by two of its leading members. Instead (Darryl Cherney), when queried about this incident, accused the timber companies of ‘blaming environmentalists for the safety hazards in their mill operations.’ That’s like saying Americans on Middle East cruise ships deserved to be killed by terrorists because they were too stupid to pack a bullet proof vest.” [859]

This was ridiculous. While some Earth First!er’s reactions to the condemnation may have been poorly chosen, none of them would have made such a callous and unfeeling statement. The Ukiah Daily Journal, however, was not one to ever accept that capitalist driven, profit oriented timber practices did indeed incentivize cutting corners, particularly when safety precautions were directly counterposed to the bottom line. [860]

* * * * *

While the debate on spiking raged on, the Cameron Road tree spiking story took even more bizarre turns. To begin with, According to L-P security chief Jack Sweeley [861], several mutilated animals, including pigs, a beheaded deer hanging from a tree, and a skinned dog draped over a bulldozer [862], had been found along Cameron Road and deliberately placed there by an obviously deranged individual. [863] Though this happened several days before L-P had begun cutting, the company hinted that these actions were also the work of Earth First! and attempted to link them to the spiking itself [864], at first by withholding the information about the animal carcasses, and then raising the issue at the same time they condemned Earth First! for Alexander’s injury in the mill. L-P miscalculated in their thinking, however, because though many might believe Earth First! had spiked the trees, almost nobody would buy the story that Earth First! would deliberately kill and disfigure pigs, deer, and dogs. [865] Such actions were entirely inconsistent with any Earth First!’s actions up until this point. Mendocino County Earth First!er, Betty Ball, declared, “I have never heard of (Earth First!ers carrying out) animal mutilations before. You can look through (Ecodefense) and you won’t see anything about (them).” [866] Nevertheless, L-P did what they could to establish the connection in people’s minds anyway. Both Tim Shea and Glennys Simmons cited as “proof” a vandalized sign near the logging site covered with obscenities, but no actual calling card, let along anything connecting it with Earth First! [867]

L-P and Mendocino County law enforcement also tried to link the tree spiking incident to other unrelated acts of equipment sabotage to logging operations whether or not they were directly connected to L-P or even to the Cameron Road cut. Glennys Simmons drew backhanded connections to an incident at Rockport, in the northwestern corner of the county—far away from Cameron Road—where an unidentified party left incendiary statements on a comment form in response to the company’s pamphlet describing their logging in a nearby “demonstration” forest. The comments read, “Leave the trees alone. A tree walk (sic) in the woods…God is watching and knows what you are doing—Earth First (sic) will be here soon.”. [868] Whether or not the anonymous note was an attempt to implicate Robert Sutherland, “The Man Who Walks in the Woods” is unknown, but the lack of an exclamation point—something dedicated Earth First!ers always insisted on including after “Earth First”—should’ve been an obvious clue that the attribution was false. Sheriff Shea drew connections to an incident that took place on March 31 involving local gyppo operator Charles Hiatt at a cut 20 miles to the west of Ukiah on Low Gap Road. [869] Neither incident had anything to do with the other let alone the Cameron Road THP, but truthfulness was evidently not as important to either L-P or Mendocino County as it was to find anything even remotely plausible to solidify the notion in people’s minds that Earth First! was Public Enemy Number One.

Many of Earth First!’s fellow travelers were quick to defend the radical environmental movement by pointing out that this particular spiking did not fit the patterns of similar acts elsewhere. “Woods” Sutherland declared, “There are so many unanswered questions. I also find it strange that only one or two spikes were found. If someone was interested in tree spiking they would spike all the trees.” [870]

Bruce Anderson, editor of the coincidentally named Anderson Valley Advertiser, pointed out that the location of the spike itself made it highly unlikely that this an Earth First! spiking:

“Earth First! does not spike downed trees. The point of tree spiking is to keep trees standing by spiking them, then informing the media they have been spiked. Driving a spike deep into a downed tree plainly risks injury to both mills and workers and is a tactic repudiated by Earth First!.” [871]

Willits Earth First! activist, Don Morris, declared:

“(This particular spiking) was a loony operation. Earth First! goes overboard on security, safety, (and) making sure people know of dangers. Spikers paint a white ‘S’ on trees…the object of spiking (is to) prevent trees from being cut. (You) notify the logging operation, mill and media, or there’d be no point to it. Spiking is not done just flippantly.” [872]

The spiking itself had been so carelessly done, that it violated all of the safety standards suggested in Ecodefense. In fact, it was just as likely, given the forensic evidence of the spike’s placement in the tree, about nine feet up from its base, that the tree had been spiked while lying on the L-P log deck after it had been cut. [873] Certainly it was unlikely that the tree had been spiked while standing unless, as Bruce Anderson humorously suggested, “(an) average sized person teamed up with a midget, (and) the midget got up on the shoulders of his partner to hammer in the spikes.” [874] In all of the cases of Earth First tree spikings, no spiking had occurred after the tree had been cut, and contrary to all of the anti-Earth First! propaganda, it was unlikely that they would have deliberately risked injury to a mill worker, despite any insensitivity expressed by some of their spokespeople. Earth First!ers, in general, were strategically smart, and spiking a downed tree would have been regarded as colossally stupid in any case, not only because of it being a pointless act, but it was an unnecessary risk to the spiker, never mind the worker. It would not have benefitted anyone wishing to preserve the forests to have spiked a down log. [875]

* * * * *

As it turned out, the prime suspect was a man in his middle fifties, named Bill Ervin, a registered Republican from Southern California, who was not only not an Earth First!er, but in fact a right wing survivalist who died his hair, mustache, and eyebrows a vivid blonde; he also had a sizable collection of guns. Ervin was no fan of L-P however, and he had made several threats against the company within earshot of the residents of Cameron Road, who were aware of Ervin’s erratic and belligerent behavior which made them nervous. [876] He openly admitted to spiking several trees on his own property, which he flagged with yellow tape, to prove a point because L-P had a reputation for cutting and taking trees several feet beyond their property line (as Greg King had once documented). He had borrowed the hammer he used to spike the trees from a neighbor (to whom he explained his reasons) and also bragged about it to an L-P truck driver and a California Highway Patrol officer. Ervin justified his actions to Sheriff Shea stating, “I may be in error, but I understand that one can spike trees on one’s own property.” [877] When this new information came to light, the press (quietly) recanted their accusations that “Earth First! terrorists” had spiked the trees. [878] In stark contrast with his earlier actions, the Sheriff issued no press release condemning Ervin and eventually dropped the case with little notice and without filing any charges. [879] Glennys Simmons declared, “We never have accused Earth First! (of causing Alexander’s accident) We have accused them of supporting terrorism by supporting tree spiking.” [880]

It was no less impossible to prove Ervin spiked the tree in question, however, and the only reason why he represented a credible suspect at all was that the evidence against all other suspects was even weaker. Ervin maintained that he used only 16 penny (six-inch) nails on the trees he spiked, no other sized nails were found when the sheriffs and L-P security examined the trees in the area, and there is no evidence suggesting that Ervin had access to larger spikes, yet the spike found in the log that resulted in Alexander’s injury was a much larger 60 penny (11 inch) nail. Ervin submitted to a polygraph test, and though he answered in the negative when asked “did you spike the logs at the deck on Cameron Road?” and “Did you spike any trees outside your property?”, he failed the test on both questions. [881] The reliability of polygraph tests in general is now considered to be very doubtful, but there is no other conclusive evidence that Ervin spiked the tree that ultimately injured Alexander. All of the trees Ervin did spike were consistent with the methods outlined in Ecodefense, but the one that injured the millworker wasn’t. [882]

Clearly, the entire incident was a media circus from start to finish, and it seemed a perfect PR coup for Corporate Timber, almost too perfect. Indeed, there were some who went as far as to suggest that the spiking had been planned by the industry itself, since Ervin’s story was full of inconsistencies, and the evidence indicated that spike had been placed in the tree after it had been cut. Crawdad Nelson even suggested that L-P itself was the most likely suspect. [883] It is highly unlikely, however, that even the Louisiana-Pacific Corporation was so crass that it would deliberately injure one of its workers, and it would have been impossible to plan for events, particularly the injuries to Alexander, to unfold exactly as they did. Nevertheless, L-P’s supposed outrage about their workers’ safety was nothing but posturing, given their lack of attention to safety conditions in the mill prior to the incident, or their insistence in continuing to run spiked logs through the equipment after it.

Indeed, L-P made no substantial changes to its safety standards immediately following the accident. Glennys Simmons insisted, “We thought long and hard about revealing this spiking incident. We decided it would be in our best interests to go public, to deter others. We’re concerned about the safety of our employees,” but this was a bald-faced lie. [884] To begin with, two more spiked logs made it into the mill after Alexander’s nearly fatal injury. [885] The company continued to refrain from using metal detectors until, on May 12, after yet another spiked log pass through the band saw. This time, fortunately, nobody was injured. [886] The mill was nonunion, but IWA Local 3-469 made a public statement condemning both tree spiking, but also asking for metal detectors to be used at all times. [887] In doing so, the union noted that the vast majority of metal found in milled logs was incidental, rather than deliberate sabotage. [888] Simmons had claimed that metal detectors couldn’t reliably detect tree spikes (even metal ones), but this claim was disputed by the California State Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration. [889] Evidently L-P only claimed to give a damn about safety in order to shift the blame for Alexander’s injury to Earth First!. The Ukiah Daily Journal had no comment on these revelations, however.

Further demonstrating that this was purely propagandistic kabuki by L-P, the company had made a huge noise about offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of perpetrator of the spiking. [890], but George Alexander had to file a lawsuit against the company just to get them to cover his medical expenses, of which L-P ultimately only paid $9,000. They didn’t even offer to fund an extensive hospital stay for Alexander, who was discharged on May 13, less than a full week following the incident, even though he still required extensive reconstructive surgery. Simmons indicated that the company had received several donations for the reward money from various individuals already (and one might wonder if the company had any qualms about accepting it in lieu of lowering their own obligations further). [891]

Literally adding insult to injury, L-P continued to use Alexander as a poster child for their continued denunciations against Earth First!, repeatedly offering TV news programs footage of him speaking through his bandages from his hospital bed, even though Alexander himself didn’t consent to being used this way. Alexander and his wife, Laurie, had told the press that they held L-P responsible for the accident, that they opposed clearcutting, and that they bore no ill will towards the environmentalists, but these comments were all but ignored. “Some woman from Humboldt County” whose name Alexander couldn’t recall tried to convince the injured millworker to go on a tour denouncing Earth First!, but Alexander refused. After that, Alexander was forced to return to work, out of economic necessity, still recovering from his injuries, and was involuntarily transferred to the night shift. [892] Ironically, the Cloverdale mill was slated to be upgraded soon, and Alexander’s job was to be automated, thus eliminated. [893]

One possible theory suggests that while L-P didn’t plan for the injuries to Alexander, they did intend—with foreknowledge—to run spiked logs through the Cloverdale mill in order to blame Earth First! and create a negative image of the environmental movement in the minds of the public. Earth First!ers were convinced that the timing of the announcement, certainly, was intended to turn the workers and the general public against the upcoming Week of Outrage. [894] Although the incident took place in Sonoma County at an L-P mill, rather than in Humboldt County at a P-L facility, it was known that both L-P and P-L participated in an industry front group called the West Coast Alliance for Resources and the Environment (WECARE), and the unnamed woman who had called Alexander may have been one of their spokespeople. [895] Upper management representatives of both corporations routinely communicated with each other and collaborated to undermine the environmental movement. [896] Right after L-P’s press conference, P-L public affairs manager David Galitz expressed “concern” about the tree spiking, declaring, “We are going to be extremely vigilant about trespassing on our property in order to protect our people.” [897]

* * * * *

It wasn’t the first time that tree spiking had been used by the industry to generate negative press against environmentalists, and it would not be the last time that Corporate Timber or their enablers would blame Earth First! for things it didn’t do. Several months later, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, Humboldt County’s Second District Supervisor, Harold Pritchard, accused Earth First! of two separate incidents of vandalism against a logging truck, calling it “terrorism, pure and simple.” Greg King angrily responded,

“(Pritchard) mentions nothing of the terror and destruction handed North Coast watersheds by greedy, denuding, corporate money-grubbers, nor does Pritchard seem to care about suffering woodworkers laid off due to industry’s refusal to practice sustained-yield logging.”[898]

Two months later, the Sonoma County Coalition to Stop L-P, claimed to have spiked trees at the Silver Estate near Guerneville in Sonoma County, immediately south of Mendocino County. To their credit the coalition was emphatic in their abiding by the safety precautions suggested in Ecodefense, (including spray painting a white letter ‘S’ on some of the disputed trees), expressing regret for Alexander’s injuries, and calling spiking without warnings “irresponsible”. [899] But the warning turned out to be a bluff, and no spiked trees were ever found. This didn’t stop L-P from claiming that it had located a suspect who was, by their own description, “a black man with a bone through his nose who rides a bicycle and carries bows and arrows”. Such incidents didn’t alleviate the tension caused by spiking, and in some cases made the situation worse. [900]

Despite all of this, Earth First! outside of Northern California continued to advocate the tactic of tree spiking, and while they were absolutely correct in pointing out that L-P was the real culprit in Alexander’s injury (a point to which Alexander himself wholeheartedly agreed), it was highly irresponsible to suggest that Earth First! deserved absolutely no blame. In any case, as L-P spokeswoman Glennys Simmons had stated, spiking was “not a deterrent to logging,” [901] and even though Earth First! certainly didn’t spike the Cameron Road trees cut by L-P, L-P’s anti Earth First! P.R. still had its desired effect, because for years after the incident, the timber bosses continued to repeat the lie, and many loggers and millworkers believed it. [902] The resulting animosity between timber workers and Earth First!ers only helped Corporate Timber drive further wedges between them.

If there was one silver lining to be had, it was that this incident would ultimately lead to the IWW returning directly to the struggle, though that process would take some time.



7. Way Up High in The Redwood Giants

“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.” [903] Beginning on Monday, May 18, Earth First! planned to conduct actions in several places specifically targeting Pacific Lumber operations, Maxxam offices, and related facilities. [904] 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. [905]

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. [906] The three tree sitters, three of their support people (Lynn Burchfield, Debra Jean Jorgenson, and Linda Villatore), and Sacramento Weekly reporter Tim Holt [907] were arrested and spent two nights in the Humboldt County jail and faced fines of up to $3000. [908] 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”. [909]

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. [910] 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 disgruntled, unsympathetic P-L employee attempted to storm the protesters at the logging gate by ramming them with his pickup truck. [911] A group of three women swarmed the log deck attempting to display huge banners there. [912] Although the sheriffs were anticipating the action and managed to arrest Agnes Mansfield, Aster Phillipa, and Karen Pickett [913], they were distracted long enough for Bettina Garsen, Tierra Diane Piaz, and “Sally Bell” [914] to ascend the log deck with banners conveying messages calling for a halt to old growth logging. [915] The sheriffs eventually arrested the second group, and all six arrestees each spent a night in the county jail. [916] 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. [917]

A protest also took place in at the Pacific Lumber sales office in Mill Valley, a small northern Bay Area town nestled at the base of Mt Tamalpais in the San Francisco Bay Area. Demonstrators glued 800 pounds of Douglass fir tree stumps in the entryway barring the front door to the facility on Shoreline Highway. [918] Meanwhile three protesters, including Mill Valley carpenter Dan Zbozien, ascended the sixty foot decorative redwood clock tower that adorned the office and unfurled a banner reading “PACIFIC LUMBER STOP THE PLUNDER!” As P-L sales employees arrived for work, they noticed the demonstration unfolding and contacted Marin County Sheriff’s Deputies, who arrived on the scene in minutes. [919] Sheriff’s deputies arrested five in all, including Zbozien, Helen Matthews, Brian Gaffney, Tim Richardson, and Tim Reck. They were charged with the misdemeanors of trespassing and vandalism. [920] A hook and ladder truck from a local fire department was dispatched to extract the climbers from their perch. [921] Of the three, Zbozien was the only arrestee, as the other two descended after being ordered to do so by the law enforcement agents. Zbozien, on the other hand, tied himself to the top of the tower [922], refusing to come down until a deputy ascended the raised fire truck ladder, at which point the activist traversed down the structure’s other side only to be detained once he reached the ground. [923] He declared, “We’re the ones who are being treated like criminals, (but) it’s the (CDF) that is not upholding the law”. [924] He was charged with resisting arrest. All five arrestees were released later that afternoon on their own recognizance. [925]

Additional demonstrations happened elsewhere too. A small group of Earth First!ers protested the rubber stamping of Timber Harvest Plans (THPs), picketing peacefully, without incident at the California Department of Forestry (CDF) office in Santa Rosa. [926] Fifteen Los Angeles Earth First!ers held banners in front of the Maxxam controlled MCO offices, and Denise Conway-Mucha, dressed as Mother Earth, unsuccessfully tried to carry a baby Sequoia into the office, though no arrests took place. [927] In Houston, Texas, fifteen Earth First!ers (including a disgruntled lumberjack named Bob Gartner—who informed passersby that “Hurwitz was destroying America!”) demonstrated in front of Maxxam headquarters accompanied by cardboard redwoods and living cedars. Lisa Henderson, Sedge Simmons, and Jean Crawford tried to deliver a list of demands to Hurwitz’s office, but were stopped by security, so the demonstrators held a mock tribunal instead and found a dummy facsimile of Charles Hurwitz “Guilty of Crimes of Nature.” [928]

Elsewhere the brand new New York City chapter of Earth First! held its inaugural action by marching over to the offices of DBL. Forty activists had attempted to demonstrate at Maxxam’s old headquarters only to find that their offices there had been vacated only two weeks previously. [929] They were joined by members of Greenpeace, the Green Party, Rainforest Action Network, Big Mountain Support Community, and the previously existing Long Island Chapter of Earth First! [930]

In Washington DC, Earth First!ers leafleted at the offices of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and arranged for a formal meeting with an SEC representative to discuss the Maxxam takeover of P-L. [931]

In spite of the heavy police presence, a mere eighteen arrests took place in total, all of them in northwestern California, and all of the demonstrations were nonviolent. In response to all of the arrests Greg King declared, “We should be looked at as heroes, not as criminals. The action today is just the beginning. We want to continue the protest throughout the summer.” [932]

At least one Pacific Lumber mill worker, speaking anonymously, agreed and reacted to the week of outrage against Maxxam somewhat favorably, albeit cautiously, exclaiming:

“Everybody knows (the new ownership) are doing too much, but no one feels free to say too much of anything. If you’re working here, you’re stuck in the middle…The mill workers’ involvement is more than just apathy (however)…If (the demonstrators) had been here (a year ago) when we needed them we would gladly be on their side.” [933]

Earth First! was not above self criticism. Darryl Cherney very candidly assessed the actions in the pages of the Earth First! Journal, citing both positive and negative aspects of the week of outrage. On the plus side, the action was publicized in the local press and on every major news network in California, the “Today Show”, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and the Houston Post, which also featured accounts of Hurwitz’s past battles with celebrities such as Frank Sinatra and Susan Marx. This was also the first time that Earth First! attempted to carry out coordinated actions in seven widespread locations, which they did successfully. They closed Maxxam offices in three locations. They stayed “on message” mostly deflecting the attempted distraction by L-P and the Corporate Press on the tree spiking controversy. They carried out their actions using affinity groups, which allowed for decentralized yet coordinated actions and support (including groups for media, video, reconnaissance, tree climbers, jail support, telephone communications, drivers, legal, entertainment, two-way radio operators, fundraisers, base camp coordinators, and more), and they were able to organize all of this in two weeks. And, as these were the days long before activists had access to cellphones or the Internet, they were able to maintain telephone communications by stationing support people at payphones and in offices to keep each affinity group networking with each other. [934]

Also positive was the fact that the rallies, which also included several hundred demonstrators at the Hydesville action, drew in a diverse group of supporters, who demonstrated against Maxxam for a variety of reasons. Some were there to protect wildlife; others to ensure the long term employment of timber workers. One such demonstrator, Dave Ziegler, himself a woodworker, had attended the action after seeing a flier announcing it on a telephone pole in Arcata. Ziegler had worked for the Forest Service for ten years marking diseased timber in salvage sales, and he loved Humboldt County and working in the woods. He was by no means opposed to logging, but he believed that an outside corporation, like Maxxam, having control over local resources was a recipe for disaster and demonstrated to show his convictions. He immediately felt at home in Earth First! after the week of outrage. [935] No doubt many citizens concerned with the destruction of the old growth redwoods looked favorably upon Earth First! in spite of the negative publicity created by L-P’s linking of the Cloverdale mill accident to the radical environmentalists.

Still, every successful action had its weak points, and Cherney was not afraid to discuss these also. The tree spiking announcement was unexpected, and though it was handled well by Earth First!ers on the North Coast, it still distracted attention. Virtually every major story on the week of outrage, both during the lead-up and the aftermath mentioned the incident. [936] Anticipation of similar corporate manufactured distractions in the future was imperative. Also, a potentially violent situation, instigated by the disgruntled employee who attempted to run down demonstrators in his pickup truck, almost got out of control when Earth First!ers responded by shouting at police who were present but didn’t intervene. Finally, although the tree sitters were mostly successful, they were somewhat careless with the deployment of their equipment, opening themselves up to being arrested, which happened and perhaps could have been avoided. [937]

Apparently, Earth First!’s efforts also grabbed the attention of the politicians in Sacramento (California’s state capitol). Shortly after the Week of Outrage, State Senator Barry Keene had proposed a measure that would limit rapid increases in timber harvesting, at least in theory. SB1641 would limit increases in the acreage cut in single watersheds to no more than 20 percent above the average of the preceding five years, unless the harvesters could pass strict tests of environmental protection in public hearings. A Senate committee approved the bill on May 18, but amended it to allow Pacific Lumber specifically to base their limits on the previous three years cut as opposed to five, and also exempted any timber company whose increased cut was enacted to facilitate the repayment of estate taxes. Amendments also doubled the existing penalties for tree spiking that resulted in body injury from three to six years in prison.[938] The bill passed through the California State Senate by a vote of 22-16.[939]

The bill received the support of timber unions and commercial fishermen, but the opposition of Corporate Timber. [940] It was also criticized by many environmentalists, because they considered the bill’s wording to be weak and it included a provision allowing the CDF Director to exempt THPs at their discretion. [941] The Sierra Club’s North Coast chapter originally opposed the bill after the amendment, but then reversed itself a month later calling the measure, “The best opportunity we have in the current session of the legislature to address the problems of forest management in northwestern California.” [942] Furthermore, Greg King was convinced that the primary motivation behind it was an attempt by Keene to “get back at” Maxxam for funding his Republican opponent in the previous year’s election. [943] On the other hand, CDF director Jerry Partain—who had run against Dan Hauser in the same election—denounced the bill, accusing Keene of “shaking down” the timber industry.[944] Still, even this weak bill wouldn’t have been considered had Earth First! not made a stand against Maxxam. [945]

* * * * *

Less than a month after the Week of Outrage, three unidentified Earth First!ers discovered and then deflagged five miles of an attempted logging road through the Headwaters Forest. According to their account, the flags began at the end of a road near the highest point of the Little South Fork of the Elk River, about 1,700 feet above sea level; their course then wound through the southern portion of THP 240; and then subsequently ran northwards into the THP, then continued along the Little South Fork’s northeastern ridge into the heart of Headwaters, where there were no proposed logging plans. The road then forked, headed north into the high ridges, and southwest toward the Little South Fork drainage. Although the flagging ended before reaching the stream, the watercourse itself was flagged far beyond the boundaries of any existing THP. It was apparent that the CDF was not only approving THPs based on dubious criteria, they weren’t even doing a thorough job of policing them.[946]

As a result of this discovery, EPIC sued Pacific Lumber and the CDF for THPs 1-87-230, 240, and 241HUM. The case argued that the THPs violated the requirements set forth by the Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act and the California Environmental Quality Act, and asked for a Temporary Restraining Order against the harvesting of logs there. Three Humboldt County Superior Court judges and one from nearby Trinity County all disqualified themselves from the case citing “conflicts of interest”, and the fifth judge, Frank Petersen of Del Norte County took up the case. [947] Pacific Lumber’s attorney, Jared Carter, charged that EPIC’s request for a TRO was invalid, because—in spite of the clear and obvious evidence that P-L was not even complying with the stipulations of their THPs, let alone the law—the data had been obtained by an illegal trespass onto “private property”. EPIC requested that they be allowed to inspect the THPs themselves, but both P-L and the CDF balked at this request. [948]

On July 9, Petersen ruled in favor of P-L, declaring, “The court does not think (EPIC) has made a sufficient showing or that the law allows the general public to go upon private property for an on-site inspection,” but he added that the denial was “without prejudice” which opened the door for the issue to be revisited. [949] “Woods” declared, “We believe the judge’s ruling is quite unfair. It will prevent us from introducing some important evidence, but we still have a strong case.” [950] EPIC’s attorney Jay Moller had agreed, arguing:

“(The THP process has been rendered) so unfair, insipid and irrelevant that it violates EPIC’s constitutional due process rights [and] the California Environmental Quality Act…The Forest Practices Rules and Regulations…have been amended and altered to an extent which now renders [their] certification a nullity…EPIC contends the last ten years of amendments at the behest of the timber industry has finally rendered the THP process a bad joke.” [951]

The Judge also granted the environmentalists one other significant concession. Petersen agreed that evidence questioning the CDFs methodology was admissible in court, stating that EPIC could indeed question the agencies motives for approval and discuss whether they had “abused their discretion,” which opened the door to further legal scrutiny by citizen watchdog groups such as EPIC to expose what they perceived to be significant loopholes in both CEQA and Z’berg-Nejedly. [952] Pacific Lumber had won a battle but was exposed as being quite vulnerable to losing the war.

Quickly P-L management fell back to bolster their defenses. California Deputy Attorney General Bruce Klafter representing the CDF spun the ruling as a victory, stating, “This is what we were hopeful would happen…We’ll have to prove we had enough evidence to reach the conclusion. We don’t have to prove that our judgment was right… (the public) doesn’t have the right to inspect. Errors were admitted and we are correcting those.” However, Klafter’s statement omitted the fact that Judge Petersen had noted the “errors” himself, including the lack of information in one THP about how the logs would be skidded or loaded from the logging area, and admissions by both P-L and the CDF that a legally required response to challenges from environmentalists were omitted in the second plan. [953] P-L’s attorney, Jared Carter, attempted to dodge the issue by pleading incompetence. Carter stated, “there is an error in the manner in which (THP) 230 was handled,” and that THP 240 “was incomplete in a material way…The THPs should have been denied” by CDF. At the latter’s urging, P-L withdrew the contested THPs, at least temporarily. In response, EPIC withdrew their request for a TRO at least until the matter could be settled legally. [954] However, Greg King was unconvinced that Maxxam was actually copping to having broken the law in collusion with the CDF, declaring:

“PL’s admission of illegalities appeared to be a tactical move to remove 230 and 240 from the lawsuit. The company submitted a writ that agreed to an injunction to stop logging until CDF received amendments for the plans that P-L contends would bring them into compliance with state legislation. [955]

EPIC didn’t stand down completely, however. That same month they filed challenges to five other Pacific Lumber THPs. THP 1-87-422 proposed logging 251 acres of residual old growth in the Van Duzan river tributary Grizzly Creek. Pacific Lumber already had three active logging plans there comprising as much as 20 percent of the watershed. In this instance, EPIC was joined by a local watershed association called “Friends of the Van Duzan” who were concerned about erosion and sediment discharge. EPIC also filed challenges to THP 1-87-359, a 138 acre “seed tree removal” (practically a clear-cut) cut in Jordan Creek; 1-87-390, an 81 acre clearcut proposed for Beer Bottle Creek in the headwaters of Bear River; 1-87-323, a 263 clearcut of old growth near Lawrence and Yager Creeks near the site of the attempted tree sits during the Week of Outrage; and 1-87-427, a 385 partial cut of old growth at Elk Head Springs. All of these logging plans proposed clearcutting, old growth redwood logging, or both. [956]

Due to EPIC’s diligence, the door to challenging Corporate Timber’s THPs through the review process had been cracked open, and Corporate Timber was determined to slam it shut again as tightly as possible. Maxxam and its agents were determined as possible to prevent the public from witnessing potential violations of Z’berg Nejedly, no doubt in hopes that they could operate under the cover of darkness, but even these efforts backfired, sometimes literally. In one particularly bizarre incident, while CBS News was interviewing Greg King on the boundary of the P-L’s clearcut of All Species Grove, four shotgun blasts rang out to the north. Then King noticed the glint of light reflecting off a pair of binoculars. Quickly, the media crew and King spied an unmarked white pickup truck speeding away from the direction of the gunfire on one of the logging roads within the logging site. [957] There was but one P-L employee who drove a vehicle of that particular color (all other P-L employees drove orange vehicles): company security chief Carl Anderson. [958] A few minutes later, four shots rang out much closer, this time to the south. Again, the group quickly spotted the same white pickup, and again it was near the location of the gunfire. King and the media crew hightailed it out of there. Then King contacted Robert Stephens and David Galitz to ask if they knew anything about the incident. Both spokesmen disclaimed any knowledge of the shooting, and Galitz declared that P-L’s security carried no such weapons. [959]

One month later, as the thirteen Humboldt County arrestees from the Week of Outrage made assembled at the Fortuna Courthouse to face judgment for their criminal charges, P-L legal representatives served each of them with subpoenas for civil charges as well. [960] Maxxam accused each of the defendants with “(malicious activity) to oppress (sic) Maxxam / Pacific Lumber”, claiming that the defendants “‘willfully conspired to commit trespass’.” [961] Maxxam also named 100 Jane and John Does—which allowed other activists to be specifically identified and added to list of charged parties—bringing the total number of defendants to 113, about the number that showed up in Carlotta on May 18. [962] Dave Galitz explained the legal dragnet as response to the company having shut down its Carlotta facility on the day of the demonstration insisting, “We incurred extra costs to protect our property, and I believe we are entitled to seek legal recourse.” [963] The timing of the civil charges was highly suspect, and probably had more to do with the recent revelations over the contested THPs than one day’s lost production, which cost the billion dollar Texas conglomerate $42,000, a drop in the bucket to them, but probably at least double the annual wages earned by any of the thirteen arrestees. [964] Of the thirteen, the District Attorney charged nine, and all planned to plead “not guilty.” The attorney for some of the group quickly identified the civil charges as “a tactic to coerce people to plead guilty and stay away from P-L.” He indicated that they might conceivably use the “necessity defense” charging the company with greater crimes as justification for their relatively minor offense. [965]

* * * * *

Earth First!, opted to use direct action to prevent further cutting in THP 1-87-427HUM (All Species Grove). Greg King and fellow Earth First!er “Jane Cope” began a tree sit there that would last five days. [966] Greg King and another Earth First!er conducted a midnight reconnaissance of the targeted grove on August 9, 1987, just over two weeks before the action. They chose a site where a clearcut bordered on a standing old growth grove, which—King felt—would provide an excellent contrast and an ideal location for a banner (which would in turn provide an excellent media oriented photo-op). Assisted by a group of thirteen supporters, they carried approximately 500 pounds of climbing gear, food, and clothing eight miles to base camp. Using CB radio to coordinate their actions, the crew selected two eight-foot diameter trees facing the clearcuts to the north. After a second group of supporters arrived at sunset, the entire group began to establish the two platforms which would support King and Cope for the foreseeable future. [967]

Establishing a tree sitting platform was no simple task and the work was slow and measured. The platforms were positioned on the trunk, because the brittle redwood branches and limbs could break far too easily. [968] The support crew had to first ready the platforms by using a tandem system to spur climb the trees. Their gear consisted of rock climbing equipment (carabiners and rope, mostly). This work began at around 8 PM. Eight hours later, the crews had equipped King’s platform complete with girth hitches for the hanging of supplies, which were hoisted up to the sitters using a pulley system. Jane’s platform, being raised concurrently was completed an hour later. [969] Such a lot of effort and risk of arrest (for misdemeanor trespassing) might have seemed wasteful, but not weighted against what the Earth First!ers considered a much bigger set of crimes being committed by Maxxam, and the fact that they had exhausted all legal and political remedies available to them thus far to halt the clearcutting of All Species Grove. [970]

Once completed, their set up was deceptively simple. From his platform 130 feet up in the air, Greg King could see all the way to Eureka and the Pacific Ocean beyond. Less than a quarter mile away, P-L loggers were busy clearcutting old growth redwoods in a nearby grove. [971] Hanging here and there in the tree, near King’s platform were his sleeping bag, blankets, ropes, extra clothing, food, and a bunch of climbing equipment. [972] His gear was placed partly out of convenience (due to the limited space) and functionality (to balance the platforms if necessary). [973] Jane Cope was perched similarly in nearby tree, fifty feet away. A rope which the sitters could traverse in order to converse in close quarters should they be spotted by P-L security or loggers, connected the two platforms. [974] From Greg King’s platform hung a huge banner reading “FREE THE REDWOODS” and from Jane Cope’s a similarly hung banner declared, “THIS TREE HAS A JOB – HURWITZ OUT OF HUMBOLDT”. Both planned to stay indefinitely if necessary [975] and could be resupplied by their ground crews, assuming they could make it to the base of the occupied trees consistently unmolested. [976]

Tree sitting, even if just for one day, was an austere existence, even by Earth First! standards. Greg King recalls that the food consisted of a lot of fruit, rice cakes, crackers, cheese, four cans of sardines (for the protein), carrots, and bread…essentially anything that was compact and easily transported. He brought far more clothes than he ultimately needed, discovering that a single change was sufficient. King answered the questions probably on just about everybody’s mind when he revealed that tree sitters usually urinated off the side of the platform (taking care not to do so if anyone were in range below) and defecated in a paper bag, which they in turn would then fold up and discard over the side, as such waste material was biodegradable and would compose in a matter of days in the dense redwood ecosystem. Special care was taken to chose a separate and distinct location each time, which was actually done out of respect for the timber workers, as accumulated leavings would likely decompose much more slowly and become a potential hidden booby trap. [977]

On the other hand, the experience was also richly rewarding. From her tree, Jane Cope could almost literally drink in the entire experience of the old growth forest, which she later described vividly. She noted that time was no longer regulated by clocks, but by the rising and setting of the sun. The pace of life seemed much slower and yet fuller. “Noisy human presence in the forest sends away the wildlife you would otherwise see,” she later recalled. Although she and King didn’t visually observe nearly as much wildlife as they had originally expected, they still witnessed crows, nuthatches, and an occasional woodpecker. The crows were seen mostly flying by, and the smaller birds were watched eating in the redwood canopy. Far more numerous were the insects, including several species of ants, spiders, and beetles. Cope noticed an intense, intricate network of travel ways that the insects used through the furrows and sinews of the bark of the 250 giant redwoods and along the branches to make their way out to the greenery. Considering the sheer magnitude of the tree’s height compared to the relatively miniscule insects, the distance travelled from the ground and back was staggering indeed. To get yet another view, she climbed, by hand, further up the tree, halfway to the crown, about 190 feet aboveground. Cope was quite familiar with the scents of the forest, having been a forest preservation activist for five years already, but she was struck by the contrast between the earthy, soil dominated scents normally experienced on the forest floor and the much less commonly experienced needle and foliage heavy smells up in the forest canopy. She also noted how much fresher the air was up there. [978]

For three days they were undetected and left alone by Maxxam, but on the morning of August 31, the fourth day, they were discovered, when a logger working nearby noticed King’s banner and ran over to the perched trees. “You guys are crazy!” he shouted. He was soon joined by his crew who were motivated as much by curiosity as they were by anything else, but shortly after that, however, “peer pressure and managerial oppression” forced the crew back to their task of clearcutting the nearby woods. King and Cope did draw attention from three P-L security crew members and two Humboldt County sheriffs who issued the inevitable proclamation that the tree sitters were trespassing, to which King responded by declaring that Maxxam “had abrogated its right to private property via the destruction of same”. Cope refused to descend from her tree until Maxxam ended its old growth logging. Carl Anderson, no doubt out of pride as much as a sense of duty, grew impatient and dispatched climber Dan Collings to remove King’s banner, which he did. However, Greg King had a surprise for Anderson and Collings, and, no sooner had the latter removed the first banner, when Greg King unfurled a second, extra banner he had kept stashed for just such a contingency, which read, “2000 YEARD OLD – RESPECT YOUR ELDERS.” [979]

“Climber Dan”—as he has become known—is approximately the same age as King and Cope (who were in their late twenties at the time), and being of the same generation, naturally shared some of the tree sitter’s interests and cultural framework. Jane Cope even regarded him as something akin to a brother. Collings was charged with removing the platforms from the trees and was always watching for an opportunity to do so. [980] He was an accomplished athlete and could climb trees in a third of the time it had taken the Earth First!ers to set up the platforms in the first place. [981] He was also a third generation logger, and his grandfather had worked for the old Pacific Lumber. He also coached little league baseball in Rio Dell when he wasn’t climbing trees professionally. Collings’ job, in fact, usually involved working high up in the forest canopy, removing the crowns of the big trees ready to be harvested, to keep the wood from splintering as the huge trees were felled. He received an hourly rate, plus piece-work for each tree climbed. However, in this instance, he ascended the tree gratis, though he had been offered $100 from a private individual if he was successful in removing the tree platforms [982] (which he wasn’t). [983] Collings was by no means an Earth First!er, but he quietly admitted he felt that Charles Hurwitz’s accelerated at least a potential threat to his job security. In fact, he agreed that clearcutting was ugly and posed a problem. [984]

Indeed, there was a lot of common ground established between the tree sitters and the loggers. Everyone, even the sheriffs, seemed to agree that Maxxam’s clearcutting looked extremely ugly, leaving no underbrush, trees, or biomass at all. The workers were “funny, witty … kind of loud and obnoxious”, though Greg King surmised that this was partly just an act. While some of the loggers were hostile, others were quite friendly and agreed that clearcutting was wrong—albeit for reasons (economic) other than those expressed by the tree sitters (ecological). Practically everyone disliked Charles Hurwitz intensely, and one logger agreed that they shouldn’t have been cutting old growth. They didn’t see eye-to-eye on every issue, but both factions gained respect for the other, even if they couldn’t always agree. [985]

Jane Cope assumed that most of the loggers felt positively about their work, experiencing something of an adrenaline rush as they had their way with the big trees, and that was accompanied by the expected back-slapping and camaraderie typical of male bonding. There is a myth and machismo inherent in the culture of logging, and as loggers, she could see how they considered themselves “real men”. Yet, she also sensed that the loggers had a great deal of respect for the courage of the Earth First!ers convictions, and she heard as many positive comments as she heard negative ones. She recalls back-and-forth dialog between herself and the workers, including the general talking points issued by corporate timber, dutifully repeated by the (non-union) workers, even though, in her estimation, they probably only halfheartedly believed the rhetoric themselves:

“The trees are rotting.”

“Of course they are rotting. That’s what they’re supposed to do.”

“This is private property.”

“Well, property is theft. There are some things that no man can own, and a forest is one of them…” [986]

Getting past the standard arguments on both sides, Earth First!ers and P-L workers discussed where they liked to fish, where they spent their leisure time with their families, and how logging pays the bills. Cope agreed that the workers had a right to make a living, but that it could be done much less invasively. She found herself saying to them, “You guys have got to fight for your right to make a living in an ecologically sound way and to make it over time and to leave a resource here your sons and daughters can also log if they want to.” [987] Greg King agreed that the money taxpayers paid for STLR expansion Redwood National Park—seventy thousand acres of cut over land—could have instead been spent purchasing Pacific Lumber and using the money to operate the company sustainably again, preserving much higher quality wilderness, and compensating the employees fairly. [988] He also declared:

I’d like to tell them that I empathize deeply with them. I did manual labor putting myself through junior college. I worked at Safeway for five years, did other things—dishwashing. Especially I can empathize with them being in the grasp of the big economic giant that comes in and steals the resources. They come in and monopolize hundreds of thousands of acres of timberland. They come in and force the people to work or practically starve, because there’s nothing else going on up here. It disturbs me a lot that if we are successful in saving the grove, it will put people out of work. But if Maxxam is allowed to go on, then these people will be out of work in five to eight years anyway…Why not do something now to save the forest, and to save most of the jobs? Why not go into a sustained yield second-growth cycle?…I think the PALCO employees should right now go out on strike. Shut down the mill, tell Hurwitz and his gang of thugs, ‘We’re taking over.’ Say, ‘We want some guarantees, we want sustained yield.’ [989]

For his part, Climber Dan Collings was not willing to go on strike, though he admitted that this had more to do with his lack of conviction to buck the system, and his belief that he didn’t think he could make a difference, so he just did his job. Collings agreed that “nobody was a big Hurwitz fan” out in the woods, but having been deeply steeped in the “free enterprise” rhetoric of American capitalism, like most workers, he quickly argued that “Hurwitz could do what he wished with his property.” Collings also offered that, although Pacific Lumber had always taken good care of its employees, since Maxxam had taken over he was earning more money and receiving greater benefits than he’d ever done previously. Still he knew full well that Maxxam had stated that they could only guarantee these benefits for three years. He also questioned Maxxam’s debt servicing strategy—and that this opened Hurwitz up to pressure from environmentalists. He agreed that a slower rate of cutting was more desirable than Hurwitz’s current cut-and-run clearcutting, which he conceded was unsustainable. Collings desired to retire logging, and wanted to see at least some of Pacific Lumber’s old growth preserved. Apparently beneath the veneer of being the good soldier, Collings was capable of independent thought, and his deductions logically led him to question some of the very convictions he claimed to uphold. [990] As a result, the sitters developed concern for Collings and his fellow workers, noting that Maxxam was literally stealing their life’s blood slowly. [991]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Darryl Cherney was by no means idle. He invited Charles Hurwitz to debate him publicly in an open letter to the Maxxam CEO, published in the Country Activist (which was then mailed to Hurwitz). Hurwitz didn’t respond, though shortly afterwards, a copy of that issue of the Activist was found returned to the editors torn in half. [992] When he wasn’t contacting every media outlet on the west coast between the Canadian border and Mexico alerting them about the tree sit, he was doing what he could to organize concerned citizens to wrestle the CDF into accountability. Hoping to further expose the agency’s apparently callous disregard for the spirit of the law, he organized a “mill in” at the Fortuna office of the CDF for the August 31. [993]

On that day, fifty demonstrators assembled and demanded copies of hundreds of THPs, ostensibly attempting to “clog the system” and demonstrate that the CDF was not seriously prepared to deal with the public should they actually exercise their rights under the letter and spirit of Z’berg Nejedly. [994] In fact, the actual goal of the protest was to publicize the deficiencies exposed by EPIC in June and gather additional information that could be used to build a legal case against the agency. The CDF moved hastily to counteract the attempted populist uprising however, and “made special accommodations that (were) not normally available,” according to Cherney. They placed a table outside the office at the front door and locked all other entrances, not allowing the public to enter the building. A representative staffed the table while a pair of clerks did their best to answer the requests from within. [995]

Pacific Lumber’s official stance on the tree sit and the mill in, at least initially, was to begrudgingly ride them out. David Galitz announced that logging crews would continue to cut around the tree sitters, logging about 10 to 20 trees per day, and would continue to do so until the pair descended. Rather than show any weakness however, Galitz also proclaimed, “We’re going to press charges. That I can assure you.” [996] John Campbell was no less direct, declaring that the tree sits had removed any chance that the company would withdraw its civil suits against the 13 arrestees from May 17-18 and the 100 or so “John Does.” “We were considering giving them some relief next week, but they have continued the same activity, and we definitely plan to prosecute now…we’ll consider their safety, but we’ll continue to cut,” declared the frustrated executive. [997]

Greg King responded that he expected to be charged for his and Cope’s actions, but that Maxxam was “breaking laws left and right by cutting its old growth,” and would use that argument in his defense. Earth First!ers established another, simultaneous tree sit on September 3rd, complete with a banner which read “PACIFIC LUMBER STOP THE PLUNDER: Earth First!”. This tree-sit was mainly for show however, because it took place on public land just outside of Scotia, where they would be visible by the townsfolk (as well as John Campbell), and it lasted until the late afternoon, before the sitters voluntarily stood down. [998]

* * * * *

At the same time, the debate over who was breaking what law was currently being deliberated nearby in Eureka. EPIC and the CDF squared off in court over the next few days over the agency’s questionable approval of P-L THPs 230, 240, and 241, with Frank Petersen again presiding. Jay Moller again represented EPIC, but he wasn’t alone. EPIC’s other attorney, Thomas Lippe had once served as one of the many “consiglieres” of Corporate Timber, but he had switched sides and was now on the side of the environmentalists. “Our general desire is show the information vacuum CDF is operating with,” argued Lippe on September 2, the first day of the trial. He charged the CDF with failure to assess the cumulative impacts of logging on wildlife in the contested forest stands affected by the THPs. Local CDF resource manager Len Theiss disputed Lippe’s charges and declared that the three plans, “showed no significant habitat loss.” Jared Carter responded arguing, “The question of whether Theiss is right or wrong in making his decision is not at issue in the case…There are two issues: whether CDF followed California environmental laws, and whether final approval of the plans can be supported by evidence already in the CDF reports.”

The judge agreed, and denied EPIC the chance to call expert witnesses on wildlife and soil characteristics to demonstrate the wrongness of the CDF’s decisions, declaring quite candidly, “I’m not going to open a Pandora’s Box,” which actually spoke volumes about the open secret that the CDF’s defense rested upon very flimsy assertions. [999] EPIC responded by filing another lawsuit against P-L, CDF, and Maxxam, charging that they violated the Z’berg-Nejedly Forest Practices Act, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Federal Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, the State Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, and the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the California and US Constitutions. The lawsuit against the CDF was the fourth such action against the agency’s THP process, which EPIC maintained was a “rubber stamp” for Corporate Timber and a violation of the spirit of Z’berg-Nejedly. [1000]

* * * * *

By the evening of the fifth day of King’s and Cope’s still existing tree sit, Pacific Lumber assigned a permanent security detail to watch over the trees and the loggers’ equipment. [1001] On the sixth day (September 2), the workers (under orders from Maxxam) made a huge showing of force. A dozen P-L employees emerged from the underbrush, coming from six different directions. “We’re going to cut those trees down right now; they’ll be in the mill in Scotia by tomorrow,” they shouted, but proceeded to cut all of the trees and shrubs adjacent to the perched trees instead, isolating the sitters. They then cut a skid road right up to the tree next to King’s using a D-8 Caterpillar. This was followed by threats and bluster from Carl Anderson, but all of this was merely an attempt at intimidation, designed to gauge the willingness of King and Cope to stick it out. The sitters wouldn’t budge, though at one point King contacted the Sheriff’s department, who responded with the question, “so, why did you call me?” [1002] After they concluded that P-L was posturing, King and Cope serenaded the loggers during their lunch breaks with Earth First! songs on this and the next day. [1003]

Ultimately, Carl Anderson and his team found a weakness they could exploit, and that was Greg King’s aversion to bright light and industrial noise, which they used to great effect, stationing floodlights and a loud generator at the base of the occupied trees. In due time, King was eager to escape, and his decision to descend from his tree was strengthened by the timely arrival of two Earth First! ground support volunteers, Duff and Soul. At this point, King and Cope prepared for a descent and began packing, but dropping down is not much less complicated or risky than an ascent, and Greg King would soon experience the very real dangers inherent in the tactic of tree sitting. In a hurry to leave, and rattled by the invasive light and sound below, King rushed his preparation and rigged his equipment incorrectly. Holding fast to his climbing rope, but unable to fit his backpack adorned body through the small opening between a guy rope holding up his platform and the tree itself, king cut the latter. His platform lurched precariously downward, the water jugs plunged to the forest floor 130 feet below, and King went careening downward, unable to achieve a smooth, clean descent. His beard became caught in between his rope and climbing gear. He was somehow able to regain partial composure, by moving his climbing rope to various locations around his body, until he found a workable solution through a lightning fast spate of trial and error. He ultimately landed on his back on the soft forest floor, his still open knife hanging inches from his neck. His escape had been narrow indeed in every aspect. [1004]

By contrast, escape for Jane Cope was surprisingly easy. She took advantage of the noise of the generator and the shadows cast by the bright flood lamps to mask her descent, which she achieved by climbing down the backside of her tree, rappelling down in the shadows. [1005] At this point, they heard footsteps. “It’s Soul” said a voice from the shadows, and he proceeded to carry King’s provisions allowing the addled tree sitter to regain his “land legs” after a week of having navigated a tree platform. The four forded the river on the edge of All Species Grove and began the eight mile journey to the nearest paved road. Two miles into their return, they encountered two more ground support volunteers and together, the six Earth First!ers returned safely, free, and (more or less) all in one piece. [1006]

Still, one loose end remained to be addressed, and that was recovering a role of undeveloped film that Greg King had stashed in the limbs of an oak tree a mile deep within Maxxam property on their return. King had done this in the event that if the six returning Earth First!ers were caught upon exit, the film might be confiscated. The next night, accompanied by Mokai and Crawdad Nelson, King retrieved the film, which contained photonegatives of pictures depicting the tree sits in vivid detail to be used for publicity to raise awareness about the slaughter of the old growth. [1007] King felt the action was worthwhile, if only because he and Cope had built a dialog with approximately a dozen P-L loggers. [1008] King would later claim that he never felt unsafe in either his actions or his dealings with his adversaries. [1009]

* * * * *

Back in Petersen’s court, it turned out that the Judge didn’t have to make the difficult decision to open the Pandora’s Box, because the CDF opened it themselves. Petersen had allowed Lippe to cross examine witnesses for the defense, at least, and this proved to be sufficient to support EPIC’s contentions. In front of a crowded courtroom divided between environmentalists, including Darryl Cherney, and Pacific Lumber management and its enablers, including John Campbell, California Department of Fish and Game (DF&G) Biologist John Hummel admitted that he had not assessed the cumulative impacts of the proposed THPs on wildlife (in clear violation of CEQA). Then Hummel dropped the biggest bombshell of all. Under oath, he testified that had made his assessments favorable to Corporate Timber—knowing full well that this was detrimental to the environment—because he had been coerced into doing so by the CDF. [1010] Hummel elaborated:

“There is no question that there are specific species which are dependent on old growth timber stands, (including): insects, birds, amphibians, etc. If that habitat is taken away from them, you’re going to lose all of the population of certain species. They don’t have the ability to move from one site to another. This is an ecological concept which was understood many years ago.” [1011]

Bill Winchester, a staff representative of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Board (RWQB) subsequently revealed that only one out of 30 THPs were even reviewed at all by his agency. It was their policy to ignore the other 29 out of 30 due to a lack of staff, and in no case did they ever consider cumulative impact. A third witness, a CDF forester, admitted that he had never even seen a picture of a Spotted Owl until recently, (and that was in P-L’s office!), though he was charged with assessing the impacts of logging on their habitat, and had done so on over 400 THPs. [1012]

All three employees testified that they found their superiors unreceptive to their comments on wildlife concerns in the process of reviewing THPs for approval. Jared Carter, cross examining Hummel asked why the latter hadn’t revealed this information previously, thus implying that the DF&G representative’s testimony was politically motivated by affinity for the environmentalists’ cause. Hummel disputed this by revealing that in the previous five years he had declined to register critical comments about proposed THPs because he believed it would be a waste of time, since such comments would be “chucked into the wastebasket.” [1013] Bill Winchester declared that Board of Forestry member Carlton Yee once attempted to have him removed from his position because he had expressed concerns about cumulative impacts. [1014] He did say that the atmosphere had become less intimidating in recent years—a clear indication that constant pressure from an increasingly environmentally concerned public was having a positive effect. [1015] Attorney Thomas Lippe then argued that the testimony of the two represented evidence that there were severe deficiencies in the THP review process, and therefore THPs 230, 240, and 241 were invalid. [1016]

The spokespeople for the State of California and Maxxam refused to budge in their insistence that EPIC was wrong. In his closing arguments, Jared Carter declared that the advocacy group was asking for much more than the law required and that they merely wanted to be a “thorn in the side” of legitimate timber harvesting activity. If EPIC got what they wanted it would significantly slow down P-L’s harvesting rates. Deputy Attorney General Klafter echoed these sentiments arguing that the CDF “simply (didn’t) have the funds…(to conduct) any five-year studies (on wildlife species)…and I don’t think it’s required in the law.” In response Lippe’s arguments, he stated, “I’m not going to claim that the picture painted here shows a well oiled machine.” Of course, this was a matter of perspective. The environmentalists had been arguing for years that that the CDF had been too well oiled a machine, at least in granting THPs. For the time being, however, it was up to Judge Petersen to make a ruling, and that was liable to take several months. [1017]

* * * * *

While that decision remained pending, a second group of environmentalists filed a separate lawsuit to oppose yet another Pacific Lumber THP. This time, Concerned Earth Scientist Researchers, a loose knit organization of approximately 100 researchers, environmental activists and concerned citizens led by Judith Waite, moved to prevent logging of old growth redwoods in All Species Grove. [1018] This group was charging that the plan failed to consider alternative logging methods to P-L’s clearcutting. “The land subject to this THP will suffer immediate, irreparable, and permanent damage,” charged the plaintiffs. In response, David Galitz denounced the suit as “more of the same garbage,” and added, “it makes you wonder if their true purpose is in stopping timber harvesting.” [1019] However, his protestations were ironic given the fact that they came less than a month after Pacific Lumber announced that, for the first time since Maxxam had assumed control, it had realized a profit, posting quarterly earnings of $2.25 million for the second quarter of 1987. [1020]

On the other side of the legal ledger, all nine protesters charged by the Humboldt County District Attorney Terry Farmer rejected a pretrial agreement offered by the DA’s office on September 8. The proposed deal required that the nine plead “guilty” to the charge of trespassing in exchange for one year’s probation and 40 to 80 hours of community service. The defendants all agreed that they were not guilty under the law and that they were acting to prevent a greater crime. Each defendant had their case transferred to a separate public defender. Attorney Kim La Valley, representing Tierra Piaz pointed out that Humboldt County would have a very difficult time prosecuting the protesters, due to each having retained their own counsel as well as the hours of time spent engaged in a trial that was likely to last several weeks or even months. The D.A., whose reputation for being highly sympathetic to the aims of Corporate Timber had already been established, ruefully conceded the truth of this assertion. “They seem to want to utilize the proceedings to make a political statement, but in doing so they must obey the law…(my department) will not give in to economic blackmail.” [1021]

* * * * *

At the end of the month, King and Cope began yet another tree sit, this time targeting THP 87-323 and lasting five days. [1022] In an attempt to give this action a “hook” that would attract further interest from the Corporate Media, Darryl Cherney had nicknamed the pair “Tarzan” and “Jane”—in spite of King’s objections. The press, including especially the widely read Los Angeles Times, loved the idea, however. [1023] The pair of sitters suspended a 40-foot banner between their two trees. The loggers found them after two days, and set up a basecamp after failing to convince the sitters to leave. They were determined not to let King and Cope escape this time, but again, the sitters and P-L employees developed further respect for each other. On the fifth morning, Greg “Tarzan” King and “Jane” Cope surrendered to the Sheriffs and prepared to face civil action and charges for their civil disobedience. [1024]

While all of this was taking place, Bill Bertain and Woody Murphy continued their difficult, and quite often seemingly lonely crusade to expose the insider trading between Maxxam and DBL. Unexpectedly, they discovered they had a great deal more allies than they had thought, when on October 5, hearings of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the United States House Energy and Commerce committee, chaired by Michigan Democratic congressman John Dingell investigated the 1985 stock trading by Charles Hurwitz, Boyd Jeffries, Ivan Boesky, and others. A confidential memo released during the course of the hearings detailed the unusual trading of P-L stock leading up to Hurwitz’s initial tender offer. [1025] Bertain and Murphy both testified at the hearings for which both Campbell and Hurwitz himself had been subpoenaed and ordered to appear. Murphy—who was not especially skilled at what amounted largely to political theater—lived up to his nickname in an unfortunate fashion giving an uninspiring and stammering account of his role in the fight, but his comrade and childhood friend was able to compensate by giving a damning indictment of what amounted to perhaps the greatest heist seen in Humboldt County since the days of the California Redwood Company. [1026]

In spite of their best efforts, however, neither Murphy and Bertain nor Dingell and his subcommittee were able to beat Hurwitz. The Maxxam CEO was thoroughly experienced in such matters and well prepared to withstand the scrutiny. When asked about his connections to DBL, Michael Milken, Ivan Boesky, Fred Carr, Boyd Jefferies, and all of the other links to the merger, Hurwitz simply denied everything or answered with non answers, knowing exactly what to say in order to avoid implicating himself. For example, when questioned by a congressman, “How did Boyd Jefferies know to purchase Pacific Lumber Stock beginning on August 5, 1987, weeks before Maxxam bought its Pacific Lumber holdings unless somebody associated with the Maxxam takeover effort tipped him?”, Hurwitz replied simply, “I told him.” Hurwitz had no answer to why Jefferies had sold his share in the company’s stock at $4 less than the market value. There were no records of any other charitable trades of PL stock following the transaction. [1027] This was all but an admission of guilt, and both Dingell and fellow Congressman Ron Wyden concluded that it was highly unlikely that this agreement represented anything but illegal collusion and stock parking. [1028] Maxxam’s annual report to the SEC also suggested that in order to meet their ongoing debt obligations, even further sales of P-L assets and increased logging might be implemented. [1029] Yet, such evidence was simply not enough to conclusively prove a conspiracy of insider trading—within the narrow confines of capitalist stock trading laws at least—especially given the lack of willingness by Dingell’s and Wyden’s fellow Democrats, most notably Doug Bosco, to stand against Hurwitz. [1030]

Indeed, Bosco’s conduct throughout the entire affair had been inexcusable as far as all of the opponents of Maxxam were concerned. Bertain had made this known at the subcommittee hearings to the point that one of the congressman’s aides felt compelled to go out of his way to admonish the lawyer to back off. The latter had intercepted the attorney (who in turn had been attempting to birddog Hurwitz following the hearing) and informed him that Bosco was distressed by the negative comments the attorney had been making during the hearing. The lawyer exploded in response, “You bet I got on his case! If assholes like your boss had stuck to their guns, and not allowed the fox to guard the henhouse, none of us would have had to been here today!” [1031] King and Cherney had a somewhat more pragmatic answer for dealing with political flip-flopping and pledged to send Earth First!, their monkeywrenches, and Darryl Cherney’s guitar to Sacramento and Washington, by challenging Dan Hauser and Doug Bosco in the next year’s election. [1032] In the meantime, all concerned would have to console themselves with the knowledge that while one battle or two had been lost, the war was still very much theirs to win.

Hurwitz may have gotten away clean in Washington, but neither he nor the CDF did so in Humboldt County. After six months of legal jousting between EPIC and Maxxam, Judge Petersen finally issued a stunning decision and opened up far more than a can of worms. Ruling on the technical aspects of the fight over THPs 230, 240, and 241, he declared, “It appears that the CDF rubber-stamped the timber harvest plans as presented to them by Pacific Lumber Company and their foresters. It is to be noted, in their eagerness to approve (240 and 241), they approved them before they were completed.” He accused the CDF of “rubber stamping” THPs and that they “brushed aside” considerations of cumulative impacts required in EPIC vs. Johnson. He further declared, “In this case it is apparent that CDF…does not want Fish and Game or Water Quality to cause any problems or raise any issues which would deter their approval of any timber harvest plan.” This ruling in EPIC vs. Maxxam I was no less stunning than EPIC vs. Johnson, and at least one North Coast commentator explained, “That a timber county judge could write such a scathing opinion of Maxxam’s timber harvest practices indicates such practices are probably ten times more shocking than revealed.” [1033]

The reaction to Peterson’s ruling on EPIC vs. Maxxam I was mixed. CDF spokesman Harold Slack declared, “in all likelihood, we will not appeal,” further elaborating that though the agency disagreed with the judge’s opinion, that changes in the THP process were inevitable in any case. Earth Firest!ers hailed the decision and considered it vindication of their criticisms of both Maxxam and the CDF. Among the environmentalists, only Woods seemed disappointed declaring, “He’s taken the real blatant issues and ruled on them and left the rest,” although EPIC attorney Jay Moller agreed that the judge had done, “a very good job with the issues he did deal with. It is the first court I know of that essentially said CDF’s process is not working and is not in compliance with the law.” For the moment, by contrast, Corporate Timber was stunned, and other than David Galitz who indicated that P-L was waiting for Jared Carter’s analysis of the ruling, had no comment. It was inevitable in most people’s minds, however, that there would soon be a backlash. [1034]

As it turned out, there was indeed a backlash, but it seemed to be coming from the P-L workers towards the company’s management. Greg King reported hearing unverified reports of monkeywrenching against Maxxam (that were not covered by the Corporate Media), including the stuffing of epoxy into padlock keyholes on gates across logging roads, damage to machinery in the forests and the mills, and purposeful work slowdowns by the mill workers. It was believed that these actions resulted from workers’ discontent at forced overtime imposed by Maxxam, a 25 percent rent increase for housing in Scotia, and rumors of a potential loss of their $60 million pension fund. [1035] At least one anonymous Pacific Lumber millworker even hinted that EPIC and the Earth First!ers were mostly on target, no doubt echoing the sentiment of many others, declaring:


“It’s a damn shame what’s happening to the old growth and to this company. We all know that. The faster we harvest and the harder we work, the sooner we will be out of jobs. Aren’t we entitled to answers to some questions? For example:

“What’s going to happen to Mill B and the factory after all the old growth is harvested? Will Mill B be replaced at all with a second growth mill? Or will Mill A and the Fortuna Mill be used to reach what Mr. Hurwitz and John Campbell have said would be the 135 million board feet volume representing the 1985 level of production? If Mill B is no longer operating, how many of us will be working? If it is replaced by a second growth mill, will the mill be a high-speed, fully automated, state-of-the-art mill like Simpson’s Korbel plant or even with the technology similar to that in use at the Fortuna mill? How many jobs will there be?

“Whatever happened to those annual meetings with the employees we were told we might have? Wouldn’t such meetings give us an opportunity to ask some questions and get some answers? Or was there a meeting and I wasn’t told? Why not open the old Winema Theater and have employee-management discussions?

“We are soon going into the third and last year of our guaranteed wages and benefits. Apparently these guarantees will end on October 22nd, 1988. Sure, we’re only employees of Maxxam / MCO, but most of us used to be part owners of a fine company known as the Pacific Lumber Company. Can’t we get a hint of what our future will be come October 23, 1988? Or are we to be treated like lambs led to the slaughter?

“Why haven’t we had a cost of living increase for over two years?

“We all hear the word coming back from the fellows in the woods that at the rate they’re cutting out there, the old growth won’t last ten years. If so, what then? And what percentage of the production in the factory comes from old growth? Is it true that the new boilers can probably pay for themselves and generate money for Hurwitz even without Mill B?

“With Louisiana-Pacific, Simpson, and Arcata Redwood likely to get their $500 million or so from the government for the 1976 National Park expansion, what are the chances that Maxxam will not only sell the logs to these companies, but also chunks of Pacific Lumber’s timberlands? Is that why former LP-Carlotta employees say that LP will own the Carlotta mill again within 4 to 5 years? Will Maxxam be tempted to sell off our future to other timber companies who will soon be flush with the park expansion money? That will sure change our picture, and our children’s future.

“What happens if the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finds out Hurwitz had over 5% of the stock prior to the old Board selling us down the river? Do we get the company back?

“I hate to say it, but maybe the three-huggers are right in telling us to fight this whole thing. I’d say my name, but under the circumstances, I’ll remain anonymous for now. I feel that all of us employees deserve an answer to these questions. I look forward to management setting a meeting date to have these questions answered. [1036]

This letter was photocopied and distributed all over Scotia, Rio Dell, Fortuna, and Carlotta. John Campbell and his underlings did their best to contain the situation within the confines of Scotia. The P-L executive drafted a letter to all of the company’s employees dismissing the increased scrutiny as a conspiracy organized by radical fringe of “environmental extremists.” A good many employees, including especially those brought in after the sale bought this explanation with little question. [1037]

Still there were some who didn’t, including Kelly Bettiga. At a mandatory meeting of all P-L employees held just after the beginning of 1988, (in which Hurwitz was not present) Bettiga asked a number of questions of both Campbell and William Leone that called out Hurwitz for his inconsistencies and inaccuracies. Campbell again attempted to deflect the blame to Earth First! and the like, but Bettiga wasn’t buying it. Speaking from the floor, he pointed out that if P-L was in as good a shape as Campbell, Leone, and (by extension) Hurwitz were claiming, why had the system of automatic raises not been maintained? Before Campbell or Leone could answer, Bettiga noted that—in addition to Hurwitz’s “Golden Rule”, there was another, which was, “You get what you pay for.” The outspoken millworker wasn’t finished. He went on to warn all those assembled that the environmentalists were not just some lunatic fringe, but a very real force with which to be reckoned with a great deal of support, enough perhaps to dictate the future of Pacific Lumber. At this point Leone inquired if anyone else had a question. Nobody did. [1038] There would not be another companywide meeting for two years.


8. Running for Our Lives

“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. [1039]

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. [1040]

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. [1041] 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. [1042]

* * * * *

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.

Uncritical timber industry supporters dominated the local governments in both Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. In Humboldt the Board of Supervisors was led by Second District supervisor Harold Pritchard and Fifth District supervisor Anna Sparks. Sparks was known for her reflexive opposition to any move to limit corporate power [1043], and Pritchard had made it known that he had run to save the interests of (corporate) timber. [1044] Meanwhile, in Mendocino County, a solid Corporate Timber bloc—led by reactionary supervisors Marilyn Butcher in District One, Nelson Redding in District Two, and John Cimolino in District Four—reliably cast their votes in the best interests of G-P and L-P. District Three Supervisor Jim Eddie was a moderate, but often cast his vote with the former in many cases, leaving District Five Supervisor Norm de Vall as the lone dissenter. Cimolino, had announced that he would not seek an additional term of office, [1045] but one of his potential successors, Republican Jack Azevedo, stood at least as far to the right politically as Butcher and Redding, and he was unapologetic in his stance. There was no doubt with whom he would cast his vote on environmental matters. [1046]

At the federal level, Doug Bosco represented California’s First Congressional District, encompassing Santa Rosa all the way north to the Oregon border, covering almost six entire counties, including Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt. The incumbent was a machine Democrat, whose home office was in Sebastopol. [1047] According to his critics, Bosco had waffled on the issue of Maxxam’s hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber from its inception in 1985 and by 1988, he had fully endorsed it, dismissing the campaign to oppose the takeover as “an east coast media hype”. Bosco’s support for offshore oil drilling—opposed by many coastal residents of his district across the political spectrum—alienated many of his assumed constituents, including most environmentalists. [1048] Darryl Cherney said of the congressman:

“He has positioned himself as an enemy of the people…Bosco said in a recent press release, ‘I remain open to the possibility of a negotiated agreement that would allow for some limited development off central and northern California’…What Bosco calls limited is 150 tracts of oil rigs with additional leasing to open up after the year 2000. Add to this Bosco’s Congressional votes for nerve gas manufacturing, the Trident II missile, a contingency plan for the invasion of Nicaragua, and the financial support for the El Salvadoran death squads, and it becomes quite clear: Doug Bosco is in the pocket of the military industrial complex lock, stock, and oil barrel. [1049]

Even more damning, according to several community publications, including The Russian River News, The Anderson Valley Advertiser, and the Country Activist, Bosco had received a series of questionable loans from the Sonoma County based Centennial Savings, which was laundering illegal drug money. [1050]

California State Assemblyman Dan Hauser, yet another Democrat serving the First Assembly District, also faced reelection that year. The incumbent had been a guest at a Maxxam sponsored $250 per-plate dinner, and this alone made him a target for a challenge from environmentalists. King said of his opponent:

“Dan Hauser no longer deserves the 1st District Assembly seat. He has sold his constituents down a siltated polluted river, ignoring demands for a clean environment and responsible government. Hauser has become a Willie Brown protégé, snuggling up to uncaring corporations that exploit resources without considering the human and environmental costs. I will not stand for this and next year the voters can choose not to stand for it either.” [1051]

Though Willie Brown described himself as a “progressive”, he was rarely actually a friend to the “little guy”, and was quick to reward his corporate campaign donors at every opportunity. In matters of the timber industry, Willie Brown had recently overridden the wishes of the people of Mendocino County by ramming through his bill, AB 2635, which stripped counties of local jurisdiction in regulating aerial herbicide spraying.

Adding to the urgency, 1988 was a Presidential Election year, and historically the contest for the Oval Office usually generates a much higher turnout than lower profile election cycles. This one would be especially significant, because Ronald Reagan was termed out. The closing years of “the Great Communicator’s” term were wracked with scandals, including the Iran-Contra affair, not to mention the Savings & Loan scandals that involved DBL, Boesky, and Maxxam. Reagan’s support for the apartheid regime of South Africa as well as numerous unpopular right-wing governments in the so-called Third World had reawakened a leftist opposition that many had considered dead and buried due to the president’s supposed landslide election in 1980. His stances on the environment, including the choice of Christian Fundamentalist and rabid anti-environmentalist James Watt as secretary of the Interior had galvanized the green movement almost from the get-go. What could have been an easy contest for Reagan’s chosen successor, Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush, suddenly became a dogfight. The interest generated by the main election brought attention to the other contests as well.

Cherney and King decided to challenge the incumbents. Pledging to “take the syrup out of politics”—a somewhat tongue-in-cheek homage to the coincidence that a former child spokesperson for Bosco syrup was now preparing to run against a politician by the same name, Cherney declared his intent to unseat the incumbent in the Democratic Party primary. [1052] King similarly announced his goal to unseat Dan Hauser, but since that race was nonpartisan, King ran as a member of the Peace and Freedom Party (P&F), which described itself as “democratic socialist”. [1053] Regardless of their affiliations, both candidates sought endorsements from the Democratic, Green, and P&F Parties, but half-jokingly announced that they were actually running as write-in candidates for the newly formed Earth First! Party, whose platform was “150 feet up a redwood with a tree hugger sitting on it.” [1054]

There was a marked difference in the presentation of the two campaigns, however. Both King and Cherney were media savvy, of course, but King approached it as a reporter, dealing primarily in facts, whereas Cherney approached it as an entertainer, dealing in spectacle as well as factual information, and history shows that the latter tends to be more conducive to drawing attention to elections in the United States. Also, State Assembly races are almost never featured contests, especially when eclipsed by higher profile campaigns. As a result, King’s campaign never amounted to much, although he did show up for some campaign events and a couple of press conferences, his campaign was nearly invisible relative to Darryl Cherney’s. [1055] Cherney, on the other hand, was very visible in his run for office. He ran, quite literally, as a singing candidate, and though he considered his chances of winning remote, he pledged to bring his guitar with him “right into the halls of Congress, strumming and crooning (his) testimony on all sorts of issues that urgently need to be addressed.” [1056] For his campaign, the already prolific Earth First! troubadour, who was rapidly becoming the “Joe Hill” of the Earth First! movement, penned a new song, Where’s Bosco? which took the incumbent congressman to task for his unwillingness to be accountable to the public for his failures and included the refrain, “Don’t call me a radical, Bosco’s underground!” [1057]

Cherney’s wasn’t alone in his quest to challenge Bosco from the left. Two other disgruntled Bosco constituents, Neil Sinclair and Lionel Gambill, both Democrats, decided independently of Cherney and each other, to challenge Bosco in the primary. [1058] Ironically, though neither challenger was aware of the other, both of them lived less than ten miles apart, at opposite ends of the Bohemian Highway in the rural southwestern Sonoma County, near Greg King’s home town. Sinclair hailed from Monte Rio, on the Russian River, near Cazadero and Guerneville, and Gambill lived in Occidental to the south. Although Cherney had declared his candidacy first, he hadn’t actually officially filed the necessary paperwork until after the other two had done so, even though neither candidate contacted Cherney to confirm the seriousness of his intent. Cherney ruefully reflected that had he known about either competing candidate, he would have kept the $900 he spent on his filing fee, stepped aside, and supported the stronger of the other two challengers. [1059] Adding to Bosco’s challenges from the left, Eric Fried, a self described socialist and supporter of both Earth First! and the timber workers ran on the Peace and Freedom ticket.

The Earth First! candidate nevertheless accepted the additional contenders as potential allies, because the goal of his campaign was to unseat Bosco and draw attention to Maxxam’s pillage of the Humboldt redwoods. Cherney initially had no opinion of Neil Sinclair, as he knew almost nothing about him. On the other hand, his impression of Lionel Gambill was quite positive, and the latter was, in Cherney’s opinion, “a respectable looking sixty-year-old candidate.” Attempting to make lemonade out of lemons, Cherney suggested (to both Gambill and Sinclair) that if each candidate split the vote roughly equally in the winner-take-all primary, all they had to do is get Bosco to receive one percent less than any of the others. At the very least, the three of them together could render Bosco politically impotent by ensuring that he received less than 50 percent of the popular vote. Cherney even supported Gambill when the Sierra Club’s Sonoma County Chapter elected to endorse Doug Bosco (perhaps out of the timid belief that Bosco was the best choice to fend off an even worse Republican challenger in the November general election). Gambill attempted to address the meeting, but was essentially ignored. Cherney attended this particular meeting, spoke in support of Gambill, and sang a quickly written song called I Dreamed I Saw John Muir Last Night. [1060]

Right away, Cherney’s and King’s candidacies induced critics to stir up animosity, especially in light of some of the more controversial statements made by Dave Foreman and Ed Abbey, but those statements were eclipsed by a far more acrimonious statement made by another Earth First!er. A column penned in the Beltane (May 1) 1987 edition of the Earth First! Journal, written by “Miss Ann Thropy”, implied that, following the logic of Malthus, AIDS and other fatal diseases were nature’s way of regulating the human population, and concluded “if the AIDS epidemic didn’t exist, radical ecologists would have to invent one.” [1061] Miss Ann Thropy was an obvious nomme de plume, and many assumed it was Dave Foreman, though it was later revealed to be, by his own admission, fellow Earth First!er Chris Manes. Manes claimed that the column was “dark humor”, but he was deadly serious about the thinking behind it, declaring,


“Some Earth First!ers have suggested in Malthusian fashion that the appearance of famine in Africa and of plague in the form of AIDS is the inevitable outcome of humanity’s inability to conform its numbers to ecological limits. This contention hit a nerve with the humanist critics of radical environmentalism, who contend that social problems are the cause behind world hunger and that suggesting plague is a solution to overpopulation is ‘misanthropic.’ They have also produced a large body of literature attempting (sic) to show that Thomas Malthus was incorrect about the relationship between population and food reduction. Malthus may (sic) have been incorrect, famine may (sic) be based on social inequalities, plagues may (sic) be an undesirable way to control population—but the point remains that unless something is done to slow and reverse human population growth these contentions will soon become moot.” [1062]

To his credit, Cherney responded to Corporate Timber’s attempts to associate him with the statements made by Abbey, Foreman, and Manes, refuting the notion that Earth First! in general, or he and King, specifically, held such positions. [1063] Nevertheless, the Malthusian stances taken by Manes, Foreman, and Abbey were fodder for Cherney’s and King’s critics on the North Coast. For example, Cherney’s and King’s stance on water—which was not Malthusian, but proposed local self sufficiency—raised the ire of North Coast News columnist Nancy Barth. In her column, Barth sounded the alarm about “Ecofascism!”:

Mr. King and Mr. Cherney must certainly realize that use of ground water from wells causes a temporary reduction of the water table. Will they require all rural residents to depend on surface water exclusively, collect rainwater, or face deportation? Will Mr. King and Mr. Cherney and their Earth First! cohorts sit in judgment to determine who has damaged the environment and thus be deported? [1064]

Cherney offered a quick response, stating,

The real question is ‘who will Nancy Barth throw out of our area in order to allow more businesses and residents in?’ While human beings are getting mud out of their faucets, Nancy is calling those who call for growth limitations fascists. And if Nancy bothered to read a newspaper every now and then, she would learn that over 60 percent of Santa Rosa wants limited growth. Are they fascists, too? [1065]

Cherney also pointed out that Barth’s rejection of Earth First!, ostensibly in favor of “working responsibly” within the system had been tried and found wanting. He reiterated that one of the primary reasons for the existence of radical movements like Earth First! was that environmental groups that adopted moderate stances had hitherto been unable to accomplish any of their goals, until and unless more radical environmentalists had pushed the envelope thus making the former’s positions appear more politically palatable. Barth’s dismissals were typical of most of the critics. In fact, Cherney’s and King’s actual platform was solidly social democratic by early 21st Century standards, and placed them well to the left of the Democratic Party politically.

Both candidates took strong stands on environmental matters, including water (as previously mentioned); timber (sustained yield, uneven-aged management with no old growth harvesting, and restaffing the CDF with trained environmental experts); total opposition to offshore oil; sustainable fisheries; agriculture (a ban on petro-chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides and replacing large scale agribusiness with small-scale organic farms); transportation (incentives for bicyclists and pedestrians, the establishment of auto-free zones, and vastly increased mass transit resources); energy (phasing out nuclear fission power and investment in a crash program to rapidly develop and deploy solar and wind power as well as immediately reducing fossil fuel consumption by implementing mandatory conservation measures); waste (recycling of all waste—which, they argued, would create jobs); and interior (reclamation of wilderness, massive tree planting, stream restoration, and the banning of motor vehicles from national parks). [1066]

Their stances on social issues were no less progressive. On matters of “law and order” they advocated focusing on corporate criminals as opposed to petty crimes, and an end to highly unproductive new prison construction. On unemployment, they called for a jobs program geared primarily towards ecological restoration. They called for legalization of marijuana, with rigid environmental standards to prevent its production becoming unsustainable itself. As for their economic perspective, both proposed vigorous prosecution of public trust violations in opposition to corporate power. [1067]

Additionally, Cherney called for a massive reduction to the military budget, abolition of all nuclear weapons, redeploying the military to deal with long term ecological restoration projects, and banning of non-essential imports and local self sufficiency. Cherney’s geopolitical stances placed him in opposition to the Reagan dominated Cold War orientation of the United States. Cherney referred to the USSR as “our competitor, not our enemy”, and decried the ideologies of both superpowers, “since neither one worked.” Demonstrating that he was not a racist, Cherney called for the immediate recognition of the Nelson Mandela-led African National Congress as the bona fide government of South Africa and reparations for the then oppressed black population under Apartheid. On the matter of Nicaragua, he called for an end to funding of the Contras. Cherney also proposed a well funded education program and incentives to lower population growth by making it the norm for families to have one child only. [1068] In no instance did Cherney take any stance that placed himself on the political right, and in no case did he adopt any of the stances taken by either Dave Foreman or Edward Abbey that had unfairly earned Earth First! the reputation as a politically reactionary movement.

Cherney and King were not alone in their quest to unseat Corporate Timber friendly incumbents. John Maurer and Don Nelson had announced candidacies of their own for the Humboldt County District 2 and Mendocino County District 4 supervisorial elections. Maurer declared his campaign in February of 1988. [1069] Pritchard’s seat represented the southeastern-most section out of five districts and included much of the land owned by Pacific Lumber. [1070] Don Nelson declared his candidacy on January 20, 1988. [1071] District 4 encompassed the northwestern corner of Mendocino County and included the southern portion of the Sinkyone Wilderness as well as Fort Bragg, where the big G-P Mill was located. Given the sensitivity of the issues, Cherney and King agreed to keep their campaigns independent of Maurer’s and Nelson’s and vice versa (and the latter ran their campaigns more or less independent of each other). Cherney and King stressed that they didn’t necessarily endorse Maurer and Nelson (and vice versa), but all agreed that they had roughly similar concerns. [1072]

Don Nelson, born and raised on the Mendocino Coast, billed himself as “the workers’ candidate” (and, at least relative to the lame duck Cimolino, that was true enough). Nelson had worked for 20 years in the woods as a logger and timber faller, but for the thirteen years prior to his announcement, he had served as the full-time, paid Business Representative for the Fort Bragg IWA Local. [1073] On the other hand, he had opposed the environmentalists’ fight to preserve Sally Bell Grove in the Sinkyone, though he ultimately agreed to a compromise that included some concessions that the IWA accepted. [1074] In spite of this, many residents of the county, including a large number of environmentalists agreed that he would be a vast improvement over John Cimolino, and certainly a far superior choice than the rabidly right wing Azevedo. [1075]

Meanwhile, both Maurer and his opponent, Pritchard, agreed that timber was the economic lifeblood of Humboldt County, but they had substantially different perspectives on how to ensure the long term viability of it. Pritchard, of course, followed the neoclassical economic rhetoric put forth by Ronald Reagan of “reduced taxes and less ‘burdensome’ regulations will result in a stronger economy.” [1076] The incumbent had already served three terms as the supervisor for the Second District, and he was usually 100 percent in agreement with the practices of Maxxam. [1077] His stance on clearcutting and the increased harvesting rates by the new P-L was to praise it, declaring, “Those people that are hollering (about sustained yield) don’t know what they are talking about. Today, there’s more wood being grown in the county than is being harvested,” and claimed that P-L’s construction of new infrastructure (though he conveniently omitted that it was done with nonunion labor from out of the county), including dry kilns in Fortuna and Redway as well as a cogeneration plant in Scotia was “proof” that P-L wasn’t “spending that kind of money to go out of businesses.” [1078] But, Pritchard was on record as misrepresenting the level of Maxxam’s overcut, claiming that the rate of increase was a mere 3 percent when it was in fact at least 200 percent. [1079] Also, he had, in his capacity of head of the regional air quality management district the previous year, sided with L-P and Simpson on air pollution complaints against the two corporations brought to the board by Humboldt County residents. [1080]

Maurer’s positions were hardly radical, but they stood in stark contrast to those of his opponent. He considered Maxxam’s takeover of P-L to be one of the most serious threats to befall Humboldt County. “Gone (were) the days of prudent, selective timber harvesting that ensured economic stability.” [1081] Despite his resignation, Maurer continued to fight the Maxxam takeover. He started a custom cabinet making and woodworking business, in which he pledged to use sustainable resources. He was one of the plaintiffs in a suit against Maxxam, charging impropriety in the $35 million depletion of the workers’ pension fund. Maurer believed that economic diversity and community growth must be encouraged and maintained, but that resources should be controlled locally. He believed that local manufacturing, including local processing of timber, was infinitely more desirable than raw log exports and clearcutting. Instead of shipping raw logs away, Maurer envisioned shipping quality wood products, such as milled doors and cabinets. His vision was not entirely motivated by self interest or limited to timber, because he also envisioned enhancing other local Humboldt County industries, such as dairy and tourism. [1082] Maurer challenged the incumbent on his uncritical stances on Maxxam, arguing that they had taken Hurwitz and Campbell at their word, even though access to accurate information was restricted. “We have every right to expect our supervisors to take a stand on this. The board should be interested in pursuing information so that we as a community can be assured that sustained yield is the case—assurance for long term timber jobs. The future of Humboldt County is at stake.” Additionally, Maurer challenged Pritchard’s accessibility to the public (along with the rest of the board), a claim which Pritchard disputed. [1083]

For his part, Don Nelson was anything but a perfect candidate to challenge Corporate Timber in many respects. Nelson had already lost much credibility with the rank and file members of IWA Local #3-469, and the candidate had an inconsistent—and sometimes contradictory—record on forest issues. Nelson had supported the Greens in their joint pickets of L-P over herbicide spraying three years previously, though there was more than a hint of political opportunism in this move. He supported tougher timber cutting regulations [1084], including AB 3601, proposed by Assemblyman Byron Sher, which would have limited old growth cutting, at least on paper. [1085] He certainly had come out vehemently against Maxxam’s takeover of Pacific Lumber—going so far as to consent to Earth First! quoting him in their publications on the issue. [1086] Nevertheless, he felt that individual citizens being able to directly challenge THPs created unintended consequences that represented a potential threat to timber workers’ livelihoods and preferred an intermediary board to address such conflicts. [1087] Nelson’s most troubling stance was on clearcutting, which he supported, albeit on a much smaller scale than was typically practiced by Corporate Timber. [1088] Nelson defended his position ostensibly on matters of workers’ safety, arguing that selective cutting involved some inherent dangers to workers not likewise extant in clearcutting (such as “widowmakers”), but he parroted dubious industry talking points (that the practice could be sustainable) in defense of it. [1089]

Nelson’s peripheral political activity was cause for some concern as well. He was a registered Democrat, active in local party politics, serving on the local County Central Committee. He had also served on the Mendocino County Private Industry Council as well as the Mendocino County Overall Economic Development Plan Committee, which certainly gave him connections and knowledge of County affairs. [1090] However, all of his political activity severely limited the amount of time he devoted to bread and butter union issues, which was a growing bone of contention among the rank and file of his union. [1091] Nelson supported Jesse Jackson’s run for the Democratic Party nomination, partly due to the latter’s support of the IWA in a labor dispute with timber corporation Champion International in Newberg, South Carolina. [1092] However, Nelson and his IWA local also endorsed Doug Bosco over the congressman’s opponents. [1093] Nelson defended his inconsistencies as the art of being a negotiator and forging deals between divergent factions, and he cited his experience as a union representative as evidence, but such “negotiations” were usually in the service of making deals with the boss. [1094] When the chips were down, Don Nelson was a typical politician and a quintessential machine Democrat.

Despite Nelson’s shortcomings, the consensus opinion among Mendocino County environmentalists was that he represented the best candidate to replace the thoroughly conservative Cimolino. Nelson’s endorsers among the local green community included his son, Crawdad Nelson, (a former G-P millworker turned Earth First!er) [1095], Beth Bosk, (who published the New Settler Interview, which was often the voice of the local back-to-the-land community). [1096] Nelson co-hosted a weekly labor oriented radio program on local station KMFB in Fort Bragg with Roanne Withers, who also supported his campaign, even though she had endorsed Lionel Gambill over Bosco. [1097]

Nelson’s primary challenger, Liz Henry, was slightly more progressive on many issues, though much less experienced, and perhaps too quick to align herself with the Chamber of Commerce on coastal development, an anathema to most local greens. [1098] Liz Henry’s husband, Norm Henry, was a registered professional forester with the California Department of Forestry, and had a more or less conventional view on logging (taking the current corporate driven boom and bust system as a given) but Liz was fairly strong on forest preservation issues. [1099] Complicating matters further, IWA Local #3-469 and Don Nelson endorsed Mendocino County Measure B, also endorsed by most local environmentalists, which proposed significantly tougher timber harvest regulations [1100], and challenged G-P to a debate when the latter claimed that the measure would threaten jobs; G-P declined. [1101] It was by no means an easy choice for the environmental community to decide between Nelson and Henry, but all agreed that either candidate was a far superior alternative to Azevedo.

* * * * *

Cherney’s and King’s run for office by no means took energy away from Earth First!’s campaign of direct actions against Maxxam or the other Corporate Timber giants; indeed the actions and the election campaigns dovetailed fairly well, at least in matters of raising public awareness. The two launched their campaigns in Earth First! style by crashing a political function organized by Dan Hauser and then-Speaker of the California State Assembly, Willie Brown, at the Mendocino Hotel on December 7, 1987. The hotel was notorious for class discrimination, having a virtual caste system where housekeeping employees were not even allowed to enter the building through its main entrance. Cherney argued, “That Hauser and Brown would meet in such a ‘den of inequity’ is an insult to all working people!” [1102]

One month later, Darryl Cherney took part in a protest in the Big Apple at the New York Stock Exchange. About 20 demonstrators gathered for a lunchtime demonstration on January 13, 1988. The group picketed the building, carrying banners with slogans that included “Wall Street Out of the Wilderness” and “The Real Crash: Deforestation”. Some of the signs were attached to discarded Christmas trees symbolizing Maxxam’s callous use of the forests. Cherney described the mood of the passersby as curious. However John Campbell, speaking for Pacific Lumber from Scotia retorted, “I personally don’t think it will have any effect,” and went on to accuse the demonstrators of putting environmental concerns ahead of human issues. [1103]

North Coast Earth First! then unveiled its Headwaters Forest Complex Proposal. [1104] The proposal was actually the project of two Humboldt State University forestry students, Earth First!ers Larry Evans and Todd Swarthout. It called for acquisition and preservation of 98,000 acres of wilderness areas in Humboldt County, 31,000 of which were part of the Pacific Lumber holdings, a 3,000 acre Headwaters Forest preserve, and protection of south Humboldt Bay, Table Bluff, most of the Eel River Delta through voluntary conservation easements. [1105] The project still allowed for sustainable logging in other areas, and it earned the support of mainstream environmentalists, including the Redwood Chapter of the Sierra Club, whose chair, Jim Owens urged the state’s regional organization to support it as well, declaring, “These measures are essential to fight Maxxam’s clearcutting of PALCO’s old growth.” As was to be expected, Maxxam, along with other timber companies, who stood to lose access to a huge source of potential short term revenue, opposed the measure, claiming that it would result in layoffs and possible permanent loss of jobs. [1106] Similar claims had been made by Corporate Timber, especially GP and LP, about Redwood Regional Park, but had never come to pass. [1107] The Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance—no doubt speaking the thoughts of Maxxam and other corporate interests—editorialized against the proposal opining:

“Humboldt County is already awash in county and federal parks: another Redwood National Park-type plot of land taken off the tax rolls to supply the needs of a few hundred backpackers is certainly not needed at a time when the county is scrapping for funds to support needed services. Besides, no clear method of acquiring the 96,000 acres was mentioned—or who would pay for it.” [1108]

Earth First!’s proposal both drew attention to, and drew fire away from, Proposition 70, the Wildlife, Coastal and Parkland Conservation Bond Act. The $776 bond measure, sponsored by veterans of the decade-long struggle to preserve the Sinkyone, proposed allocating money to various counties for park improvements and wilderness preservation efforts. [1109] In Humboldt County, specifically, the measure would allocate $197,000 to the County itself, $27,000 to Fortuna, $20,000 to Ferndale, $20,000 to Rio Dell, and $20,000 to the Rohner Regional Park District. The money would be reserved for development, rehabilitation, restoration, or acquisition of parks, beaches, wildlife habitat, or recreation depending on the situation. The funds would mostly be spent by various departments of parks and recreation, the State Wildlife Conservation Board, and the State Coastal Conservancy. Portions of the funds would then be funneled to various nonprofit groups where appropriate, such as the Sanctuary Forest group of Southern Humboldt, which was slated to receive $4 million for the preservation of land owned by Eel River Sawmills near Whitethorn. [1110]

The measure’s supporters included environmentalists, naturally, and even though it had nothing to do with Earth First!’s Headwaters Forest Wilderness Complex proposal, many of the same environmentalists that supported the latter also supported Proposition 70. Country Activist coeditor and EPIC spokesman Bob Martel declared:

“We’re definitely for it. It means the area we call Sanctuary will be preserved. It’s a critical area. We look forward to it passing. It’s the first time in a long time the people have put a bond measure on the ballot, and we think it reflects the attitude of the country, which is three-to-one for preserving old-growth.” [1111]

Like the Headwaters proposal, Proposition 70 was opposed primarily by Corporate Timber as well as Corporate Agribusiness. In Humboldt County, Pacific Lumber, Eel River Sawmills, the California Farm Bureau, and the Cattlemen’s Association led the opposition, and often—for the sake of defeating both measures—they conflated the two. These interests framed their opposition as challenging government “land grabs” (which was ironic given the origins of their current holdings) opposing a wasteful boondoggle, and the removal of lands from productive usage. [1112] Harold Pritchard opposed both Earth First!’s Headwaters proposal and Proposition 70 vehemently to the point of running ads against them as part of his reelection campaign. [1113] However, like the Headwaters proposal, the likelihood was that the long term yield from more sustainable practices—as opposed to short term profit—would be greater, though of course this didn’t serve the interests of the capitalist class. Furthermore, Proposition 70 supporter Rex Rathburn of Petrolia, a member of the group Californians for Parks and Wildlife, pointed out that the land acquisitions covered under the initiative could only come from a willing seller. There were no calls for the use of eminent domain in the measure. [1114]

Among the reasons given by Pacific Lumber as arguments against the necessity of either the Headwaters Wilderness Complex proposal and Proposition 70, is that it replanted new trees each time they logged the old ones. What they neglected to mention is that such efforts were rarely—if ever—effective. In response, on March 6, 1988, accompanied by NBC National News, 17 Earth First!ers marched onto Pacific Lumber land and planted 400 redwood and Douglas fir saplings in a clearcut near All Species Grove “to show Maxxam how to get it right.” They were met by Carl Anderson and P-L security who escorted the Earth First!ers and reporters off the property, but made no arrests. [1115] In retaliation Pacific Lumber attempted to sue the activists for damages on March 30. [1116] The company admitted that they lost no money from the action, but they asked the courts to bar Cherney and fourteen “John and Jane Does” from trespassing on the company’s land anyway, claiming that this was necessary to prevent potential protesters from suing the company should they be injured while on private property. [1117] This was rather dubious logic, and it was more likely that Maxxam was primarily interested in controlling the message. [1118] Unfazed, Darryl Cherney replied, “I am actually quite happy to be sued by Maxxam. Now the voters will know where I stand.” [1119] He further boasted that he safely say that he was the only candidate currently running who had been sued for planting trees. [1120]

A week later, the CDF granted P-L permission to log two sites in All Species Grove, and EPIC sued to stop them. Judge Buffington delayed issuing a TRO, and in response, Darryl Cherney declared that of the former didn’t issue a ruling by April 12, he would trespass on P-L land again the next day and serenade the loggers. [1121] In anticipation of the protest, three Earth First!ers conducted another tree sit, in All Species Grove. Unfortunately, this effort garnered insufficient media attention, so Greg King decided to organize yet another tree sit in a much more noticeable location, in this case, between a pair of redwood trees straddling US 101 in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The second crew hung a traverse line and a 20 x 50 foot banner reading “SAVE PRIMEVAL FOREST – AXE MAXXAM – EARTH FIRST!” across the roadway, and King traversed the line waiting for a fellow activist photographer to arrive to take a picture for the local press. King’s support crew then concealed themselves in the dense forest reserve away from the roadway. [1122]

The tree sit was primarily intended as little more than a photo-op, but it quickly evolved into a near melee. King’s photographer ran late, and so the activist hung in midair waving to the passing motorists, some of whom honked in sympathy while others returned King’s friendly waves with middle finger gestures. When a passing California Highway Patrol officer arrived and demanded that King stand down and lower the banner, the Earth First!er (whose support crew waited hidden nearby) responded that he could not, because doing so was a two person job. A second CHP officer arrived, followed by a CalTrans service truck, but instead of attempting to arrest and detain King, they simply waited. For whom was not readily apparent, but in time, Climber Dan Collings arrived in his pickup truck and, unlike his earlier cordial but adversarial standoff with King, this time he was not so forgiving. He emerged from his vehicle cussing wildly at King, declaring,

“You fucking Earth First!ers wouldn’t know old growth redwoods if they fell on you! Your goddamned propaganda has gone too far! You get your faces in the newspaper and play God with my job while people like me do the real work and pay for your goddamned welfare checks!” [1123]

The climber then ascended about halfway up one of the pair of trees from which the banner hung, faster than any Earth First!er had ever done and—at this point—gestured with his knife as if he intended to cut down King’s traverse line. “You’d better stay away from my traverse line. If you cut that, I may wind up splattered all over somebody’s vehicle below!” shouted King.

“Stop your fucking sniveling! I can cut that banner down without so much as putting a nick in your damn lifeline, and that banner is going! I’ve had it up to HERE with all of your fucking propaganda!” countered Collings, who continued his rapid ascent up the tree.

“Is he with you?” shouted the CHP officer to King through his bullhorn, gesturing towards the climber.

“I don’t know him,” responded King, “but I think he might cut my lifeline!”

At this point the officer sped over to the tree being climbed by Collings and ordered the latter to halt or face arrest. Begrudgingly, the climber halted his ascent, shouting, “Unlike you fucking Earth First!ers, I have a real job and cannot afford to get arrested. There’s no welfare taking care of me!”

By now, the photographer finally showed up, and snapped his photo, and King stood down voluntarily. The CHP cited him for illegally hanging a sign on a federal highway, but he was released without bail, and the photographs ran in numerous local periodicals the next day as well as a major magazine soon after that. [1124]

Bolstered by this occurrence, the next day 75 demonstrators, 40 of whom were willing to risk arrest, assembled as promised. The Earth First!ers split into four separate groups and entered the All Species Grove from four different directions. [1125] Those that reached the grove dialogued with loggers and some of them attempted to halt a logging truck before being arrested by Humboldt County sheriffs. Others weren’t as lucky. At least 31 of them were thwarted from reaching the logging site, when Humboldt County sheriffs spotted them on adjoining land and asked them to disperse, which they did. 30 more were escorted from P-L land upon being discovered. [1126] Darryl Cherney did indeed attempt to serenade the loggers with his signature song, “We Are We Gonna Work When the Trees Are Gone?”, but he was arrested before he could complete it. [1127] Before he began, some loggers accused him of being on welfare, a charge Cherney denied. Even though he was interrupted and denigrated, the activist declared, “We were able to offer our opinions to those falling the trees, and even if they don’t agree with us, they know that there are people who care about cutting old growth redwoods.” [1128] The action was successful in two other regards: there was no violence, and in spite of the arrests, enough demonstrators had reached the site to halt logging for the day. [1129]

* * * * *

At this point, rumors grew that Hurwitz was engaged in yet another shady takeover attempt and he was using Pacific Lumber as collateral. The rumblings began when the company’s debt rating was downgraded by Standard & Poor first to “B-minus”, followed by “triple-C.” Prior to the Maxxam takeover, its rating had been “A-plus”. Maxxam had recently merged with its cash-poor subsidiary, MCO, but the change indicated other activity. [1130] The debt rating agency declared that the change “(reflected) the perceived need, ability, and willingness of management to upstream cash from Maxxam to its parent company holdings.” In a press release issued on April 4, 1988, John Campbell declared that Pacific Lumber had strict “covenants” in place to restrict its ability to pay cash dividends to Maxxam. [1131]

Evidently these “covenants” mattered little. As it turned out Hurwitz was using cash diverted from Pacific Lumber in yet another suspicious takeover attempt. This time, in a development eerily similar to the folding of Pacific Lumber’s old guard, Kaiser Aluminum’s board of directors accepted a $871.9 million leveraged buyout bid from Maxxam. Essentially demonstrating that Hurwitz lacked any concrete knowledge of the aluminum business and was purely concerned about quick profits, he retained the top executives to help him run the company promising them 15 percent ownership. And, following the pattern of the takeover at P-L, Maxxam hinted they might sell some of Kaiser’s aluminum operations in West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana, as well as an electrical products line and various real estate holdings. After Maxxam’s acquisition, Kaiser’s debt doubled to over $1.5 billion. In the September 1988 quarterly report filed by Pacific Lumber, the company admitted that Maxxam did indeed use $24.5 million from its forest products division to take over the then 57-year-old company. [1132] It was a case of déjà vu all over again.

* * * * *

In spite of these developments, the tide of public and legal opposition continued to rise against Hurwitz and Maxxam still further. Less than a week after the tree sits and trespass, in a stunningly unprecedented move, CDF director Jerry Partain denied three THPs, including two filed by Pacific Lumber on the grounds that P-L had failed to consider the cumulative impacts of their proposed timber harvest on the area’s wildlife. The two THPs included the Shaw Creek cut opposed by Concerned Earth Scientist Researchers and the Lawrence Creek cut. Up to 100 acres from both THP were slated for clearcutting according to Ross Johnson. P-L officials issued a written statement a few days letter expressing their surprise at the decision, arguing that the THPs included all of the information required by the Board of Forestry under Z’berg Nejedley, or at least required according to then past practices. Indeed, Partain was not known for being anything but sympathetic to Corporate Timber, and the company suspected that his apparent change of heart had more to do with political and legal pressure than anything else. Seeming to confirm this suspicion, Ross Johnson declared, “Because we’ve had so many lawsuits, we’re being more thorough in our review of these timber harvest plans. I guess you could give credit to these environmental groups. If we keep getting beat up on, we’ll continue to do a better job.” [1133] It was more accurate to ascribe Partain’s change of position to legal pressure, however, because, as the CDF director so bluntly pointed out, “If we did not act on the advice of Fish and Game, we would be in a very weak position to defend ourselves in court.” [1134]

That wasn’t to be the last of it, because on April 25, Judge Buffington finally issued a TRO order against further logging in All Species Grove, though by that time, too much damage had already been done. In a later visit to the contested site, Earth First!ers discovered huge pieces of broken logs strewn about a nearly vertical eroded slope as well as a brand new road cut into the north bank of All Species Creek. Pacific Lumber had instead begun a new 263-acre clearcut adjacent to one just halted by the TRO. On April 28, various Earth First! chapters in Redwood Country and the EF! Nomadic Action Group offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Charles Hurwitz for its corporate crimes and crimes against nature. Then, on May 5, in a clear case of legal sleight of hand, P-L requested permission from the court to remove all of the trees they had already cut prior to the TRO, and—naturally—to facilitate that, they would need to cut down old growth trees that just happened to “be in the way”. At the very least, the so-called wheels of justice turned in favor of Earth First! at least in one instance that day, as the near dozen activists facing charges from the May 1987 Week of Outrage received plea-bargain sentences of required community service as well as injunctions against entering P-L property. Also, no charges were ever filed against the arrestees in the recent All Species Grove actions. [1135] Although EPIC’s and Earth First!’s had only been partially successful, the potential for them to build upon them was evident. Pacific Lumber was already organizing its response.



9. And they Spewed Out their Hatred

“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 [1136]

“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. [1137] 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!” [1138]

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 [1139]; Dann Johnson, Times-Standard on April 23, 1988 [1140]; Rodney and Melodee Sanderson, Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance on May 10, 1988 [1141]; Richard Adams [1142] and Lee Ann Walstrom [1143], Times-Standard, May 21, 1988; Samuel and Linda Bartlett [1144], Mary L. Fowler [1145], Kevin Morris [1146], Nita M Whitaker [1147], Keith Kersell [1148], and Lee Ann Walstrum [1149], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 22, 1988; Gaird Hamilton, Times-Standard, May 23, 1988 [1150]; Lynda Lyons, Times-Standard, May 24, 1988 [1151]; Richard Ward [1152] and Fred Johnson [1153], Times-Standard, May 25, 1988; Forrest Johnson, Times-Standard, May 26, 1988 [1154]; Dennis Coleman, Times-Standard, May 27, 1988 [1155]; Raymond Davis [1156], Jeff and Sherrin Erickson [1157], and Gary L Wyatt [1158], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, May 27, 1988; Deborah August of Eureka [1159], Ken Cress [1160], and Jim Scaife [1161], Eureka Times-Standard, May 28, 1988; Linda Bartlett (again) [1162], Allan E. Barrote [1163], Josh and Betty Edwards [1164], Vanessa Frederickson [1165] Mohota Jean Pollard and Donald H. Pollard [1166], and Dee Weeks and family (sic) [1167], Beacon and Fortuna Advance, June 3, 1988; and James Ober [1168] and Cindy Cardoza Tyler [1169], Beacon and Fortuna Advance on June 10, 1988. The Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance commented that the sheer volume of letters was unusual. [1170] Even the owner of the Chevron gas station in Scotia got into the act. [1171]

The letters were all remarkably similar to each other, even to the extent that they were more or less interchangeable(and, interestingly—and quite likely not coincidentally—they match “Climber Dan’s” more confrontational words to Greg King as described in the previous chapter). A generic example of any one of these letters read like this:

“My name is (insert name here). I (or my spouse) have worked for (this or that timber company) for x-dozen years. I, my spouse, and my 2.53 children are god fearing Americans who have lived in (the local company town) for several decades. (The timber company for which I work) contributes $100,000s annually in taxes to the local economy and employs 100s of workers in our county. (Our company) plants 5 trees for every tree they cut down.

“Recently a small group of extremists who aren’t even residents of our county have hijacked local and state government agencies responsible for managing our timber resources, including the CDF, and have bullied them into rejecting dozens of THPs through the use of frivolous lawsuits. These THPs are no different than the ones the CDF have approved for years. Many of the forests that our company logged a generation or two ago have grown back completely and there are more trees growing in our county than ever before!

“These so-called environmentalists belong to radical eco-terrorist fringe groups like Earth First! and EPIC. Their members don’t work, don’t pay taxes, and probably raise their money by growing and selling marijuana.

“Now these extremists are proposing to take our private property and give it to government in a communistic land-grab for what they are calling a “wilderness complex”. However, there are already more than enough redwood trees preserved in parks. If these extremists have their way, the will stop at nothing until they have halted all logging and destroyed the economy of our hard working community!”

None of these claims were remotely true, and they were obviously derived from a single source, perhaps even a form letter that suggested using any or all of these talking points. Clearly this was a case of manufactured hysteria, and it was not difficult to guess who was responsible.

By this time, Earth First! had grown accustomed to such smear campaigns against them. In fact, one year previously, about six months after the accident that injured George Alexander, they had been accused—mostly by Louisiana-Pacific—of interfering with the fighting of forest fires by filing appeals to that corporation’s THPs during raging summer conflagrations. This was rhetorical nonsense, of course. Earth First! could have challenged every THP ever filed and it would have had no appreciable effect on the forest fires, since the CDF’s firefighters are not generally in the business of reviewing logging plans, but it didn’t really matter. L-P’s goal in making such claims was frame Earth First! as an uncaring, disruptive force, which couldn’t have been further from the truth, as Darryl Cherney had attempted to show:

“Those depicting Earth First!ers as dope-growing welfare recipients against all logging do so out of fear. We are employed, educated, and pro-logging. We are against wholesale rape of the earth and abuse of wildlife and human life. Selective cutting, as P-L once did, is closer to our vision, but at this point, the logging of old-growth must stop. The 90 percent we’ve cut, we’ve squandered. We deserve no more.

We are not anti-jobs. We rely on the economy too…Many here are tied to timber, with no free speech to criticize the industry. Don’t blame lost jobs on environmentalists when automation and over-cutting are the causes.” [1172]

Cherney’s frustrations were quite understandable, of course, because by the late 1980s, it was standard practice for Corporate Timber’s amen corner to shift the blame for all of the timber industry’s ills to “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs” to the point of absurdity. [1173]

The most recent barrage of letters had been ostensibly organized by a group of P-L workers who freely supported Maxxam and genuinely opposed Earth First!. A group of them had formed “Save The Employees Association” (STEA) in May 1988 in response to the ongoing protests by Earth First!, EPIC’s lawsuits challenging P-L’s THPs, the recent legislation by Byron Sher and Barry Keene, Judge Buffington’s TROs, The Earth First! Headwaters wilderness complex, and Jerry Partain’s recent denials of a two P-L THPs. Shortly after that, the following paid advertisement in the form of yet another letter appeared in the May 10, 1988 issue of the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, addressed to “Friends, Neighbors, and Businesses in Humboldt County,” from “Employees of and Contractors to the Pacific Lumber Company,” regarding “A Threat to the Economy of the North Coast.” It declared that the threat was not Hurwitz, but rather:

“…a group of people who want to stop timber harvesting in parts of our county. In January the Earth First! organization began lobbying legislators and candidates for office to adopt a proposal called the ‘Headwaters Forest Wilderness Complex,’ The Headwaters proposal recommends that huge amounts of privately-held timberlands, ranchlands, and dairylands in Humboldt County be removed from the tax rolls and preserved by the government as ‘wilderness’…

“Here are a few facts we think you, the people of Humboldt should know:

“1200 people are employed at the (sic) PL. The annual payroll is $30 million.

300 people are employed by contractors to PL. fees received annually by contractors total about $13 million.

“PL employees and contractor employees spend most of their wages in this community supporting their families.

“Most of us live in Humboldt, own property here, and pay property taxes here.

“PL is one of the larger taxpayers in the county, paying approximately $1.5 million yearly in property taxes and $2 million in timber taxes…

“…Earth First! is threatening more than our jobs. They are threatening to undermine the tax base and the standard of living throughout the county. Few Earth First!ers even live in Humboldt County. Fewer still pay property taxes here. Earth First! isn’t helping to solve community problems. They sure aren’t acting like they understand our economy. And they don’t care about the people who live here.” [1174]

This “open letter” was signed by Employees of Pacific Lumber (without the definite article “The” preceding it. The other signers included various gyppo firms that contracted extensively with Pacific Lumber, including Lewis Logging, Lyall Logging, Rounds Logging, Van Meter Logging, Eel River Sawmills, and Don Nolan Trucking, which was not especially shocking since their profit margins benefitted from the increased harvesting Maxxam brought about. Somewhat more curious though were the (emphasized) comments about the effect of the Headwaters Wilderness Complex on ranching and dairy. These were a clear indication that the actual opposition to the Earth First! Headwaters Forest proposal was substantially more than that of a few pro-Maxxam timber workers. Even State Senator Barry Keene found this development highly suspicious:

“The Earth First! headwater (sic) wilderness proposal, subject to recent debate and protest is ill-conceived. If implemented, it would threaten the timber and agricultural industries in Humboldt County by removing substantial acreages of land from production…

“Yet frankly, I am puzzled why the proposal has received so much attention in the past few weeks. A copy did circulate in the Capitol some time ago, but I am unaware of anyone who has taken it seriously…

“It seems the threat from this particular proposal may have been exaggerated, and in fact may have been diversionary tactic to draw attention away from corporate shortcomings in managing the resource…

“Speeding up the old growth harvest to meet corporate debt payments only pushes us towards an inevitable drop-off in jobs. This is an issue of enormous concern to me and one that I have been working on to find solutions.

“With respect to Pacific Lumber, my complaint is not with the local managers who live in, and understand, the community. Rather it is with the long-distance corporate manipulators who perceive timber as an asset to be stripped to finance corporate dealings elsewhere. The appeals by EPIC and the denial of harvest plans by Director Partain are symptomatic of the larger issue of conversion from an old growth economy.” [1175]

The sudden vitriol directed at Jerry Partain was hardly justified. He was by no means an environmentalist and had, in his role as director of the CDF, fast-tracked thousands of THPs. He had been a P-L stockholder and cashed in handsomely when Maxxam bought the company in 1986. Since the previous July he had approved 525 out of 530 THPs in all. His characterization of environmentalists who challenged his approvals was “elements that don’t want any timber harvest at all” and “some days I think they are going to shut timber harvest (down) in California.” [1176] Yet, after he denied a mere three THPs (two of which had been submitted by P-L and one that had been filed by Eel River Sawmills) in May 1988 [1177], the letters to the press by the P-L workers began. It didn’t stop there however. [1178] The Humboldt County Supervisors, led by Harry Pritchard—who was determined to bolster support for his reelection in his campaign against challenger John Maurer—decided to make Partain’s ruling an issue at the May 17 Supervisors’ meeting. Corporate Timber made damn sure that they were well represented at this public discussion. [1179]

On May 17, approximately 200-500 (depending on whose account) “pro-timber” demonstrators rallied at the Humboldt County Courthouse in Eureka. The event began with an early morning semi-truck convoy on Highway 101 south of Eureka, at least 200 rigs long stretching as far south as nearby Fields Landing. [1180] The trucks rolled into Eureka and passed down the main highway approached the county courthouse downtown where the rally took place, and then circled it for two hours. The assembled crowd bore signs which read “We Pay Our Taxes”, “How Can You Replace $10-$16 an Hour Wages?”, and “Businesses Stand Together—Fight Socialism.” [1181] Many of the demonstrators wore orange hardhats and green Earth First! shirts with a red circle and slash negation symbol covering the Earth First! raised fist logo. [1182]

There were a few courageous Earth First! counterdemonstrators present, but when they attempted to address the crowd, they were shouted down with chants of “Earth First! Go Home!”, not to mention the all too familiar “Go to Russia!” [1183] When KVIQ TV reporter Karen Olson attempted to interview one of the environmentalists, an unidentified woman from the “pro logging” group screamed at her and ordered her to stop. [1184] The event was organized by members of STEA, particularly trucking company owner Don Nolan Sr., Several businesses gave their workers the day off to attend it. [1185] Pacific Lumber shut down for the day according to David Galitz, who also attended the event. [1186]

The rally was attended by P-L workers, such as Cat skinner John Morrison of Hydesville, who declared, “It seems like we never get to voice our opinion…” (The hundreds of letters to the editor, the countless paid advertisements, and the favorable coverage and editorials by the corporate press evidently didn’t exist in Morrison’s universe) “…We needed to show we believed in logging. The loss of Pacific Lumber would have a drastic effect on the whole county.” Fellow P-L employee and lead Fortuna millwright Don Peterson declared, “I hope it showed our legislators and supervisors that we the workers are concerned and that we are tired of being the silent majority.” [1187] “(Earth First!ers) are the ones who’ve been heard. We as working men haven’t had the time to protest. Today we made the time…I don’t think anybody here wants to cut the forest and leave it bare…(Earth First! ‘extremists’) want to make a park out of logging land,” he concluded. [1188] His admonishment for the local officials to listen didn’t have to travel far to be heard by their ears, because one of Fortuna’s councilmen was P-L supervisor Dennis Wood, who was also present at the rally. [1189]

The hearing itself was even more surreal. Harold Pritchard (whose reelection campaign signs graced most of the trucks that had encircled the courthouse) chaired the discussion on the denied THPs. Jerry Partain tried to explain to the angry mob that they were making a mountain out of a molehill over the rejected THPs, and that due to increasing scrutiny by the public, more stringent review of them was inevitable. Darryl Cherney, trying as hard as he could to stomach the presence of the vigilantes, regarded the CDF director’s testimony as bureaucratic doublespeak. The sufficiently propagandized loggers and mill workers, however, regarded this as Partain caving into pressure from “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” Humboldt State University economics professor John Grobey’s testimony which followed made Cherney almost lose his lunch. Grobey predicted that the economic impacts of Partain’s having rejected the two P-L THPs would be the loss of as many as 1852 timber jobs. Then he proceeded to denounce Earth First!, EPIC, and environmentalists as the source of all of Humboldt County’s troubles. [1190] Just as Grobey concluded his verbatim recitation of Corporate Timber’s talking points, Pritchard declared that he had heard all that he had needed to hear. When Greg King spoke up in protest, asking if the supervisors would be talking public comment, Dennis Wood angrily shouted, from the floor, “they’re not going to take any testimony from an idiot like you!” Before King could respond, Pritchard gaveled the session closed. [1191]

In spite of apparent show of unity, the entire affair was a case of manufactured dissent. Again, it wasn’t hard to guess who had organized it. These “pro-worker” demonstrations were almost exact replicas of the employer organized “rallies” against the formation of Redwood National Park in the 1970s. [1192] All of the rhetoric about the “threat to jobs” didn’t square with realty, because the Eureka Times-Standard reported, on May 28, 1988, that the local economy was performing better than expected and the timber industry was booming, mainly due to Maxxam’s accelerated cut. [1193] The prohibition of the THPs apparently did nothing to blemish this rosy picture, and, if anything, there were more logs coming out of the nearby forests than ever before. [1194]

The mob didn’t accurately reflect the residents of Humboldt County, either. For example—although it is admittedly small sample size—when polled by the Eureka Times-Standard, out of a total of eight respondents, six held neutral or negative opinions of the STEA organized events, and two of the latter were woodworkers. [1195] Eureka resident Philip Mark Talbrook, who described himself as a family man who recognized that the local economy depended on timber harvesting, declared, “I had mixed feelings when I walked through the truckers’ pro-cut demonstration…of both pride and pain. It felt somewhat like seeing your son out the door on his first date—and realizing that he had the town slut on his arm.” [1196]

It was likewise highly suspicious that the assembled “workers” accused the environmentalists for having little regard for jobs and workers’ livelihood [1197], because this was simply not the case. The Man Who Walks in the Woods rebutted these charges in a guest editorial in the Eureka Times-Standard a few days after the rally:

“It is an age-old industry lie that “elitist environmentalists” are the cause of job loss. In 1947 it took 11.3 people to produce a million board feet of lumber, but, at the Simpson mill at Smith River, opened in 1977, it take a mere 6 people to produce a million board feet. Virtually all job loss in the logging industry has been due to automation and log exports. Where are Maxxam’s crocodile tears for the employees here? Who is the real enemy of the employees? Not the environmentalists who have long and strongly joined with the Woodworkers Union in calling for effective sustained yield policies so arrogantly resisted by the industry.

“It’s also important to note that EPIC’s legal actions have tied up a very tiny percentage of Maxxam’s approved THPs. Already approved plans represent far more volume than PALCO can handle in the near future, thus the threats of crew layoffs are merely politically motivated. Again, we ask who is the real enemy of the employees?” [1198]

The principal Earth First! organizers were, in actual fact, perhaps the environmentalists most sympathetic to the potential plight of the timber workers. After the rally, Darryl Cherney opined, “I feel real comfortable about people logging trees. I feel they’re just doing it too fast.” [1199] Greg King, who also attended the event declared, “I think it’s an excellent rally. I just think they should be unified around opposing the corporations that are putting them out of work. I don’t blame them for wanting to protect their jobs, but they should be looking for the real culprit, and it’s not the environmentalists.” [1200] Shortly after that he wrote the following letter:

“I was pleased and encouraged to witness such a cohesive display of worker solidarity May 17 at the county courthouse. The loggers, mill workers, secretaries, receptionists, truck drivers, mechanics, and their families I met were mostly courteous, forthright, and honest in discussing apprehensions over job security.

“Most pleasing was simply being able to talk with people affected by corporate overcutting and mill mechanization, especially those who have been around long enough to witness the overall decline of corporate management practices in the Humboldt area.

“Some of those with whom I spoke are fourth generation Humboldt County residents whose ancestors, we surmised, likely knew my ancestors who settled in Humboldt County during the early 1860s. The gulf between us was very small indeed.

“It is my hope that woodworkers now will gather the energy that on Tuesday was directed towards Earth First! and fire it solidly toward industrial tyrants whose overcutting and mill mechanization have eliminated more jobs from this area than could any group of environmentalists. Most of the people I spoke with agreed on this point, which was not surprising to me once I gathered, after numerous discussions, the overall high level of understanding among woodworkers of this area.

“One man symbolized what turned out to be the predominant concern of the day, just after job security. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘I don’t care too much for Earth First!, but I agree with you guys on one thing: We’ve got to kick Maxxam out of the county.’” [1201]

None of the media coverage of the event quoted any of the speakers uttering so much as a peep about automation or overcutting. Indeed, their primary contention seemed to be that anything that slowed the pace of timber cutting and threatened the profits of Pacific Lumber was a threat to the economy. Such a position is precisely what one would expect the executives and owners of a corporation such as Maxxam to take, and take it they did. There was absolutely no doubt that the entire affair had been carefully framed, if not scripted, from start to finish by the Corporate Timber wizards. Sure, the anger expressed by the rank and file workers was genuine, and their feelings real, but these had been carefully nudged and guided by their slick, P.R. savvy employers and their agents who knew exactly how to exploit and manipulate the workers’ fears. Pacific Lumber public affairs manager David Galitz waxed poetic about the event, gushingly declaring:

“It was an uprising by the citizens and their families. It wasn’t just the workers and the business people, but also their spouses. We knew there were a lot of people out there who recognized the importance and the significance of the lumber industry in Humboldt County…(P-L management) knew the protest was coming but the workers organized it on their own. We think the workers were somewhat hesitant to discuss the protest with us for fear we might tell them to tone it down. It’s probably the most rewarding demonstration I have ever witnessed.” [1202]

John Campbell declared, “It’s wonderful that the working man had a chance to express their feelings. I hope they will be listened to.” [1203] What neither Galitz nor Campbell revealed is that they had been sounding warning bells about threats to the workers’ livelihoods from “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs” all year. [1204] After Partain denied the Lawrence and Shaw Creek THPs, both executives had issued statements containing exactly the same talking points included in Ramona Moore’s as well as all of the other letters (Galitz conveniently omitted his executive title, however). [1205]

Timber corporations like Pacific Lumber were careful not to let the public trace the organizing directly back to them however. If it were openly declared that the companies had organized the “pro-worker” rallies, it would have been too obvious that these had been blatant attempts to sow divisions between the actual workers and the environmentalists whose long term goals were not actually appreciably different. Instead, Corporate Timber relied upon a huge network of intermediary false front groups to serve that purpose. The most commonly used such groups were the so-called “Wise Use” groups who advocated “mixed use” of public lands, and against the “extremism” of environmentalists who seek to render such lands off limits to all but a few, usually an “elite” few. Although often framed as favoring Gifford Pinchot’s view of forestry over John Muir’s, in actual fact, such groups more accurately could be described as favoring Richard Ballinger’s ideas.

In practice, “mixed” use actually meant the maximization of resource extraction by private (corporate) interests, and in general the actual aims of the environmentalists favored far more “mixed” and inclusive of “wise” use (by prudent and sound biological as well as utilitarian economic standards at least). The wise use groups appealed much more strongly to the “rugged individualist”, culturally conservative, libertarian ethic of small western property owners and were fairly sophisticated at convincing the latter that their interests are the same as those of the big resource extracting corporations. In all cases, such groups insisted that they were independently organized, but careful examination of their financial records overwhelmingly reveals that their primary source of funding is resource extracting corporations. [1206]

WECARE was one of these “wise use” front groups active on the North Coast. Although the Corporate Timber-friendly Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance described the group as being composed of “the men and women…of the brawn it takes to earn an income from Humboldt’s prized timberland,” these were merely the packaging for the organization’s true agenda. [1207] WECARE spokesman Sheppard (“Shep”) Tucker, born the same year as Darryl Cherney coincidentally, was also a talking head for L-P. On December 9, 1986, in a guest editorial in the aforementioned publication, Tucker, speaking for WECARE, offered his opinions in response to opposition to increasing timber harvests within the Six Rivers National Forest. [1208] Tucker’s opinion was carefully crafted to create the impression that timber corporations and the government were careful stewards of the nation’s forests and environmentalists were extremists, whose “interference” with the former’s stewardship spelled certain doom for the long term viability of rural America and its timber dependent communities. [1209]

WECARE may have claimed to be “pro-environment” (in addition to its being most definitely pro extraction and plenty of it), but it characterized actual environmentalists as elitist “lug-booted backpackers, who spend a short term in the forest then speed away in their Volvos to never again spend a dime in, or invest a nickel in, the livelihood of Humboldt County.” [1210] They organized their members to oppose changes to forestry policy that strengthened environmental regulations, even going so far as to pay for radio and newspaper ads. [1211] Not content with simply opining and organizing rallies in favor of increased timber extraction, WECARE routinely sponsored contests among school children with themes such as “Forests and how they work for you,” designed to indoctrinate elementary school age children into the fold. [1212] And WECARE was by no means unique. In northeastern California there was also an ICARE (The “I” stood for “Intermountain”) which railed against the Audubon Society, Sierra Club, and Wilderness Society. In the Shasta-Trinity Area there was a SARE. [1213] In the northern reaches of Del Norte and Trinity Counties there was yet another group called KARE (the K stood for “Klamath”) [1214] All of these groups acted alike and published statements with very similar sounding rhetoric.

The CARE groups were, in turn, small satellites of a much larger network. In fact there were at least thirty similar groups located throughout the state of California, which were all part of an umbrella organization known as Alliance for Environment and Resources (AER), which was founded in 1986 and was a front group for the California Forestry Association (CFA), based in Sacramento, California. The CFA’s mission was specifically to represent the forest products’ industry, to lobby California state officials for less restrictive logging policies, and to sanitize the image of large private timber firms. [1215] There were even groups, such as “Women in Timber” who specifically made heavy use of the imagery of “the family” as a propaganda tool and, like WECARE (and sometimes in partnership with them), sponsored elementary school presentations advertising the glories and virtues of (corporate) logging. [1216]

Although not well known in 1988, according to an extensive report, published by Greenpeace in 1993, five years later, there were at least fifty major anti-environmental umbrella organizations operating in the United States and Canada, and many of these were regional clusters of hundreds of locally based groups. A great many of them were financed by large timber and mining corporations. For example, in addition to the aforementioned groups, Georgia-Pacific gave financial support to the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (CDFE) and the Pacific Legal Foundation. Louisiana-Pacific helped finance the Blue Ribbon Coalition and CDFE. Pacific Lumber supported CDFE, and Kaiser Aluminum provided funds to the Global Climate Coalition (an industry front group whose goal it was to limit and oppose CO2 regulations). [1217]

CDFE in particular boasted of its “pro-industry, anti-environmental literature”, and one of its chief spokesmen, Ron Arnold, a major mover and shaker in the “Wise Use” movement had urged (pro Corporate Timber) loggers to submit stories for a “pro-logging” book but to eschew science and fact because, according to him, “Science and fact count for very little. If you count on science and fact, you will lose.” [1218] STEA was no different. It began merely as a group of pro-Maxxam employees, but it very quickly morphed into a wise-use group, Taxpayers for the Environment and its Management (TEAM) which bore more than just a passing resemblance to WECARE, and—not surprisingly—the two often worked together. All of the subcontractors who had attended the May 17th rally regularly participated in TEAM. [1219] Considering all of that, to say that P-L had not organized the anti-Earth First! mobs is utter nonsense.

It was not particularly well known at the time that TEAM had the support of very few actual P-L employees, many of whom saw the front group exactly for what it was, an illusion created by the Maxxam wizards behind the wise use curtain. Indeed, many of the half jokingly explained that the letters stood for “Tell the Employees Another Myth.” [1220] Such facts were kept as hidden as possible, and it wasn’t difficult for Maxxam to do so. Campbell, Galitz, and other P-L executives sanction and vetted TEAM, and as a result, that organization was made to look far larger and more important than it actually was. TEAM was about as much of a genuine “employee organization” as the LLLL was a genuine union, which was to say, not much at all. Meanwhile, the workers who disapproved of Maxxam (a few of whom opposed the environmentalists, but many of whom recognized that the latter were not their enemies) lacked a union or any other coherent organized force at the time to give them a sense of solidarity and collective strength. [1221]

Those few workers who did speak out were either ignored or threatened with termination. For example, Kelly Bettiga tried to relay his thoughts to a Wall Street Journal reporter. He had driven through driving rain to Arcata to tell all and had told the reporter, on no uncertain terms, that the message being given the media by Campbell and his ilk was “all bullshit”. Bettga pulled no punches in criticizing the Maxxam regime, but the Wall Street Journal chose not to run the story. [1222] His fellow worker, Pete Kayes, took a slightly different approach, penning the following letter to the editor, which he sent to various local periodicals:

“When the Pacific Lumber Company was taken over by Maxxam, it was as though we employees had been kidnapped. We were diverted from the comfortable course the old sustained yield logging provided, and that we felt would go on forever.

“As with all hostages, we’ll only be safe when we help the kidnapper achieve his goals, so in a way his goals become our goals. That is one of the reasons P-L employees are afraid to speak out publically about P-L’s current logging practices, even though the company continues to sell logs to other mills and for export and will reduce employment at P-L in the long run.

“We know the real long range problems are being created by our current logging practices, which are being aggressively defended by Maxxam under the guise of an employee group. The current employee pro-logging ‘volunteer group’ [aka TEAM] has become a prime example of the kidnapped adopting the goals of their captor for their own safety.

“When people are uncomfortable because many changes are taking place in their lives, they try to minimize those changes and keep things as they are, ‘safe’…

“As we are finding out, there are no safe places unless we make them that way by taking control of our own lives…” [1223]

Kayes no doubt spoke for a huge percentage of his fellow workers who were less brazen than he, and they had good reason to fear. Shortly after this letter appeared in both the Eureka Times-Standard and Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance, John Campbell informed Kayes that if the latter really felt kidnapped the vice president and overseer would be more than happy to set the malcontented blacksmith free. [1224] Evidently Campbell wasn’t so thrilled about this particular working man expressing his feelings, but he decided not to make that so widely known. Kayes stood his ground and, at least for the moment remained employed, but other workers no doubt kept a low profile because they had no desire to be “set free” from their jobs.

Wherever the P-L workers stood on the environmental issue, most environmentalists knew perfectly well that TEAM and WECARE were an elaborate false front for the timber corporations. Country Activist coeditor Bob Martel summed it up thusly:

“For Hurwitz and his hired minions in Scotia the ‘game winning strategy’ is confusion, divide-and-conquer, and eventually sellout. If they allow the employees to gather a head of steam and publically express disaffection for Galitz, Campbell, and the fascists in TEAM, the end of Maxxam’s control would be inevitable. Hurwitz cannot unite the employees behind his plan but he can terrorize them into silence. So expect more smoke screens, more media terrorism, a few firings and demotions, and also expect to see panic build in the right-wing groups such as WECARE as the pressure builds.” [1225]

It was not the role of these so-called “Wise Use” groups to build bridges between resource extraction workers and environmentalists, however, nor was it to even seek compromise between them. Clearly they sought to drive the wedges further between them, and in this endeavor they were often successful. [1226] Part of these false-front organizations’ agenda was not so much to simply attack environmental groups, but also to keep public officials in line, fully in service of the timber corporations’ desired ends. In this case, they succeeded. In response to the supposed “populist uprising” Jerry Partain pledged to make the CDF friendlier to timber interests (as if such a thing were even possible). Partain cited as motivation Ramona Moore’s letter, which he described as “an excellent letter that came from the heart.” One could scarcely imagine a more elaborate kabuki. Moore’s letter had about as much “heart” as Partain was an environmentalist, but naturally John Campbell approved of the CDF director’s reversal declaring, “It’s about time certain segments of government begin to act responsibly.” Campbell’s sentiments were echoed by Harold Pritchard. [1227] The wizards behind the Redwood Curtain had done their magic.

* * * * *

Another role of the “wise use” groups included organizing counter demonstrations at environmentalist’s rallies, both to wear the latter down and to create the illusion that they were out of touch with the local community and the timber workers. For example, on May 23, over 250 counterdemonstrators, most of them women organized by Concerned Citizens of Humboldt County (CCHC), mobilized to oppose Earth First! at a rally scheduled to take place by the latter at the Yager Creek Log Deck near Carlotta, except that Earth First! wasn’t there! (They had, by previous arrangement, and quite unaware of the counterdemonstration, moved their protest to Assemblyman Hauser’s office in Eureka instead). CCHC spokeswoman Linda Bartlett was livid that her group missed a chance to shout down their adversaries, claiming that Earth First! was afraid of being opposed publically. Darryl Cherney disputed Bartlett’s claim responding, “If I had known that 250 people were going to turn up, I would have never changed the location. No one from (CCHC) called and said that they were doing a demonstration. We’d be happy to walk into a room of a thousand loggers and discuss our differences.” [1228] He indicated that he had even contacted them in advance of the change. [1229]

A related sleight of hand trick performed by such groups was to serve as an ostensible right wing pole of opposition in order to make the Corporate Timber representatives and the compliant politicians appear to be more reasonable. Earth First! hadn’t moved the demonstration because they were unwilling to listen to these so-called representatives of the workers. Instead, they were seeking to oppose political opportunism by the incumbent Greg King sought to unseat. After meeting informally on the issue for several weeks, California State Assemblyman Dan Hauser and fellow Assemblyman Byron Sher, Chairman of the State Assembly Natural Resources Committee and a Democrat whose home district was based in Palo Alto, met with P-L officials, led by John Campbell, and hammered out an “agreement”. [1230] On Thursday, May 26, 1988, with great fanfare Campbell proclaimed that P-L would be returning to a “selective cutting method” for the harvesting of old growth redwoods.

“Over the past 120 years, Pacific Lumber has harvested by both the selective and clearcut methods. In fact, we clearcut exclusively for the first 60 years of our existence to the point where we have now harvested on about 90 percent of the nearly 200,000 acres we own in Humboldt County. Also, by far most of the timber we currently harvest is residual or second growth trees. [1231]

Campbell pledged that P-L would continue to work with Save the Redwoods League “as they had for sixty years,” and with state park officials to aid in efforts to maintain and improve watershed protection and “general aesthetics” on adjacent parklands. [1232] Hauser and Sher seemed satisfied Campbell’s optimism. Hauser declared, “This is good news for everyone. This responsible and voluntary decision by Pacific Lumber will protect our forests and our jobs. I am pleased to see that I was right in thinking that discussion and compromise would take us further than confrontation.” [1233] John Maurer also hailed the agreement, declaring, “the need to return to selective cutting has been one of the cornerstones of our campaign.” On the other hand, State Senator Barry Keene denounced the so-called agreement, declaring it, “nothing more than window dressing and a diversionary tactic.” [1234] The wise use groups denounced the agreement as another example of the environmentalists bullying the timber industry into blackmail.

The so called announcement was anything but earth shattering, however, because a major issue brought by the environmentalists that the agreement left unaddressed was the liquidation of old growth stands. That there was a marked difference between the logging practices of P-L in the most recent two years and its practices over the previous 58 was glossed over by Campbell. [1235] Environmentalists weren’t especially convinced that Pacific Lumber’s “pledge” was anything but a paper tiger. EPIC board member Ruthanne Cecil cautiously welcomed the announcement, stating that the decision, “was definitely a step forward, and we congratulate Maxxam on a return to what the old P-L was doing. This means jobs for woodcutters will extend further into the future. We encourage other timber companies to move away from clearcutting.” [1236] She also warned, however, that a select cut could still represent an overcut. [1237] Bill Devall conceded that P-L’s admission that clearcutting was wrong represented the “first, small step,” but if the company were genuinely serious, they would work with STRL and develop a plan to preserve the Lawrence, Yager, and Salmon Creek watersheds, which they still intended to cut, and refrain from logging in any old growth stands. He elaborated:

“As we continue the healing process, Earth First!, Pacific Lumber, Save the Redwoods League, and timber industry employees can all work together to fight common enemies: greed and ignorance. We can tell Charles Hurwitz we won’t allow a greedy, takeover artist to strip wealth from this county…We can work together to protect and preserve these remaining old-growth redwoods.” [1238]

Greg King noted that according to the “agreement” between Maxxam and the state officials, P-L’s “select cut” required preservation of only one tree per acre, which was little better than an actual clearcut. [1239] Darryl Cherney was equally dismissive, declaring, “It’s a PR move all the way. Given Maxxam’s very recent takeover of Kaiser Aluminum, incurring another $700 million in debt, I find it hard to believe that Maxxam would have P-L slow down their cut,” and added that the agreement also didn’t preclude P-L from clearcutting its second growth and residual old growth stands. [1240]

* * * * *

Still one more role of front groups like WECARE and TEAM was the insurance that anyone seeking to unseat incumbent public officials sympathetic to corporate timber faced an uphill battle. For example, Campbell (and many of the letter writers) dismissed the lawsuits by EPIC as merely being a vehicle for Cherney’s run for congress. [1241] This was not really the case, however. By June of 1988, Darryl Cherney and Neil Sinclair had decided to end their congressional campaigns and endorse Lionel Gambill. Both agreed that since their challenger was polling the best in head-to-head matchups with the incumbent among the three primary contenders, Gambill represented the best hope in defeating Bosco in the primary. [1242] Cherney felt that Gambill, while not ideal, still represented a good enough alternative. He had already questioned Gambill extensively on numerous issues and found the latter’s positions to be close enough to his own that he decided supporting Gambill would be easy. [1243] However, since election laws didn’t allow him to remove his name from the ballot, Cherney made the best of the situation, agreeing to continue to participate in all forums and debates as a symbolic candidate (singing, guitar playing, and hell raising included), but in those instances he would urge that the vote be cast for Gambill instead. The latter enthusiastically accepted Cherney’s support, and Sinclair agreed to assist Gambill on strategic matters. [1244] Gambill also made it clear that should he be defeated by Bosco in the primary, he would endorse the Peace and Freedom candidate, Eric Fried, a decision which angered the Democratic Party machine, including Barry Keene who rebuked the challenger for such a declaration. [1245]

John Maurer faced similar propaganda assaults in his contest with Harry Pritchard. Maurer ran a spirited campaign with the support of many Pacific Lumber workers and environmental activists. He did not run as an Earth First!er, however. In fact, he tried to position himself as being the “moderate” alternative between Earth First! and Maxxam. Maurer claimed to be on good terms with some of P-L’s management, including even John Campbell. He had the support of many of his former fellow workers, including Pete Kayes. [1246] Fortuna resident Tom Brundage praised Maurer for his potential ability to unite what he perceived was an increasingly divided community being polarized between the “two extremes, both of which (were) based outside of Humboldt County, Earth First! and Maxxam.” [1247] Brundage’s fellow Fortuna resident Timothy Carter applauded the former P-L shipping clerk for his strong stances on both jobs and the environment. [1248] His willingness to meet with the public had a positive effect on many undecided voters, including Donna Mooslin of Carlotta who said, “Harry may have years of experience as a Supervisor, but it seems to me that John has far greater interest and ability in communicating directly with voters, and that is what we need in county government.” [1249]

Maurer’s attempt to take the “moderate approach” was quickly dismissed by Pritchard’s supporters. To not support Corporate Timber uncritically was to be labeled an Earth First!er. It was true that Maurer and his wife were good friends with Darryl Cherney, but this was not a well known fact, and even so, the Maurers and Cherney didn’t always agree upon every issue. [1250] Rather, many of Maurer’s detractors based their opposition on the candidate’s willingness to challenge Corporate Timber’s near unfettered rule over the county and its timber base at all. In some cases, this was literally the case. For example, Bonnie Armstrong opined:

“From the very outset, it’s been clear that Mr. Maurer is running on a single issue: to get Maxxam and, by extension, Pacific Lumber.

“Now, however, in his single-minded zeal, Mr. Maurer has found himself marching in lockstep with groups like EPIC and Earth First extremists. Unfortunately, he’s also found himself at odds with the majority of the people of the Second District—not a good place for someone who’s trying to get elected.” [1251]

These sentiments were echoed by Joe Michlig of Fortuna who admonished Maurer to “stop trying to destroy the Pacific Lumber Company and the timber industry in general,” and to fight the “real menace”, namely the environmentalists, a green menace no doubt. [1252] Such accusations bordered on hyperbole. Maurer was neither a supporter nor an opponent of Proposition 70 or the Headwaters Forest Wilderness Complex—indeed he had many criticisms of both. [1253] No doubt the criticisms of Maurer stemmed from his having argued that Maxxam’s then current practices, including especially clearcutting were a much bigger threat to the long term economic future of Humboldt County than any wilderness complex proposal, even one proposed by Earth First!. [1254]

Naturally, the press—beholden to the interests of the status quo—endorsed Pritchard. The Eureka Times Standard supported the incumbent citing his being “an outspoken advocate for the county’s timber industry” as the primary reason for their choice. Evidently being an “outspoken advocate” meant that what was good for Maxxam was good for Humboldt County. [1255] John Maurer and his supporters tried ceaselessly to point out that they were better advocates for the industry because his approach would support long term sustainability [1256], but even questioning the right of Maxxam to turn a quick profit was to labeled an “Earth First! advocate.” The Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance applauded Pritchard’s support for “good roads…protecting the property rights—and safety—of (the District’s) residents, and (opposing) the increased threat to personal and private property rights by government bureaucrats.” Nowhere in the editorial did the words “timber”, “Pacific Lumber”, “Maxxam”, “environmentalism”, “EPIC”, or “Earth First!” appear, but it was easy to read between the lines and gather that “property rights” meant the right of Maxxam to log the old growth forests of the County at will. [1257]

Maurer’s most vocal critics were all supporters and members of TEAM, including Phil Nyberg of Fortuna, who accused Maurer’s campaign of trespassing to place their campaign signs (and also remove pro-Pritchard signs) on “unauthorized properties”, misrepresenting a fundraiser as an apolitical western dance, and promoting a fundraising auction as a 4-H and Kiwani’s function. [1258] Likewise, Maurer’s former fellow worker, Stanley Parker who described his lack of support for Maurer thusly:

“I (know) John and respect him so I try to visualize him in the role of a county supervisor. John was a good shipping clerk and I believe him to be a good cabinetmaker. I could not visualize him as a good supervisor, however. When he came to a crucial vote on some matter having to do with our natural resources, I am afraid he would tend to follow the environmental line. I know he is not an Earth First! person, but I believe he would tend to give them more of a hearing than they deserve.” [1259]

To the supporters of Corporate Timber, this meant “any hearing at all,” and initially it seemed that Harry Pritchard and his supporters were unwilling to give their opponent one. Pritchard cancelled several events with his contender. Maurer, by contrast, accepted all invitations to make public appearances—which made sense as it was in his interest to make himself known as the challenger, but it also bolstered his argument that the incumbent was not accessible to the people. The League of Women Voters requested in writing that both candidates participate in a public forum, but the event was called off, because the Pritchard did not respond before the deadline, and when he finally he did respond, he refused to participate anyway. Forbusco Lumber in Fortuna canceled an event that was to feature both candidates when Pritchard refused to participate. A debate on local TV station KVIQ between the two candidates was called off, because the incumbent was a no show for the taping. [1260] A reception at the Scotia Inn was cancelled on short notice by its manager, Jerry Carley, with no reasons given, a decision that drew a strong rebuke from Maurer’s neighbor and supporter Toni M. Scolari [1261], and Maurer’s wife, Laurel. [1262] Carley had apparently backed out of the event because he (didn’t want) “any kind of confrontation between the workers and John Maurer.” [1263] One can only wonder who would have provoked such a confrontation.

In the end, the smear tactics apparently succeeded in beating back John Maurer’s populist challenge, though not by much. The challenger officially came within 26 votes of defeating his opponent on June 7, 1988, but it is entirely possible that Maurer actually won outright. In a series of election improprieties eerily foreshadowing those surrounding the controversial “butterfly ballots” used in some Dade County, Florida precincts during the Presidential Election of 2000, several ballots that may have been intended for Maurer were voided or counted as votes for Pritchard instead. Suspecting fraud, the challenger filed a lawsuit in Humboldt County Superior Court on July 14, 1988, claiming that incorrect instructions were mailed along with 611 absentee ballots. [1264] The poorly worded instructions told voters to punch dots above numbers corresponding to candidates’ names, when the dots were actually positioned below the numbers. [1265] Further, Maurer argued that (a) voters had been incorrectly purged from the county’s voter rolls; (b) Some people who were ineligible to vote had been allowed to vote for Pritchard; (c) some invalid absentee votes cast for Pritchard were counted anyway; (d) some Pritchard voters were allowed to vote twice; and (e) some absentee ballots intended to be mailed to people who would have voted for Maurer were misaddressed. [1266] Maurer carried on his challenge for several weeks [1267], but ultimately had to give it up, because maintaining it would have required him to pay $1000 in filing fees each day. [1268] Whether or not the irregularities were coincidence or deliberate tampering has never been determined, and if tampering did occur, the guilty party(s) have never been identified.

* * * * *

The other races challenging the Corporate Timber friendly officials with few exceptions fared equally poorly. The combined Cherney-Gambill-Sinclair challenge to Doug Bosco ended in defeat when Bosco won the primary. The incumbent would go on to defeat his Republican opponent in November. Greg King fared no better, losing soundly to Dan Hauser. There were a few bright spots, however. Environmentalists could take some comfort at least in the passage of Proposition 70 in the June Primary by a vote of 65.2 percent in favor. [1269]

Don Nelson, meanwhile, was defeated by his opponent, Liz Henry, who would in turn defeat right wing opponent Jack Azevedo in the general election in November. This was nothing short of a miracle. Azevedo was a popular local radio personality. Polls had projected him beating Henry by as much as 70 percent until just weeks before the election. Henry’s victory was due—in no small part—to the investigative reporting by her daughter, Lisa, who—with the help of some friends—uncovered and exposed Azevedo’s crypto fascist connections. [1270] Liz Henry was not entirely comfortable with Lisa’s actions, fearing (wrongly) that Lisa’s efforts might make the candidate seem like an opportunist. Henry’s daughter recalls:

“The staff of Sidewalks, which was me and a gang of guys, were putting our first issue to bed. Zack Stentz had written and exposé on Jack Azevedo, the man running against my mom for 4th District Supervisor. Our contention was that Azevedo was a neo-Nazi, because he read and preached on the radio from a neo-Nazi tract called Imperium. No one else had brought this up…

“So, it’s like twelve o’clock, and we’re putting the final touches on the paper—this is at (Beth Bosk’s) house—when we get a call from someone on my mom’s campaign, her campaign manager, who tells us to pull the article; Zack fielded that call with a bunch of great rational reasons why we would never pull the article.

“Fifteen minutes later, I get a call from my mom telling me to pull the article—that I should be the one to pull it. Forget editorial collective. She said it would blow the election for her. That people would accuse her of negative campaigning. I told her I was my own person, and that people could separate her from me, and my opinions from hers, but she said she’d be guilty by association. And she hung up on me.” [1271]

Nevertheless, the IWA and Nelson endorsed Henry, certainly not wishing to align themselves with a neo-Nazi such as Azevedo. [1272] In the end, Lisa Henry’s actions probably made the key difference in the campaign; Her mother won by a landslide. It would not be the last time the two clashed, however.

As it turned out, Don Nelson’s loss was the best possible outcome the Mendocino County environmentalists could have imagine, because the IWA Local 3-469 official would soon prove that he, too, was willing to throw in his lot with the likes of TEAM and WECARE. Almost immediately following the election, Don Nelson would prove dramatically that he was not on the side of the people. In a series of events unrelated to the election, Nelson refused to honor a UFCW endorsed boycott of the Harvest Market in Fort Bragg, a move which alienated his former ally Roanne Withers. [1273] Nelson defended his actions by making the dubious argument that none of the workers in the store had called for the picket [1274], but Withers—who was a service worker herself [1275], found this reasoning to be appalling, echoing that of union busting employers. Withers pointed out that Jack Barnes, Secretary-Treasurer of the Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake County Central Labor Council had severely criticized Nelson for his actions as well. [1276] She had further condemned Nelson for his selling out of the G-P rank and file and decided she could no longer enable him anymore; she resigned as co-host on KMFB and proceeded to expose his perceived betrayals at every opportunity. [1277] Nelson’s had cashed in his standing with the Mendocino County progressive community once and for all. [1278]

* * * * *

Corporate Timber’s wizardry would work its magic one more time. On June 28, Judge John Buffington lifted the TROs against logging in Lawrence and Shaw Creek, arguing:

“If these trees are necessary to assure the continuance of certain species of wildlife, the Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Forestry have not been performing their duty over the past 17 years Or, if they have, the issues here are as the board has determined—not supported by reasonable scientific and factual data at this time.”

The first of the two choices was precisely what EPIC had been arguing, but Buffington was unwilling to make that determination, lest he incur the wrath of the corporate wizards. David Galitz hailed the ruling, opining, “I think this is pretty strong language the judge used in the ruling. We’ve felt all along that groups have been using the (habitat) issue to thwart timber harvesting.” [1279] That Galitz’s words exactly matched one of the key talking points repeated in many of the letters and uttered by many of the speakers among the so-called “pro-logging” crowd should have been immediately obvious as a smoking gun.

To a large extent, Corporate Timber’s heavy reliance on the front groups was a testament to the success of Earth First!. The scrappy “David” was actually—if haphazardly—slowly beating the enormous “Goliath”. These interests shared a very real fear that the environmentalists were gaining an economic and political foothold in northwestern California. Still, there was a huge void that Earth First! simply couldn’t fill, and that was the need for a genuine workers’ organization not beholden to Corporate Timber. Had the P-L workers been able to join or organize such a group, they would have been able to effectively dispel the myth, spread by Corporate Timber, that the threat to the timber workers’ livelihoods was entirely the fault of “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.” Fortuitously, Earth First! was about to be joined by an unexpected ally…the one that had given it much of its cultural and tactical flavor in the first place: the IWW. The timing couldn’t have been better.


10. Fellow Workers, Meet Earth First!

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. [1280]

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!” [1281] 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. [1282] 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. [1283] A handful of IWW members were Earth First!ers themselves, including a musician known as “Wobbly Bob”. [1284]

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.

In a letter to the editor in the February 1988 edition, Barbara Hansen, stated:

“Recently Earth First! has been attacked for tree-spiking by both the bourgeois press and other ecology groups. The criticism results from publicity surrounding an accident in a northern California mill in which a saw-blade shattered when it hit a spike and a worker was seriously injured by the flying debris. EF!’s response has been basically to deny that the spike could have been one of theirs, and they make a pretty good case. However, I was raised here in logging country, and it seems to me the questions shouldn’t be ‘Is it OK to spike trees?’ or ‘Who put the spike in?’ but rather, ‘Why wasn’t the worker protected against accidents?’

“All kinds of things get into tree trunks—barbed wire from an old fence can get overgrown and deeply embedded, even nails from a sign or a camper’s clothesline, Cedar trees will even pick up large rocks and carry them in a limb crotch as they grow, eventually burying them deep in a trunk. That’s why saw-blades are supposed to be changed before they get brittle enough to shatter, and why shielding is supposed to be in place to protect the saw-operator when something is hit, whether the object was placed there by nature or saboteur.

“I’ve heard some of my friends and neighbors who run small home sawmills for extra income bitterly complain about how OSHA officials come around and harass them about safety requirements and let the big mills get off free. But none of the articles I’ve seen in the papers have questioned the safety standards at the mill in question. Let’s hope our friends in Earth First! haven’t fallen into the trap of letting the press define its politics as putting ecology ahead of workers, when the real issue here is worker safety, not the ethics or tactics of direct action.” [1285]

As one would expect, more than a few IWW members were less than sympathetic to Earth First!, especially given some of the more controversial declarations issued by the latter’s spokespeople, including Dave Foreman and Ed Abbey. Though such views were likely not held by the majority of Earth First!ers, skeptical Wobblies worried that an IWW association with Earth First! could result in negative associations with the IWW as well. For the most part, the Wobblies in this camp had little or no connection with rank and file Earth First!ers such as Greg King and Darryl Cherney. Had this been otherwise, the skeptical members of the IWW might have been less so. To the supporters of Earth First! within the IWW, however, Earth First!’s direct action tactics reminded them of the IWW campaigns long past, including the fight for the eight-hour day in the timber industry. [1286] While the IWW still spoke of direct action, particularly among the forests of the Pacific Northwest, Earth First!ers were out in the woods, taking direct action, albeit not at the point of production, which the supporters sometimes neglected to mention. The debate was by no means a lighthearted one, and personal egos and other peripheral disagreements about strategy and tactics sometimes muddied the waters further, as is all too common on the left.

Earth First!’s supporters in the IWW were meanwhile in regular contact with their supporters (and common members) in Earth First! and devised a strategy to try and win over the more skeptical members of the One Big Union. Fortuitously, at the time the editors of the Industrial Worker, (including Franklin and Penelope Rosemont) were, conveniently enough, all supporters of Earth First!. Their predecessors, whose tenure had ended in December 1987, hadn’t been, but a good majority of the membership considered the 1987 version of the publication uninspiring, even if the editors had done a consistent and reliable job of producing it. One group of readers had even described the Industrial Worker under their watch as “a condensed version of the New York Times.” [1287] The new editors, by contrast, transformed the publication into one with much more interesting articles (by many accounts) and issue oriented themes, including some of which were not always free of controversy.

In the May 1988 issue of the Industrial Worker, however, the editors chose to unapologetically feature Earth First! under the banner of “RADICAL ENVIRONMENTALISM”. To be fair, there were a couple of articles about environmentalism in general, including one by Gary Cox on workers taking direct action to preserve rainforests. [1288] The vast majority of the articles however, in fact, no less than six, in the issue focused specifically on Earth First!, and four of these were penned by Franklin Rosemont, though only one of them used his actual name (the other three were written using two different pseudonyms, including his IWW membership number (x322339) and a third pseudonym, Lobo X-99). [1289] Rosemont also submitted an interview he conducted with Earth First! “roving reporter” Roger Featherstone. [1290] Barbara Hansen contributed an article on the controversial issue of Spotted Owls as an indicator species and how Corporate Timber used that as a wedge between timber workers and environmental activists [1291], and Randall Restless of Montana Earth First! appealed to IWW members to take up wilderness issues as much as they did better working conditions. [1292] Hansen’s article was the most relevant in discussing the common ground that IWW members (and workers in general) might find with Earth First!, but none of the articles were critical of Earth First! beyond a minor point or two. [1293]

It was obvious to all but the most naïve reader that the editors were trying to provide a platform for Earth First! in particular. Further emphasizing the point—the normal press run of the Industrial Worker, was increased from its normal 3,000 per issue to 10,000 and copies were deliberately distributed to Earth First! chapters and at Earth First! gatherings during the upcoming summer. [1294]

The articles themselves were a decent introduction of Earth First! and the IWW to each other in general. Rosemont expertly described the IWW in his first article, which was likely directed at Earth First!ers not familiar with the Wobblies. In it, he made distinctions between the revolutionary and uncompromising principles and practices of the IWW as opposed to the collaborationist and expedient measures taken by the AFL-CIO, which—as even Earth First!ers agreed—had become little more than an arm of big business. [1295] Rosemont made particular note of the AFL-CIO’s uncritical acceptance of corporate rhetoric that “environmental regulations led to the loss of jobs”:

“First, in our view, the ‘official’ so-called labor movement, the AFL-CIO, is not really a labor movement at all, but rather a corrupt statist, CIA-dominated bureaucracy whose specific function is to control labor… all of them are afflicted with outdated hierarchical structures and above all an idiotic ideology submissive to the capitalist system of wage slavery…Consider, for example, a ridiculous bumper-sticker slogan promoted by several AFL-CIO unions: ‘Pollution: Love it or leave it.’ This hideous inanity was supposed to save steel mills and oil-refineries in industrial hell holes like Gary, Indiana…Instead of the imbecile slogan, ‘Pollution: Love it or leave it,’ the IWW inscribes on its banner the ecological watchword, ‘Let’s make this planet a good place to live.’ And we argue that the best way to accomplish this goal is to organize One Big Union of all workers to abolish the wage-system. The bosses are able to cause such vast environmental devastation because they have organized industry their way for their profit.” [1296]

Rosemont also suggested that the IWW had been far ahead of its time, calling for some of the very measures called for by Earth First!:

“Historians of the conservation and environmental movements have not examined the contributions of the IWW, but there’s a remarkable story there that should be told some day, at length…In its early years the Union urged that the organized working class would exercise an enlightened stewardship of the planet…the IWW sometimes looked far beyond the limited horizons of the conservation movement at the time…From the 1910s on, the IWW press published numerous warnings of the great dangers to America’s forests posed by these malevolent mercenaries…

“On overpopulation, (as) early as the 1910s Wobblies argued that a smaller workforce could more easily win higher wages and shorter hours, as well as better living and working conditions and working conditions, and therefore the Union became a vigorous advocate of birth-control. Of course they could have further justified their position with feminist and environmentalist arguments. What is important, however, is that they reached conclusions compatible with feminism and environmentalism not by adopting someone else’s arguments, but on their own, out of their own experiences as workers in revolt…

“Wobbly bard Ralph Chaplin left us some powerful poems reflecting a profound awareness of Earth’s natural diversity. And then there were guys like Irish-born Fellow Worker John Dennis who, after working for a time on the Great Lakes headed west, fell in love with the wilderness…Toward the end of his life he served as field consultant for St. John’s Flora of Eastern Washington and Harrison’s Flora of Idaho. ‘What they needed,’ he explained, ‘was someone to show them where they could find various plants, and I knew the elevations and places where they grew.’” [1297]

Rosemont’s second article, essentially a glowing tribute to Earth First! passionately presented Earth First!’s good side and poetically compared the young but already famous radical environmental movement as one of the IWW’s descendents (exactly as its founders had intended):

“Every once in a while a new radical movement arises and illustrates the social firmament so suddenly and so dazzlingly that many people are caught off guard and wonder: ‘What’s going on here? Who are these new radicals, and what do they want?’…

“This new movement proceeds to develop new direct-action strategies and tactics—or gives a new twist to old ones—and starts delivering real blows to the power and prestige of the ruling exploiters and their governmental stooges. This in turn inevitably arouses the hostility of the guardians of the status quo—cops, courts, preachers, politicians, and the prostituted press—who raise a hue and cry for the punishment and suppression of the trouble making upstarts…

“And so the new movement, with wild songs and high humor, captures the imagination of masses of young rebels, spreads like wildfire, turns up everywhere, gets blamed for everything interesting that happens, and all the while writes page after page in the annals of freedom and justice for all.” [1298]


As Rosemont surmised, such a description actually applied to the IWW as well as Earth First!, and he eloquently described how historically significant new movements always drew inspiration from their history-making forebears:

Truly remarkable is the extent to which each new radical current seems to subsume into itself the spirit, the theory and practice of its various forerunners, even while elaborating its own specific contributions that it will, in turn, pass on to others. What is new in each new movement, moreover, always enables us to see the older movements in a new way, and this in turn sharpens our perspectives and helps advance the struggle yet again…

(Earth First! unites) “the wilderness radicalism of the great ‘Yosemite Prophet’ John Muir and the flamboyant direct-action tactics of the IWW. Earth First! has transformed the most vital current of the old conservation movement into something qualitatively new and incomparably more radical, and at the same time has helped to bring out a new and wilder dimension to the old Wobbly dream of ‘making this a planet a good place to live.’

“We have every reason to expect that environmental demands will play a larger and larger role in workers’ struggles in the near future.” [1299]

Rosemont made no references however, to the quite un-revolutionary comments made by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and “Miss Ann Thropy.” [1300] He said nothing whatsoever about the tree spiking that injured George Alexander which, although not done by Earth First! was still an action likely inspired by Ecodefense. Indeed, Rosemont’s review of that publication uncritically compared it to the IWW’s own pamphlets on sabotage [1301], and he neglected to draw distinctions between monkeywrenching (which generally involved guerillas covertly damaging equipment utilized in destruction of wilderness—and sometimes merely used in resource extraction) and ca’canny (the collective and organized withdrawal of efficiency by workers at the point of production). [1302] Rosemont also neglected to point out that the IWW had officially distanced itself from “sabotage” and had officially ceased selling or distributing any literature promoting it as early as 1918. [1303]

Perhaps Rosemont’s most debatable conclusions and oddball perspectives were presented in the one article he wrote under his own name, “Workers and Wilderness”. In this piece, Rosemont (quite rightly) illustrated the tendency by the ruling class throughout history (whether under despotism, feudalism, or capitalism) to domesticate the lower classes, properly identifying that as a means by the rulers to systematically enslave the thought process of the masses into acceptance of the current status quo, and that successful resistance to such enslavement required that the masses reject domesticity:

“Working-class history is the history of riots, tumults, strikes, street-fights, insurrections and revolutions that consciously or unconsciously presage a sweeping worldwide social transformation that would eliminate exploitation, establish new social relations based on mutual aid and production for use instead of profit, and therefore make life livable for all…

“All the great moments in the still-unfolding saga of the struggle for working-class emancipation—from the glorious machine-smashing Luddites in the early days of the ‘Industrial Revolution,’ through the Paris Commune of 1871, the rise of the Haymarket Anarchists in [the] 1880s [in] Chicago, the countless battles of the IWW, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the sit-down-strike wave all over the US in the 1930s, the Spanish Revolution of 1936, the 1956 Hungarian Revolution against the state-capitalist bureaucracy, the Detroit Insurrection of 1967 and the May ‘68 General Strike in France, up to the titanic class wars of our own time, from Gdansk to Johannesburg, from West Virginia to Grenada, from Lordstown to Managua—reflect this fundamental global aspiration for a cooperative, free society, without competition, profiteering, war discrimination, bureaucracy, pollution and all the other vile byproducts of declining capitalism’s industrial depravity.

“These outbreaks of revolt are not the work of timid or docile. And it is not without significance that the most characteristic expressions of rank-and-file workers’ insurgency in the US in recent years have been the unofficial and illegal strikes known as wildcats…domestication consists primarily of ideological veneer, that it is not all ‘instinctive,’ and that revolutionary activity is an excellent cure. Truly it has been said that workers learn more in a week of revolution than in a decade of ordinary life.” [1304]

However, Rosemont then made a dubious leap of logic equating domestication (by the employing class) to civilization itself. Whether intended or not Rosemont thus parroted the Malthusian and misanthropic views championed by Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and Chris Manes. While it is certainly arguable that flourishing wilderness is favorable to complete domination over the natural environment by manmade technology and technological society in general, and that harmony with the natural environment even in an urban setting (with all of its technological functions) is essential, few among even the most committed Earth First!ers actually literally advocated “going back to the stone age.” The article didn’t once consider the possibility that the destruction to the natural environment is not so much the result of “civilinsanity” (as Rosemont called it) as it is capitalist exploitation, and most IWW members argue that a world devoid of wage slavery would be much closer to a utopian vision of a sustainable society than a stone age, hunter-gatherer existence (which, with a world population of billions, would be utterly destroyed in a manner of months).

Rosemont’s interview of Roger Featherstone did address some of the issues he neglected to bring up in his own article. Featherstone emphasized that Earth First! had been inspired by the early history of the IWW:

“We admire the IWW spirit, sense of humor, art and music; its direct action tactics; its unwillingness to buy into the political scene; its no-compromise attitude and, most-importantly, its guts. I think the spirit of the EF! movement today would make Bill Haywood and Joe Hill smile and say ‘right on!’ some of the tactics we use are borrowed directly from the IWW: our ‘silent agitators,’ our songbook, and even monkeywrenching itself came from the IWW.” [1305]

Featherstone properly argued that the wilderness preservation would be a boon to workers, as restoration jobs were far more labor intensive than strip-mining and clear-cutting. Featherstone envisioned Earth First! as something of a union for the species affected by corporate destruction to their habitats, and agreed that the IWW and Earth First! needed to educate each other and work jointly on common interests. Unfortunately, however, Featherstone also betrayed the same lack of class consciousness displayed by Dave Foreman:

“The guy cutting old-growth redwood for the Maxxam corporation is just as guilty of rape as is the corporate raider who engineered Maxxam’s takeover of Pacific Lumber. Well maybe not to the same degree, but still guilty…workers aren’t hurt by tree-spiking, but by mill-owners who don’t maintain their equipment to protect the safety of those working for them. [1306]

While this might have described true believers in TEAM, it nowhere near resembled the attitudes of Kelly Bettiga, Pete Kayes, John Maurer, or Les Reynolds. Featherstone’s thoughts were not even shared by the Earth First!ers actually working directly to fight Maxxam’s takeover of Pacific Lumber.

Randall Restless’ article, no doubt solicited by the Industrial Worker’s editorial collective at least limited its critique of “civilization” to technology, but this argument makes no distinction between technologies that are inherently destructive, technologies that are neutral (and whose effects depend upon the user’s intent), and technologies that are beneficial (for example, those that are used to heal some of the damage done by destructive use of technology). Restless argued (rightfully) that humankind itself was not in immediate danger of extinction (in 1988, at least), but that without biodiversity and a healthy environment, human-centered arguments would be meaningless. Some of Restless’ arguments were quite well thought out, such as his contention that many of the jobs supposedly threatened by Earth First! only existed due to massive federal subsidies, paid for by taxpayers often without their consent (or even their knowledge), and that,

Far too often, “jobs” is used as a catch-all slogan by industrial corporations wishing to shirk environmental regulations, by politicians lobbying for pork-barrel projects, and by Forest Service bigwigs hoping to maximize federal timber allocations. Workers rarely benefit and the profits derived from such exploitation serve only to make the rich richer. [1307]

However, rather than calling for the radical reorganization of the political and economic system that created these unfortunate situations, Restless instead questioned the appropriateness of the jobs themselves, declaring:

“EF! and other environmental groups are often accused of threatening the livelihood of workers by demanding too harsh and strict controls on industrial polluters and by advocating limits on access to minerals and timber. However, in this age of disappearing wilderness and proliferating pollution, we must analyze jobs in terms of their ecological appropriateness. Is the trashing of another piece of irreplaceable wilderness worth the creation of a few jobs? How many people benefit from the existence of pristine wilderness as opposed to those who benefit from jobs in a mine, or on a timber sale? For how long? We must also ask how many other species will benefit or suffer. Are the jobs in a pulp plant worth the fouling of the air breathed by thousands or millions? Do workers really benefit from such jobs, or does their labor serve only to further empower the bosses, while enmeshing the workers themselves deeper in the morass of industrial society?” [1308]

These were legitimate points in a limited ecological context, but Restless never once questioned whether or not the jobs themselves under a radically reorganized political and economic system, founded certainly on the ethics championed by Earth First! as well as the IWW, might in fact be sustainable. For example, in theory at least, the workers could gain control of a pulp mill and redesign it so that its effluents were minimized or eliminated altogether using different technologies.

Following Malthusian dogma, however, Restless suggested that the threats to other species were the result of the human species being “over successful”, never elaborating on what that comment meant and certainly not arguing against employing class exploitation being the primary cause. While it is likely that Restless was not in favor of famine and pestilence to control the human population (and to be certain, even Dave Foreman wasn’t necessarily advocating this), without clarifying statements, one could be lead to believe otherwise. And Restless’ advice to workers seeking to preserve the endangered wilderness, while well meaning, were limited to starting recycling programs in the workplace, monkeywrenching (but no mention was made of incorporating such tactics into the strategy of building workers power through class struggle unionism), whistle blowing, and/or quitting one’s job. Certainly most of these suggestions were useful to a limited degree, but by themselves, they alone would not bring about the societal changes needed to provide an alternative to the rule of capital.

By contrast, IWW member Barbara Hansen, who actually lived in timber country in rural Oregon provided some of the most useful discussion on the potential links that could be forged between Earth First! and the IWW:

“Media here in the Northwest likes to portray ‘workers’ as people whose interests are totally at odds with ‘ecologists.’ Out-of-work mill-rats are encouraged to blame their troubles on the city-bred backpacker’s desire to roll out an alpine sleeping bag in pristine wilderness on weekends. Convoys of log trucks circle the state capital, protesting wilderness preservation measures…Workers are being ‘sacrificed’ to conservation.

“Such a portrayal of the ‘worker’ should be profoundly insulting to the people whose livelihoods depend on forest products…It’s not hard to see that even given full license to clear-cut every last old-growth forest, there are only a few years left of jobs to be had out of the Northwest woods. Most loggers and forest-product workers aren’t going to retire from those occupations, and the family businesses are not going to be passed on, no matter what conservation measures are taken.

“Still the media continues to pump out the line of Jobs vs. Ecology…in the interest of fooling the working majority into allowing the U.S. Forest Service to hand over the last of our public woodlands to the corporate few for final exploitation…

“What the timber industry spokesmen are not saying is that most of the logs hauled out of Northwest forest are not headed for Northwest mills, but are shipped directly from our ports to Asia, where they will be processed. Northwest mills continue to cut back and close down, not because the ecologists won’t let them have raw materials, but because it is the corporate choice to export rather than invest in the new equipment and skill necessary to produce finished lumber to the metric specifications and special requirements the Asian markets demand. No, we are only told that if we don’t destroy the last of our irreplaceable natural habitat-the great trees that are the vital heart of our region—one thousand people will go on the dole. We are not told that only a little capital outlay by the industry could produce many more than the 1,000 jobs lost to ‘ecology.’…

“Meanwhile, too, our landfills continue to be engorged with methane producing wastepaper garbage that has forced complete evacuation of more than one nearby community, and more and more living trees are turned into pulp to print the very newspapers that tell us that forest depletion is inevitable and necessary to the economy.” [1309]

Whether favorable or not, the May 1988 issue of the Industrial Worker made an impact and generated a lot of responses by its readership from IWW members (and some Earth First!ers as well). Most of the letters were positive, and indicated that the issue was well received and generated positive interest in the IWW. [1310] Other comments were more critical, such as those of Arthur J. Miller, who pointed out:

Earth First! is just one organization among many that are radical environmentalist. Many of us in the IWW and the larger labor movement have advocated and organized around environmentalism on the job. Though most would call this organizing around “health and safety issues,” it is important to point out that the workers are always the front line when it comes to exposure to the hazards produced in today’s world. The movement is much larger than Earth First! and includes a lot of working class environmentalists within the labor movement. For instance, the United Farm Workers’ fight against pesticides not only fought for the workers and their families, but also for the health of the entire community…

“The difference between the IWW and Earth First! is that we want to bring about a social revolution where the workers seize their tools and instill social responsibility into production. We have an answer to the problem; we don’t just fight the problem. Earth First! can monkeywrench forever and not come any closer to defeating the enemy. The enemy is mass capitalist industrialization which has no regard for the Earth or for human rights. The IWW is out to organize the only group that has the power to win: the workers. I see no other way of doing it. [1311]

One writer, Vera L. Ostrowski’s, did finally mention the controversial statements made by Foreman, Abbey, and Manes, stating:

“I’m surprised to see the IWW so friendly to the Earth First! bunch. Judging from what I’ve read about it elsewhere, EF! sounds like a pretty obnoxious organization. Last year one of the Chicago papers said that EF! openly advocates terrorism, and that its violent tactics have severely injured many workers in the lumber industry. According to other sources, EF! is a white supremacist group, and its leaders officially support the AIDS virus as a way of reducing overpopulation. This is pretty weird stuff! But the material you printed was very appealing, so I’m confused. Have you guys heard any of these rumors? Are any of the charges true?” [1312]

The editors assured everyone that the charges were false, and, to emphasize that point, Franklin Rosemont wrote a very lengthy defense of Earth First! asserting that none of the latter’s negative reputation was deserved. In Rosemont’s statement (again, written under the pseudonym “Lobo X-99”) began with a little name dropping, pointing out that Earth First! already had many supporters within the IWW, including Utah Phillips, who had called the radical environmental organization “the IWW of the environmental movement,” as if that would somehow address the criticisms against it. Rosemont repeated the assertion that Earth First! was a movement, not an organization, having no members or constitution. He then went on to claim that the May issue had generated much interest, that many had contacted the IWW from both Earth First! and the IWW expressing interest in joint campaigns, and that a wave of new IWW memberships and subscriptions to the Industrial Worker had been created by it. [1313] There was no demonstrative way to prove the veracity of this statement, but the likelihood was that it was mostly true, but one could just as easily question whether or not a sudden spike in membership or newspaper subscriptions was an adequate metric for determining the strength of the potential Earth First! – IWW alliance.

Rosemont conceded that Earth First! had its shortcomings, particularly the aforementioned lack of structure:

Earth First!’s open-ended, non-hierarchical, anarchistic, disorganizational form of non-organization undoubtedly has its strengths, but it also has its weaknesses. Structured political organizations usually have a hierarchical leadership, a carefully spelled-out platform, a rigorously controlled official organ aimed at the public to promote this platform, and some sort of internal bulletin in which card-carrying, dues-paying members can air new proposals and disagreements. Earth First!, however, makes no distinction between the internal and public lives. [1314]

The rigid type of organization that Rosemont seemed to be alluding to, however, was more akin to sectarian left parties than the IWW, but that distinction was not made in his statement. Rosemont also warned readers about taking statements made in the Earth First! Journal as official policy, stating:

There is no better way to learn about Earth First! than to read the Earth First! Journalbut don’t make the mistake of thinking that everything you read in it is “official EF! policy”! As is clearly and prominently stated in 10-point type in each and every issue, the Earth First! Journal is not and has never pretended to be any more than “an independently owned newspaper within the broad Earth First! movement.” [1315]

Next, Rosemont disputed the charges that (1) Earth First! was anti-worker (a claim that was indeed false, Dave Foreman’s and Roger Featherstone’s poorly chosen words notwithstanding); (2) that Earth First!’s advocacy of monkeywrenching injures workers (a claim that is technically false, but, as was the case in the incident involving George Alexander, was a matter of degrees); (3) Earth First! was a white supremacist organization (certainly false); (4) That Earth First! was nativist (again false, since Ed Abbey’s and Dave Foeman’s views on immigration were not shared by most Earth First!ers); (5) That Earth First! considered AIDS a good thing (Miss Ann Thropy’s tactless attempted dark humor was not meant to be taken seriously); and (6) that Earth First! was Malthusian. [1316] Unlike the rest, this last claim was difficult to dispute, especially given the fact that the Earth First! Journal sold a bumper sticker (in addition to numerous other items) that proclaimed “Malthus Was Right!” [1317] To his credit, Rosemont admitted that “none of this was meant to suggest that the Earth First! movement is free of very real problems,” and he made it a point to call Ed Abbey on the carpet for his comments on immigration and the urban poor that could easily have been interpreted as racist.[1318]

Rosemont’s defense of Earth First! elicited several responses, including a very lengthy diatribe by Chris Shillock in the pages of the Libertarian Labor Review, an anarcho-syndicalist publication edited by a small collective, including IWW members Sam Dolgoff and Jon Bekken (who were both highly critical of Earth First!). Shillock declared:[1319]

“Anarchists particularly felt a kinship. Earth First!’s uncompromising defense of the environment and their rejection of government stewardship of the wilderness echoed our own experience of the futility of working within the system. Their use of direct action was taken from our own history. Their full-blooded all-out enthusiasm for nature promised a robust, holistic radicalism…

“…(unfortunately) not only is Earth First! hostile to any meaningful social analysis, but it is freighted with so much nationalist and racist baggage as to make them obnoxious to any worker.

“Earth First!’s philosophy, also known as Deep Ecology, is set out in a book of that name by Bill Devall and George Sessions…It borrows from Zen Buddhism, Native American religions and from Heidegger, but is based on an immediate intuition of the ‘wilderness experience.’…

“Deep Ecologists condemn other social and scientific views as ‘anthropocentric’ in contrast to their ‘biocentric’ outlook. This epithet is hurled throughout the pages of their journal, Earth First!, to clinch a point or to dismiss opponents…

“Instead their concept of ‘biocentric egalitarianism’ turns the corner into a Malthusian blind alley shadowed with dark visions of a vengeful Earth lashing back at the species that uses her. Malthusianism has always been a pseudoscience serving the need of right wing ideology. In the Nineteenth Century, Social Darwinists used Malthus’ simplistic predictions of a dwindling food supply to justify doing nothing to alleviate the misery of the poor. Variations of this philosophy have been used in the Twentieth Century to buttress everything from eugenics to Third World starvation.”

Shillock went on to critique a second defense of Earth First! written by deep ecologist Kirk Patrick Sale[1320], suggesting that the latter’s overflowing hatred and scorn for mining, ranching, and logging corporations which exploit the wilderness “is closer to right wing populism than working class analysis.”, and reminded readers that Dave Foreman railed against “an ossified leftist worldview that blames everything on corporations.” Shillock also critiqued Rosemont’s defense of Earth First!, in particular also focusing on the latter’s structurelessness. [1321] Shillock concluded by stating:

“There is no problem with fellow workers joining Earth First! to achieve certain common and short-term ends. It is also possible that Dave Foreman and his Tucson group represent a minority view within Earth First!. However, they are the central group, and the one whose views were presented in the Industrial Worker. We have no business using our central publication to spread their propaganda.” [1322]

On the other side of the coin, Ed Abbey took issue with the Rosemont’s critique of his statements on immigration, arguing profusely that his stances were not intended to be nationalistic or racist. [1323] But Abbey’s rebuttal was not enough to convince other IWW members, particularly the membership of the San Francisco General Membership of the IWW (which was located within a day’s automobile journey to the North Coast), who passed a strongly worded resolution “applauding the courage and ingenuity” of Earth First! and its use of direct action to defend the earth from destruction, but also challenging the lack of accountability by the “leadership” of the same and questioning the Industrial Worker’s uncritical articles on Earth First!. [1324] Bay Area IWW member Louis Prisco was especially incensed, calling out the Industrial Worker editors for blatant violations of democratic principles as well as chiding Earth First! for its defense of Malthus—pointing out that even the primitivist leaning Fifth Estate had done the same thing—and echoing the growing chorus of critics of Ed Abbey for his aforementioned, questionable statements. [1325]

Ed Abbey responded, describing Prisco’s statements as “slanders” and (for no apparent reason) compared the latter to Murray Bookchin, calling both “Marxoid Dogmatists” (which is untrue as both Prisco and Bookchin considered themselves anarchists). Although he didn’t state it directly, Abbey’s defense of his positions were certainly Malthusian and indeed, quite racist (Abbey suggested that immigrants from third world nations, particularly Latin America had a tendency to breed rapidly, and his comments that Mormons did also didn’t mitigate the prejudicial and unscientific basis for his claims). [1326] Abbey insisted:

“[Marxoid Dogmatists] persist in their traditional beliefs that some kind of social reorganization, or more industry, technology and growth, or improvement in moral standards, can somehow solve all of our political, economic, environmental, personal and public difficulties. But this is not thinking; this is merely a reflex doctrinaire response to problems that are genuinely novel and more complex than any human culture has had to confront before…

“My real crime, therefore, is raising heterodox questions that require painful thinking—or even more painful rethinking. Ideologues have gone beyond thinking, and they fear pain. Therefore they react to challenge not by honest and workmanlike intellectual debate but by relapsing at once into the easy habit of name-calling. [1327]

However it was Ed Abbey (not Bookchin or Prisco) who had engaged in name calling, and Malthusianism was about as rigid and ideological as anything suggested by either Bookchin or Prisco (both of whom were more than eager to challenge most of the dogma issued by actual “Marxoid Dogmatists”).

Angry readers responded to Abbey, pointing out several fallacies in his thinking (including some points that undermined his seemingly “biocentric” perspectives). Steve Nelson, an IWW member from Chicago, wrote:

“Mr. Abbey claims that his total opposition to immigration is not racist because the majority of working-class Americans are opposed to ‘illegal’ immigration. This proves nothing. As Marx pointed out, the dominant ideas of any class society are those of its ruling class. This means, that in periods of a downturn in class struggle, workers will tend to accept the racist, sexist arguments put forward by the reactionary bastards who run this, and every other, country. It is our responsibility to counter these ideas with solid, working-class politics… Only the solidarity of ‘ and native labor can win. All immigration controls are inherently racist and serve to strengthen the capitalist state…

Only Stalinists and liberals drool over the promise of bigger and better industry. As revolutionaries, we call for an end to the enormous waste of resources and the overproduction of goods that results from capitalist competition. While we cannot retreat to a pre-capitalist utopia, we can avoid the deepening cesspool of capitalism. Wealth and technology, in the hands of the working-class, will be used to promote and defend life, not to produce more wealth for parasites. Mr. Abbey’s pessimism is a shoddy addition to the tradition of the IWW and the socialist movement in general.” [1328]

In his defense, Ed Abbey was no reactionary. It would be more accurate to say that he was ignorant of many issues, but at times, even he was capable of lucid, class analysis, as evidenced by his review of the book Fear at Work: Job Blackmail, Labor, and the Environment, by Richard Kazis and Richard L Grossman in the Beltane / May 1, 1988 issue of the Earth First! Journal, where he spoke favorably of Earth First!ers and unions (such as the OCAW) making alliances over common issues, oddly enough, at almost exactly the same time the IWW started the discussion on combining efforts with Earth First! to begin with. One can only guess how Abbey would have responded to the ongoing criticisms from the IWW, because he passed away on March 14, 1989, while they were still circulating. [1329]

The most frustrating aspect of the apparently unbridgeable chasm between Earth First! and the IWW was that the two most adversarial factions had little direct connection to the struggles actually taking place in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. Even the Earth First! Journal took little notice of King’s and Cherney’s attempts to build bridges with the workers on the North Coast. The Wobblies critical of Earth First! meanwhile focused mainly on Dave Foreman’s and Ed Abbey’s less than sympathetic attitudes towards timber workers which were largely colored by pro-management front groups like TEAM and WECARE. For their own part, Franklin Rosemont did not report on Cherney and King anywhere in the two Industrial Worker issues covering Earth First! at all either! Indirectly, the discussion had been sparked by the injury to George Alexander due to a spiked log and inadequate safety conditions in L-P’s Cloverdale mill, but the context of that incident likewise wasn’t discussed. An organizing effort by the IWW would have been most beneficial in northwestern California, but no mention of the IWW’s proposed alliance with Earth First! was made in either the Beltane (May 1), 1988 Earth First! Journal or the three issues that followed it. [1330] The two sides were focusing on all of the wrong areas, and on all of the worst aspects of Earth First! and timber workers rather than the far greater common ground that actually existed.

All was not lost however. Two IWW organizing drives began at the environmental canvass operations of Greenpeace in Seattle and SANE in Oregon, but both drives soon petered out. [1331] The IWW would organize several recycling shops in Berkeley, but these took place later. Finally, in November, Earth First! noticed that the IWW had been discussing an alliance with them, and there was a good reason for this. Despite all of the wrong turns and acrimonious debate, the two were indeed in the process of uniting for real, right where that combination was needed most, in the redwood forests of California. There was new Earth First! organizer and IWW member leading it. Her name was Judi Bari.



11. I Knew Nothin’ Till I Met Judi

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.[1332]

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. [1333]

At first, Bari primarily ventured into the late 1960s countercultural scene, but as time progressed she began to take notice of events in Vietnam and Cambodia, joining antiwar protests with fellow student radicals at the University of Maryland, which frequently attempted to take over US Highway 1, then the main highway into “War Maker Central”, Washington DC. Bari was at first enamored with the “Sex, drugs, and rock & roll” and hippie culture, but as she became more politically astute, she began to more deeply understand the roots of systemic exploitation. She realized that the uprisings of the black community, the resistance of third world peasants to first world colonialism, the feminist movement, and the struggle by the working class against wage slavery were all one struggle of the oppressed many against the elite few. [1334]

Bari’s journey was by no means direct. She struggled with the contradictions of the so-called “free love” movement, which was often used by hippie men as an excuse to continue to justify the continued subjugation of women, and she stopped dating men for a year because of it. [1335] She was heterosexual in orientation, noting that sexuality was something she was born with, but she also discovered that men, by their cultural upbringing were often incapable of intimacy. [1336] She was initially attracted to Maoism, but her parents talked her into jettisoning that philosophy for more indigenous radical traditions, arguing that it was strategically foolish to tie the antiwar movement to a foreign power, in this case China. Bari later agreed that this was sound wisdom, herself reasoning that an American radical left was superior (in an American context) than looking overseas for a model. She was also drawn to the Yippies, but grew disenchanted with them after meeting Jerry Rubin, a man she described as “a real pig, a disgusting human being, and a complete phony.”

Bari’s most significant realization, both personally and politically came after she flunked out of college. As a student worker, in the school cafeteria, she had been allowed dress casually, and she was treated as one of the students; but, as a non-student worker, she was required to don a uniform, and the students now treated her with contempt, even throwing food at her at one point. [1337] Having flunked college, she didn’t have a marketable skill she could use the exercise her middle class privilege. [1338] This was Bari’s first real introduction to class discrimination, and she noticed that the students, even the supposedly radical ones, treated the workers with contempt. Bari quickly became a class struggle activist both on and off campus. [1339] This was in part driven home by the fact that Bari’s entire adult working life was spent performing unskilled manual labor, through which she developed a deep sense of empathy for all workers. [1340]

Bari continued her political education and antiwar activism, participating in a group called the “Mad Dogs”, who functioned as a Marxist equivalent to an affinity group. They “lived together, rioted together, and studied Marxist literature together,” and, often times, they were arrested together in nonviolent demonstrations. Through this process, Bari realized that the establishment relies heavily on the police and military to maintain order. And while the 1960s and early 1970s were a heady time, with some rioting carried out by the protesting youth, the police and National Guard were not only not the preventers of violence, they were usually the perpetrators of violence. Bari experienced a good deal of police brutality, including one incident where she was thrust up against a wall and a gun was shoved into her side by policemen who then ransacked her apartment. [1341] She witnessed several of her friends being clubbed in the streets, and one who was tossed down a flight of stairs on his skull and suffered permanent brain damage as a result. [1342]

Bari noticed that her fellow student radicals, who came from privileged backgrounds often failed to understand the gravity of their situation, even upon being subjected to police brutality [1343], especially given the fact that African-Americans suffered police brutality on a much deeper and more fundamental level. [1344] Bari had several run-ins with the FBI (as did many radicals in the 1960s), including at least one case where she was set up by an undercover agent provocateur. [1345] Yet Bari remained undaunted in her efforts to overthrow a system she saw as inherently corrupt, violent, and unjust. [1346]

Bari’s workplace experiences also steadily radicalized her. For two years, she involved herself in rank and file activity in the Retail Clerks Union in the course of her working in a bakery and a grocery store, devoting almost as much time to the union as the job. [1347] Bari encountered the same corruption in the union’s hierarchy as she did in society as a whole, having many confrontations with the official leadership, including one incident where, from the floor, she denounced the incumbent union chief as being full of “bullshit.” The latter responded by grabbing the microphone away from Bari, still in mid-speech, and yelling “watch your language young lady!” in retort. The largely African-American rank and file started yelling from the audience, “Leave her alone, mothafuggas! She can say whatever she wants!” thus foreshadowing a pattern Bari would experience from then on in dealing with labor fakirs, in which she would have the support of the masses much to the indignation of the annoyed leadership whom she challenged. As it was then, and as it would be, Bari would usually have truth as well as popular support in her corner, and in this case, the corrupt leadership attempted to buy her off, which she unhesitatingly rejected. [1348]

Instead, following what was to become yet another consistent life pattern, Bari and her fellow rank and file militants began publishing a dissident newsletter, the Union Hot Sheet, to battle corruption (including MAFIA influences) and provide a means to network with other dissidents far away, as the local actually encompassed three states (foreshadowing a trend of business unions in the 1990s to consolidate over large areas and stamping out rank and file democracy in the process). The paper was popular among the rank and file and, as can be expected, reviled by the leadership. Bari was wrongfully terminated four times over the course of the next three years, and reinstated, in spite of the leadership’s corruption, due in no small part to the rank and file organization she and her fellow dissidents had built. This culminated in a strike vote in 1974, and during the strike, many of the rank and filers picketed during the day en masse, and at night some of them engaged in direct action, deflating scab tires and putting glue in the company locks. However, the union’s leadership’s corruption was too great to overcome, and being desperate to prevent a rank and file opposition, they openly collaborated with management and broke the strike. [1349] Bari later attributed this failure to “boring from within” following the model once proposed by William Z. Foster and the Communist Party. [1350] Bari was discouraged, but soon recovered to fight again. [1351]

Bari’s workplace activism continued. After working in the construction trade, where she learned carpentry skills, she took a job working for the US Postal Service in the Washington Bulk Mail Center in 1976. [1352] Bari’s job was to load and unload trucks. [1353] This facility was one of twenty such centers in the United States and functioned more or less like a factory. It handled no letters, only packages, and, as was the case in Bari’s previous experiences, the unions were corrupt and usually sided with management. [1354] The government attempted to institute several efficiency standards and install equipment that would automate tasks to meet their goals, but these efforts failed. Seeking to conceal their failures and maintain a projected budget for political reasons, management refused to hire additional workers and forced the current employees in the facility to work overtime, sometimes as much as sixty hours per week during normal periods, expanding to eighty-four during the holiday rush in December. [1355] Additionally, harassment, micromanaging, and inadequate safety measures (no doubt made even more lax by the drive to “efficiency”), resulting in industrial accidents were rampant. One worker was even sucked into one of the machines and killed, and what made this incident worse, was the feeling that most of the workers had that such an event had been inevitable. [1356] The conditions were horrible enough to draw the interest of Jack Anderson who consented to Bari and her coworkers smuggling in one of his reporters to expose the atrocities. [1357]

While their situation was unenviable, it also afforded the workers certain advantages, including the fragility of maintaining the frantic pace and the tendency of the machinery to break down. Having only heard of the IWW through her parents’ folksongs, Bari (and her coworkers) proceeded to exploit the bulk mail center’s weaknesses, essentially engaging in a “strike on the job”, much like the IWW timber workers of old. [1358] The workers engaged in sickouts, collective marches on the boss (who, being white, were largely intimidated by the predominantly black workforce), deliberately keying the machinery to incorrectly sort packages (which gummed up the works significantly), and even refusing to work overtime on holidays by all quitting their shifts at the same time. [1359]

The tactics escalated as the workers began to realize more and more of their collective power, and gained confidence each step of the way. [1360] Some of the tactics the workers used could have come from the pages of Ecodefense, though that publication hadn’t yet seen the light of day. Instead of boring from within, the workers were adopting the model followed by the IWW. The workers operated completely outside of the official union structure, ignoring the grievance procedure, abstaining from union meetings, and publishing a dissident newsletter. Called Postal Strife, it satirized the postal service’s official publication, Postal Life, the latter of which, featured a marijuana joint smoking buzzard, instead of the familiar American eagle. This time, Bari and her coworkers were successful, and broke the power of management. [1361]

Their efforts yielded quick results. Within a year, the overtime was eliminated in the Washington Bulk Mail facility, the safety conditions improved, and accident rate decreased. The year after that, the officialdom of the union collapsed, and Bari and her fellow dissidents took over the leadership of their union local. Bari was elected chief shop steward (the highest union position in the plant), and expedited grievances, which had formerly lingered in limbo. Their collective strength made it possible to get rid of the worst supervisors, as management attempted to quell dissent by replacing the former with friendlier management to appease the union and restore order. [1362]

Bari was not fooled into thinking that this was a complete victory, because she understood that this was but a battle and not the war itself, as it barely scratched the surface of systemic corruption, and to drive home the point, one of her African-American fellow workers pointed out that she was able to get away with the direct action more easily because she was white. From this experience, Bari learned that one of the most powerful ways she could help others realize their power was to put her privilege to use in aiding those without it (Bari understood this from both ends, being a woman, though one of middle class upbringing). Through this process, she realized a certain joy in discovering collective power and overcoming oppression. Bari was especially drawn to movements (like the IWW and Earth First!) that had strong cultural traditions, especially musical ones, and noted that the antiwar movement was greatly enhanced by rock and roll. [1363] Bari worked at the Washington Bulk Mail Center until 1979 when she met her husband to be, a fellow union organizer named Mike Sweeney, who convinced Bari to relocate to Santa Rosa, California. [1364]

Bari was reluctant to move to the west coast, but Sweeney had children from an earlier marriage already living there, so she ultimately consented. After arriving in Sonoma County, she worked in the wineries, often advocating for workers’ rights there as well. [1365] Bari and Sweeney had two daughters of their own, Lisa and Jessica, but their marriage wouldn’t last more than half a decade. Sweeney was becoming increasingly mainstream politically, whereas Bari maintained her radicalism, this time joining in the local chapter of Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and Pledge of Resistance, through which she would eventually meet Betty and Gary Ball of Mendocino County, who were also involved in Earth First!. [1366]

Bari and Sweeney split, more or less amicably, and Bari relocated to Ukiah. She sought employment to help take care of her two daughters, and she tried, unsuccessfully, to get a job working in one of the lumber mills. [1367] Failing that, she sought employment as a carpenter and—having hung drywall at the newly opened Mendocino Environmental Center for her friends, Earth First!ers Betty and Gary Ball, whom she had recently met—Bari found a job working for California Yurts, where Gary Ball was the bookkeeper. She started as a mud and taper, but soon revealed she had much greater skill as a carpenter. Bari, already familiar with forest preservation and environmentalism grew increasingly furious that she was using old growth redwood to build a vacation homes for wealthy executives, and the fact that this one in particular reminded her of the Playboy mansion particularly offended her. [1368] According to Bari:

“I was working in Boonville as a carpenter, putting old growth redwood siding on some rich asshole’s house up near Faulkner Park: 2,500 square feet for a single man. Ugly goddam house, too. I looked at these beautiful twenty-foot long redwood boards—tight grain, no knots—and I said to Gary Ball, the bookkeeper for California Yurts at the time, ‘Is this old growth redwood?’ He told me it was. He also told me it was a thousand years old. So I’m putting thousand year old trees on this rich prick’s dumb house!” [1369]

Bari soon discovered, much to her chagrin, that the wood had come from the old growth redwoods Humboldt County—quite likely from one or more of the groves currently being contested by Earth First! and EPIC. [1370]

Bari, who had been trained on the violin in classical music as a child, wrote her first of many protest songs in response [1371], and in one instance in 1987, she chance to perform some of them live in a benefit that also featured Darryl Cherney, though the two didn’t formally meet then. [1372] Her efforts didn’t stop there, however:

“I got a photo of the clearcut from which the redwood came, and I put it on the man’s living room wall. But that didn’t make me feel better…every day I had to drive over the Boonville grade to get to work and see the bee-line of trucks hauling redwood going the other way. The contradiction was too great. I felt a strong pull to do something for the forests.” [1373]

Bari was aware of Earth First!’s existence, through her associations with the Balls and others who were active in Mendocino County Earth First!, but she was initially hesitant to join the radical environmental movement. Bari recounts, “I was deeply offended by their beer-drinking, baseball hat macho bullshit. I also didn’t like Earth First!’s reliance on these…men whose statements on AIDS and immigration completely turned me off.” [1374] That was logical; Bari was also an ardent feminist, and had already made a name for herself for challenging sexism, even among the local back-to-the-landers in the local green movement. [1375]

However, Bari was open to the deep ecology and conservation biology promoted by Earth First!, as she later recalled:

“A forest is much more than trees. It’s an entire interrelated ecosystem…there is no way of replacing an old growth forest. They say, ‘Well, the tree grows back.’ But a forest ecosystem took tens of thousands of years to evolve. And if you go into an area that has been logged, you don’t see the ferns on the ground, the wildlife…Right now our society is based on the notion that we will take everything we can from the earth, we will get the earth to give us everything we can possibly suck out of it. Instead, we need to scale down our needs to what the earth can produce on a sustained level… The very concept of leveling these ancient beings so a couple of gluttonous millionaires can get rich is obscene. We have to look at this in a longer term review. What are we doing to the earth’s ability to sustain life?…


“I think that all beings are equal—not just that all humans are equal. I don’t think that anything has the right to destroy the entire planet, or any other ecosystem…


“I was raised back East, and my parents were very progressive, but the life in which I was raised was not connected to the earth…people go from their air conditioned house to their air conditioned car to their air conditioned job.” [1376]

But Bari’s concept of deep ecology went beyond that of many Earth First!ers, and she was not blinded by misanthropy:

“The way that the companies treat the workers is neither separate from nor subordinate to the way that they treat the forests. These companies are anti-life. They are not just anti-trees. They destroy the life of the forests. They destroy the life of the workers. And they destroy the life of people in Third World countries.


“And I see it all as being interrelated. I don’t think that all humans are guilty. Most of us are born into this and don’t support it. It’s not to our benefit. It’s only to the benefit of a very few. But we are under the control of a very few, very rich people who are so selfish that they care only for themselves…

“Ultimately, the timber workers are not the beneficiaries of this deforestation, this stripping nude of the forest that is going on. And not only are the timber workers not the beneficiaries, they are even more the victims than we are because their lifeblood is being exploited to do this.

“They aren’t paid what they are worth. They are not paid the value of their labor. The corporations make their profits so that Harry Merlo can have his Shangri-la and Charles Hurwitz can have his twenty million dollars. And those profits are made in two ways: they are made by extracting value from the workers (in other words, by not paying them the amount of value of what they produce), and it’s made by extracting value from the earth, by not replacing what we take from the earth.” [1377]

Bari didn’t see the environment or the workers as separate concerns and felt that the biggest obstacle to the success of Earth First! and the ecology movement in general was a middle class arrogance that treated workers as willing pawns:

“The reason that the timber companies have been so successful in convincing workers that environmentalists, rather than the corporations, are their enemies, is because of our middle class arrogance, our dehumanizing of them. There have been as many Earth First!ers who say it is the loggers to blame as there are loggers who say it is the Earth First!ers to blame. We have fallen right into this timber company trap of setting us against each other, of creating a contradiction amongst the people, people who should be in alliance with each other. Our interests, even in the short term, are the same.


“For example, clear cuts are capital intensive not labor-intensive. Clear cuts are a way of eliminating loggers jobs…as are herbicide sprays—which also (injure) the loggers—as are computerized green chains, which have appalling accident rates because they are so dangerous.


“And of course the company’s attitude towards the workers are no different than their attitude towards the trees…

“The workers are in much better position than we are to do something about it, because they have their hands on the machinery and if they don’t work, the trees don’t go. We don’t have that power. The workers have much more power than we do, and that’s why the companies put so much more effort into brainwashing them than they do the public in general. The subjugation that they have to face to work there is enormous…It’s a question of taking direct action on the workroom floor. Of doing it (themselves). The only justice is the justice (they) make (themselves).” [1378]

This was especially true in the case of George Alexander, whom, Judi Bari observed, was sympathetic to the issues raised by Earth First!, but in general, Earth First! hadn’t paid attention to this and (at least the prominent spokespeople) had responded to his injuries insensitively:

“I feel for the forest as well as for the man, but I felt for the man too. And he from his hospital bed said, “I’m against tree spiking, but I’m against clear cutting too.” And Earth First! (outside of northwestern California) didn’t reach out. They just arrogantly grumbled, “We’re going to keep tree spiking, but we didn’t do that particular spike.” I felt that wasn’t taking responsibility, because (Earth First! does) endorse tree spiking—I personally don’t endorse tree spiking, by the way. I think the danger to mill workers is real, and I think the number of mill workers who would be on our side otherwise, who we alienate, exceeds the number of trees that we save.” [1379]

Bari was also deeply offended by Dave Foreman’s, Edward Abbey’s, and Christopher Manes’s comments about immigration, starving Africans, and AIDS, even if taken out of context or meant as dark humor, though she would later discover that the vast majority of Earth First!ers were equally offended by these comments and the main spokespeople were not representative of Earth First! in general. [1380]

Nevertheless, it seemed either by fate or by circumstance, Judi Bari would eventually join Earth First!, which is precisely what happened, and it was in the course of her second encounter (and first formal meeting) with Darryl Cherney that this took place. As he recalls it, Cherney was having trouble designing a brochure for his own campaign for Congress. Bari walked into the Mendocino Environmental Center, in May of 1988, where Cherney happened to be working on the project. MEC coordinator Betty Ball knew Bari was a talented graphic artist, and quickly dispatched the latter to assist Cherney. [1381] Bari had used this talent for many years, at first making signs for football rallies, but later using it to design leaflets and dissident union newsletters. [1382] Ball introduced the Bari and Cherney to each other and suggested Bari might help with the layout. Darryl remembered how Judi worked ably on the layout, all the while making fun of him for his conceit in running. [1383] Darryl eventually responded to this humorously, penning yet another song, Running for my Life, [1384] but at the moment he instantly fell in love with her, and they became for the next two years a romantic couple. [1385] He also convinced her, finally, to join Earth First!. As Bari later recalled, “Darryl said something to me that stuck: ‘Well, you can start a Mendocino group (independent of Earth First!), but you’ll be starting from scratch. Or we can (join the) local Earth First! (group) and we can have the corporations shaking in their boots.’” [1386]

Judi Bari was neither aware of the dialog currently taking place between Earth First!ers and the IWW, nor did she fully realize that the IWW still existed. However, in one of the very first conversations Bari and Cherney had (after dinner at her house and in between his guitar playing and her fiddle playing), she told him much about IWW history and how it applied very closely to the campaigns being waged currently by Earth First!. [1387] The next thing Bari did as an Earth First!er was propose hosting a labor history workshop, prominently featuring the IWW’s history, at the annual California Earth First! rendezvous to be held that September. [1388]

What happened after that is a matter of legend, and how the actual events unfolded depends largely upon who recalls it. Having borrowed Bari’s copy of Labor’s Untold Story by Richard Boyer and Herbert Morais of the United Electrical Workers—which contains a brief history of the Wobblies, or at least the early history of the Wobblies—Cherney came to the realization that Earth First! was the direct descendant of the IWW, and to this day he sometimes refers to Earth First! as the “Latter Day Wobblies”. [1389] That Dave Foreman, Ed Abbey, and others had already made this connection might not have initially dawned on either Cherney or Bari, since the former didn’t propose any connection beyond the IWW’s cultural influences.

Bari announced her intentions to hold the workshop somehow to some or all of the contacts on the Earth First! mailing list featured in the Earth First! Journal (though there is no record of such an announcement in any of the issues between May 1988 and the time of the rendezvous). [1390] According to some accounts, including an occasional recounting by Utah Phillips—whose career as a folk singer featured the spinning of colorful yarns—Bari referred to the IWW in the past tense and was surprised to learn that the IWW still existed, when various dues paying IWW members in the various Earth First! groups informed her of her error. [1391] Whether or not this is true is unknown, as there is no known proof of this happening. Judi Bari did recount, two years later, that she was contacted by IWW members offering helpful suggestions, including Utah Phillips, who told her then, “The Earth isn’t dying, it’s being killed, and the people who are killing it have names and addresses.” [1392]

Darryl Cherney recalls that he came across or was given a copy of the May 1988 Industrial Worker (which had been distributed in large numbers at the annual Earth First Round River Rendezvous that summer) after having read Labor’s Untold Story, and offered a copy to Judi—who was already planning her workshop on the history of the IWW—and suggested they contact the IWW. Cherney was amazed to find that Bari already had a copy of the issue, but doesn’t know how she had obtained it. Bari then contacted the IWW’s General Headquarters—then still located in Chicago—and asked for assistance in organizing her “history of the IWW” workshop at the California Earth First! Rendezvous in September 1988. The specific details of how or when Judi contacted the IWW, and the specifics of that conversation are not entirely clear, but according to Cherney, it happened very quickly. [1393]

Gary Cox recounts that Utah Phillips contacted the IWW’s General Executive Board and requested that they help finance Cox’s travel expenses. Phillips also contacted his long time friend and fellow IWW member and musician, Mark Ross, in Butte, Montana. Ross, in turn, contacted Montana IWW member Art Nurse who had joined the IWW in 1918 and had paid dues consistently since then. Nurse had been the veteran of many IWW campaigns and no doubt knew many of the loggers and millworkers who had won the eight-hour day by striking on the job in 1917. He had also helped keep a Missoula IWW office open for many years through his work and donations of his pension (he had been a union longshoreman in Texas for many years). Nurse agreed to help finance sending an IWW member to California for the conference. Mark called Gary Cox, and Cox—who was already sympathetic to Earth First!—agreed to go. [1394] Cox flew to San Francisco and was met by Utah Phillip’s friend, Earth First! folk singer Dakota Sid Clifford. Clifford, Cox, and a third Wobbly named Billy Don Robinson (from Oregon) then met with Bari, the workshop was organized. [1395] The event was announced in the local mainstream press, though no mention was given by them of the IWW. [1396]

Meanwhile, as if to drive home the point that Earth First!, in Mendocino County anyway, was not going to hesitate to build bridges with unionized workers, Judi Bari and Betty Ball contacted the United Farm Workers (UFW) to support them in their boycott of pesticide sprayed grapes. The UFW very enthusiastically welcomed Earth First!’s participation, and on the evening of August 26, 1988, a group of ten activists, including Bari, Cherney, Ball, and Eric Fried, demonstrated inside and outside of the Safeway in Ukiah, in solidarity with the affected grape-pickers. [1397] Echoing the joint pickets of L-P by the IWA, Carpenters Union, and Mendocino Greens against herbicide aerial spraying of loggers, these workers, the UFW, and Earth First! were protesting against the growers’ use of toxic pesticides, such as phosdin, parathion, methyl bromide, dinoseb, and captan. Evidence suggested that the children of the farmworkers exposed to these chemicals experienced an alarmingly high rates of birth defects, and both the adults and children experienced increased rates of cancer. The activists drew the connection between poisoning the workers as well as the Earth, and tied the issue to similar conditions experienced by timber workers. [1398] The protest lasted about 15 minutes before the Ukiah police ordered the demonstrators to disperse, which they did with no arrests. [1399]

* * * * *

The California Earth First! rendezvous, which was held September 16-18, 1988, turned out to be very well attended and highly successful. [1400] Judi Bari offered an equally positive account as her first article to the Earth First! Journal, [1401] and Crawdad Nelson, who also attended and participated (conducting a workshop on how Earth First!ers can most effectively dialog with timber workers), reported on the conference for the Anderson Valley Advertiser. [1402] About 200-300, most (but not all) of them Earth First!ers, and a handful of curious supporters camped in among old-growth Douglas Fir stands in the Marble Mountains of the Siskiyou National Forest, in nearby Siskiyou County. [1403] The overwhelming attendance was no doubt bolstered by the triumphant news from Humboldt County that a California state appeals court judge had overruled Judge Buffington’s overturning of the TROs on P-L THPs at Lawrence and Shaw Creek. [1404]

The gathering itself began ominously, but finished well. Several local breweries rescinded their offer to donate kegs of beer after learning that it was an Earth First! gathering, not wanting to enable “tree spiking terrorists,” and the Hoopa, Karuk, and Yurok tribes were initially upset that the event took place on their land during the week of sacred ceremony, however the latter softened their perspective somewhat and actually sent representatives to address the activists, who welcomed them with open arms. [1405] Veteran Earth First!ers were impressed with the level of planning, outreach, and organization done by Judi Bari. [1406] Bari, in turn was impressed with the absence of male machismo and sexist behavior by the local Earth First!ers. Bari credited this to the strong feminist contingent of the local groups and because the “worst known offenders didn’t show up”. Bari gave special mention to Greg King and Darryl Cherney who made particularly strong efforts to include women workshop leaders and performers. [1407]

Several well attended workshops took place, including one on tree spiking (controversial though it was), taught by Mikal Jakubal (the very first Earth First!er to conduct a tree sit), who was watched the entire time by two “Freddies” (forest service employees), who stood in the audience and took Jakubal’s pictures. The activist insisted the workshop was “just for fun”, to which the Freddies responded, “the photos would be just for their own scrapbooks”. Other workshops included Holistic Forestry, led by independent logger and woodworker Jan Iris; the aforementioned workshop by Crawdad Nelson; combating offshore oil drilling, led by none other than Lionel Gambill; and Tree Sitting, led by Kurt Newman and Greg King, and many others. Of course, for Judi Bari, the most important workshop was that on the history of the IWW, led by herself and Gary Cox. [1408]

The IWW workshop was attended by over 120 participants and well received by all, and most of the attendees were enthralled by Gary Cox’s oral history of the Wobblies in the Pacific Northwest, particularly in the lumber industry. One logger even declared he was going to go back to the woods and organize his crew, though nobody knows what became of him or his efforts. Cox was likewise equally impressed with the Earth First!ers present. Many of the points of contention that were currently being batted back and forth between the likes of Ed Abbey and Louis Prisco (among others) were discussed in great detail, and while the debate was heated at times during the workshop, most found common ground, and Cox agreed that it would be a mistake to paint all Earth First!ers with a broad brush, also sensing that there was much the Wobblies could learn from Earth First!. Cox also noted that Earth First!ers were just as concerned about the lack of accountability to the rank and file by the Earth First! Journal as were the editors at Libertarian Labor Review, and Earth First!ers in attendance even asked if the IWW could provide some ideas on how to introduce democratic control over it. [1409]

Cox also admonished the assembled Earth First!ers to emphasize respect for workers and to deal with them as equals, rather than a from position of moral superiority, even if they seemed like they have been “brainwashed” by their employers. [1410] One question on many minds was “What kind of lessons do you think we of Earth First! can learn?” to which the Wobbly speaker responded, “You have to realize the levels that they are going to go to repress you. This isn’t polite. You give up your privilege when you really challenge their power.” [1411] He cited some of the repression (including hangings, beatings, shootings, and jail sentences), faced by Wobbly organizers in retribution for their effectiveness, but reminded all that this never dampened the IWW’s spirit. [1412] Cox concluded on an uplifting note, intoning that solidarity was the movement’s best weapon and encouraging the crowd to remember the Wobbly motto, “An Injury to One is an Injury to All”, noting also that Earth First! took that to a deeper level, applying it to all species, not just humans, a message that was well received. [1413]

The rendezvous concluded well. Proving that “the singing union” and “the singing environmental movement” could sing in good harmony, music also played a big part in the gathering. [1414] As a special treat, Cherney and Dakota Sid performed a set devoted to the IWW, including the songs Hallelujah I’m a Bum, Preacher and the Slave, Casey Jones the Union Scab, and 50,000 Lumberjacks. [1415] As Judi Bari relayed to the Earth First!ers, “The IWW is not your typical AFL-type union; the AFL-CIO wouldn’t be caught dead at an EF! Rendezvous.” She also noted that, “Not only is Earth First! engaged in serious political work, but we also know how to throw one hell of a party,” (even without beer). [1416]

Judi Bari expressed interest in further support from the IWW, including sending more organizers, to which Cox responded that she should be that organizer, explaining that she had the ability to join the IWW and convince others to do so as well. Bari was initially skeptical about joining the Wobblies herself, but Cox convinced her to overlook any shortcomings with the contemporary IWW and utilize the union’s potential to organize a working class environmental movement. Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney and a few others were then officially initiated by Billy Don Robinson. Cox later recalled that he thought that Bari was one of the best organizers he ever met. [1417]

The editors of the Earth First! Journal enthusiastically welcomed joining ranks with the IWW (at least at first), and finally acknowledged the connection in the Samhain / November 1, 1988 issue, noting both the May and September issues of the Industrial Worker, a new IWW campaign to organize canvassers at Greenpeace, and the California Rendezvous. [1418] Earth First!ers Dale Turner and John Davis noted that potential benefits of such an alliance could lead to joint campaigns, such as port blockades of old growth log exports (and imports of rainforest logs), Japanese fish, and American shrimp. They noted that, at the very least, the coalition of the two could undermine jobs versus the environment rhetoric issued by the employers’ PR machine. [1419]

Only Earth First!er George Draffan, of Spokane Washington, (who had once been a dues paying IWW member himself) expressed any public skepticism, noting that while he supported the joining of labor and environmental movements, the Wobblies were now a very small union, and that many timber workers in the US and Canada were no longer unionized anyway. Draffan concluded by mentioning, as an aside, that Weyerhauser, based primarily in Washington State, suffered approximately $10 million annually in equipment sabotage, but that sabotage was primarily carried out by disgruntled workers acting individually under cover out of disgust and revenge for the union busting by the employers. He noted that a traditional strike was unlikely to succeed in any case, because the employers were in the habit of stockpiling as much as two years worth of timber in advance for various economic reasons. [1420] Something more effective would be needed, but Draffan didn’t offer a solution, never considering that the most effective weapon might have been a strike on the job, as was done by the IWW in 1917. There remained much the IWW and Earth First! could learn from each other.

According to already established Earth First! tradition, a direct action or series of them always followed a rendezvous, and this most recent example was no exception. Immediately after the event, the organizers, including Judi Bari, Darryl Cherney, and IWW member Billy Don Robinson staged a daylong series of actions targeting “criminals responsible for the greenhouse effect.” Judi Bari described it as “an all day roving picket line,” following another storied IWW tactic. The organizers drafted a series of indictment forms with blanks to fill in the company’s name and quickly created some banners reading, “GUILTY, GUILTY: GREENHOUSE EFFECT VIOLATOR.” Deciding to use their time most effectively, they chose the Simpson Pulp Mill in Arcata, Pacific Lumber in Scotia, Eel River Sawmills, and a public hearing on offshore oil drilling. [1421]

The first action targeted Simpson and was highly dramatic. A caravan of 100 arrived at the pulp mill in Arcata in the early morning. The “raggedy mob” blockaded the mill entrance and ambushed several truck drivers, “howling like coyotes”. The first driver was receptive to the demonstrators, and proceeded to “kick back and enjoy the show”. The second driver was not so sympathetic and charged the blockade. The demonstrators chanted “Stop Mr. Block” (referring to the cartoon blockhead, created by IWW artist Ernest Riebe, who lacked class consciousness and who naïvely and continually aligned himself with the employers no matter how many times his experiences should have taught him otherwise). Earth First!er Corbin Soloman dove under the front wheels of the moving semi, and the driver halted his advance within inches of the prone Earth First!er. Robinson jumped up onto the truck’s running board attempted to dialog with the driver, who remained unreceptive and threw a punch at Robinson. After a 30 minute standoff that backed up trucks on the highway in both directions, police arrived and the demonstrators willingly dispersed. Successfully misdirecting the sheriffs, the demonstrators shouted “Eel River Sawmill’s next!” but proceeded to Scotia instead. [1422]

At Scotia, the demonstrators sang Darryl Cherney’s songs You Can’t Clearcut Your Way to Heaven and Where Are We Gonna Work When the Trees Are Gone? but no trucks were running that day, for reasons unknown. They were soon greeted by counterdemonstrators, most of them women mobilized by TEAM and WECARE, yelling anti-Earth First! slogans. The Earth First! women quickly organized a delegation, instructing the men to stay back, approaching each counterdemonstrator one-on-one, which calmed down the latter. With the help of a local minister, who was receptive to both sides, the two groups scheduled an upcoming dialog to discuss common ground and try and resolved differences. [1423]

Moving on to the next two targets, the demonstrators hung a banner on an Eel River Sawmills log deck on US 101 without incident, and then proceeded to the public hearing. There, after listening to bureaucrats pontificate about the benefits of offshore drilling, the Earth First!ers and IWW members responded, led by Darryl Cherney with his guitar in hand, singing a somg he penned, called We’re all Dead Ducks, while the rest of the demonstrators quacked at the appropriate moments in the song’s chorus. The demonstrators put their literal exclamation point on the hearing by shouting “Sonic BOOM!” in response to one speaker claiming that sonic booms don’t affect marine mammals, which certainly effected the mammalian bureaucrats assembled in the meeting. [1424] Though this was a promising beginning indeed, these actions were not yet full-on shop floor organizing; that was still to come, but come soon it would.

There were immediate ripple effects of the IWW-Earth First! dialog that were felt throughout the Pacific Northwest, though. Billy Don Robinson had been an employer at Steven Daubenspeck and Stevenson (SDS), a logging corporation based in Oregon, who was rapidly clearcutting forests there much like Maxxam was in Humboldt County (a practice that had disgusted Robinson), until he had suffered an accident in 1986. He returned to Oregon in time to take part in joint protests organized by a coalition including Earth First! and the IWW against clearcutting a stretch of virgin old growth oak trees along the White Salmon River. The actions culminated in protests over environmental destruction and worker exploitation, including a picket of a hotel owned by SDS, that took place on October 24, 1988, including one arrest. [1425]

Not long after that Earth First!ers and IWW members joined striking members of Sawmill Workers Local #2929 in Roseburg, Oregon. This action was part of a two state strike against Roseburg Forest Products involving members of the IWA and WCIW in Anderson and Weed, California, and Roseburg, Oregon that began on January 2, 1989. [1426] The company’s demands had included a dollar per hour wage cut, even though owner, Kenneth Ford, was then one of the 400 richest men in the world, worth over $230 million. The company was expanding and making record profits, thus the concessions it demanded were more of the same intensified class war against timber workers begun by L-P and Harry Merlo in 1983. [1427] The strike lasted five months, and though the workers were supported by the local businesses in the community, the strike was essentially lost when the 3,500 members of the Western Council of Industrial Workers (WCIW) and the 800 members of the IWA involved in the strike ultimately settled at a $0.60 per hour wage cut and reductions in benefits. [1428]

All was not lost in this struggle, however. One striker, a millworker named Gene Lawhorn, observed that the vast majority of the scabs used by the company during the strike sported yellow ribbons on their automobile antennae. Yet, Lawhorn also noted that Earth First!ers were marching in solidarity with his fellow workers on the picket line, a trend that would continue for some months. Lawhorn’s view of environmentalists and the yellow ribbon changed drastically as a result, and he became an environmentalist himself. [1429] Through these direct experiences Earth First!ers and timber workers were indeed beginning to realize they needn’t be enemies.


Judi Bari’s letters of protest appeared in issues 315 (December 17, 1987, on page 2—Judi Brown responded defending her work) and 316 (January 7, 1988, page 4). “Blue Jay” penned a letter in support of Judi in issue 317 (January 21, 1988). Howard Weiss and W. J. White added their support to Bari, while William James Kovanda, Eleanor Cooney, and Douglas Roycroft (himself an IWW member) defended Judith Brown on the grounds of “free speech” in issue 320 (misidentified as 310 on the cover of the March 3, 1988 issue; the letters appear on page 4). Judi Bari wrote a third letter arguing her position in that same issue. There were a substantial number of varying responses in issue 321 (misidentified as 311 on the cover of the March 17, 1988 issue; the responses appear on pp. 4 – 5).

Judi Bari also made significant waves by defending the Planned Parenthood clinic in Ukiah that same year against rabid anti-abortion demonstrators (“Save the Unborn or We’ll Kill You”, by Bruce Anderson, Anderson Valley Advertiser, November 30, 1988). Bari probably stirred up a hornet’s nest by cowriting the song Will the Fetus Be Aborted with Darryl Cherney (to the tune of Will the Circle Be Unbroken) and performing it at this demonstration in defiance of the anti-choice crowd. One of these anti-choice activists present at the demonstration was none other than Jack Azevedo.

IWW and general labor history are replete with legends and folk tales assuming the character of actual history. For example, the late Archie Green has argued (in Wobblies and Pilebutts), that there is no conclusive or solid evidence that the term “Wobbly”—which is considered an officially recognized moniker for a generic IWW member—originated from sympathetic Chinese restaurant owners in the Pacific Northwest who had difficulty pronouncing the letter “W” in IWW; but this folk legend is often cited as gospel nevertheless.

Likewise, the notion that the word “sabotage” derives from workers throwing wooden sabots (shoes) into machines to thwart their operation by disgruntled workers, cited favorably and heroically for example in Hollywood movies, such as Star Trek VI, the Undiscovered Country, is apocryphal.

The source of such legends varies, from romantic IWW members (such as in the example of “wobbly”) to employing class propaganda, whose anti-IWW rhetoric painted pictures of Wobblies burning crops, murdering politicians, or collaborating with the Central Powers in World War I—all accounts known (even at the time the propaganda was issued) to be blatant falsehoods.


12. The Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes

“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. [1430]

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. [1431]

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. [1432] 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! [1433]

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. [1434] 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! [1435]

While all of the actions in the forest had been taking place, on October 26, the Sierra Club and EPIC teamed up yet again to file still another lawsuit to try and prevent logging of THP 1-88-462HUM, which had been approved by the CDF, that would allow Pacific Lumber to log 2,000 year-old redwoods in a 236 acre cut known as Owl Creek. [1436] This was the tenth legal challenge filed against a Pacific Lumber THP since the Maxxam takeover, according to company attorney Jared Carter. In the court proceedings, presided by Superior Court Judge William Ferroggiaro, Sierra Club spokeswoman Lynn Ryan described the contested area as the heart of a potential wilderness area that they hoped could be purchased for part of a park area with bond money. Carter countered arguing “We’ve got men and equipment working in the field. It would cause harm to Pacific Lumber Company if you grant a TRO.” [1437] The judge granted the TRO anyway, but only upon the condition that environmentalists post a $50,000 bond to indemnify P-L for the potential losses Carter described. Neither EPIC nor the Sierra Club had the money, so they appealed the decision to the State Court of Appeals in San Francisco who upheld the TRO without the bond the following day. [1438]

The dragged out legal process left Owl Creek relatively undefended in the meantime, however. Already Maxxam had demonstrated that they could not be taken at their word as far as living by the letter of the law as far as THPs were concerned. Gregori had called King to inform him of the impending threat only to find that Earth First! couldn’t spare any additional bodies. The simultaneous Cahto Wilderness and Sanctuary Forest actions had spread Earth First!’s resources to their limit. There was every certainty that P-L would take advantage of that, and it is entirely possible that the CDF, ERS, and Maxxam had colluded to time all three cuts at once for that very reason. Suspecting this and lacking any other recourse, on October 27, while waiting for the courts in San Francisco to rule on the appeal, Gregori and Ryan decided to head out towards Owl Creek themselves, even though this created the potential risk of a conflict of interest. [1439]

The pair drove into Fortuna, used a payphone in town to confirm that the appeal had been awarded, and then drove out Newburg Road to monitor THP 462. They found the logging gate open, a convoy of loaded logging trucks heading the other direction, and something still worse. The logging road that Maxxam had illegally flagged the previous year in the case that became EPIC vs. Maxxam was still being further cut into the heart of Headwaters Forest. The two were detained by P-L supervisors and then arrested for trespassing, but news of the illegal road and its violation of court order got out and it emboldened further legal actions by both the EPIC and the Sierra Club. [1440]

Judi Bari quickly engaged the local Earth First! chapter into yet another alliance building attempt, this time with pro-choice defenders of the Ukiah Planned Parenthood Clinic. Recently Reverend Dave Broyles, a pastor of Calvary Way Church, and Bill Staley, a former professional football player (with the Cincinnati Bengals and Chicago Bears) and L-P millworker from Potter Valley had organized weekly anti-abortion demonstrations there. [1441] The pair’s rhetoric had been incendiary, and Staley had spread numerous inaccuracies and untruths about the clinic’s funding and policies that made it sound like abortions were plentiful, cheap, and easy (when they weren’t). [1442] At one point, a woman and her two children—whose purpose at the clinic may have not even been related to abortion—were allegedly accosted by an anti-abortion ideologue who threatened them by saying to the mother, “I’ll rape you and make you have the baby.” This was too much for Judi Bari, who organized a counterdemonstration in which the two sides, each numbering about fifty, engaged in confrontational back-and-forth dialogue, in which Bari (and Cherney) urged the anti-abortion ideologue who had threaten rape (assuming that he was present) to show himself. Some of Bari’s fellow counterdemonstrators found her in-your-face-stance to be divisive, while others, including Anderson Valley Advertiser editor Bruce Anderson retorted that the so-called “pro-lifers” were beyond reason and rational thought. [1443] Whatever the case, Bill Staley never forgot the incident and declared Bari an enemy from that moment forward. [1444]

North Coast Earth First! wasted no time in responding to P-L’s attempts to log Owl Creek and Headwaters and scheduled a rally to take place on December 8, 1988. Adopting a horror movie theme that perhaps might have been more appropriate for Halloween, but was generally relevant to the destruction of the redwoods and the Pacific Lumber company wrought by Charles Hurwitz, the rally was billed as “Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes”, in which the demonstrators would all show up wearing paper masks with the likeness of the aforementioned corporate raider and mourn the death of the redwoods, Scotia, and the loggers’ jobs. Darryl Cherney explained the relevance of the theme stating, “Perhaps 100 Hurwitzes zombying through their town will make it clear that they cannot escape him until they exorcise this Wall Street demon out of their spirit.” [1445] Earth First! graphic artist Tom Yeates, at Darryl Cherney’s request, even designed an elaborate graphic drawn to resemble a B-Movie promotional poster. [1446]

On the day of the demonstration, as the two giant lumber mills and the newly built power cogeneration station carried on their operations as normal, about 100 activists, including Bari, Cherney, and King, assembled at 11 AM. As called for in the rally posters, the demonstrators wore funeral attire and masks bearing the likeness of Hurwitz and marched through the town of Scotia, singing mock Christmas carols like:

God rest ye merry lumbermen, May nothing you dismay,
Remember Charlie Hurwitz, Has debts he has to pay,
So watch him haul your redwood trees and pension fund away,
Oh tidings of hunger and fear, hunger and fear…
Oh tidings of hunger and fear. [1447]

Many of them carried cardboard coffins bearing the words “security”, “community”, “economy”, and “ecology.”

They were greeted by 200 angry counterdemonstrators bearing signs which read, “No More Parks!”, “Save Our Jobs!”, and “Jobs First!” (with Earth First! covered by a negation slash-circle). They had set up a loudspeaker that broadcast country & western Christmas carols with the intention of drowning out any of the music and chants uttered by the Earth First!ers. Just to be certain, they shouted and screamed obscenities at the demonstrators, in front of the Pacific Lumber headquarters, such as “Earth First! go home!”; “Why don’t you go back where you came from, and leave us alone?”; “You use paper!”; “What a bunch of hypocrites! Paper is a wood product!...what about your houses and furniture!”, as Humboldt County sheriffs looked on. [1448]

The activists didn’t blench.“You’re out of a job!” responded about 100 or so Charles Hurwitz lookalikes. Darryl Cherney countered, “Our job is to put reins on the timber industry. Without environmentalists, you have a rape and run system.” Both groups included children. At one point, a young boy emerged from one of the faux coffins that bore the words “our future” symbolizing the death of the same. The counterdemonstrators shouted, “You’re sick!” [1449] The befuddled child, no doubt overwhelmed by the borderline abusive onslaught by the hostile reception committee, began to cry. [1450] One woman counter demonstrator exclaimed, “My nine year old knows what’s going on but you don’t have him coming out of coffins!” If Earth First and the IWW were trying to reach out to the workers, by appearances they were not succeeding. [1451] The reality was, as one would guess, stranger than the fiction.

Ironically more closely resembling the stereotype they so quickly identified with the environmentalists, many of the counter demonstrators were not actually P-L employees, and many of them didn’t live in Scotia. TEAM and WECARE representatives dominated the opposition, a fact so obvious that even the Eureka Times-Standard had to admit it. A large contingent of Eel River Sawmills and Don Nolan Trucking and others were present.

“You’re shutting down the whole county,” shouted Ross Fisher, who worked for the ironically named gyppo firm Lyall Logging. Sierra Club representative Lynn Ryan answered this accusation declaring, “We’re talking about the boom and bust cycle.”

“You’re asking us to slow down the cutting? We don’t have any control to do that. Why are you attacking all these people?” screamed Eel River employee Sue Akins, evidently equating the protesters’ identification of a perceived problem as “an attack”.

Protester Carrie Pierce responded, “All I’m concerned about is jobs for my children.” [1452] All the while, John Campbell watched from the window of his office while pandemonium ensued on the main thoroughfare leading in and out of the heart of Scotia. [1453]

It was not as though Campbell was relishing what was unfolding. If anything, it was those speaking on his behalf who were making a mockery of the entire affair. When one of the counterdemonstrators repeated the by now already tired old saw about Earth First!ers being “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs,” Judi Bari quickly retorted, “Bullshit! I’m a full time carpenter, I live in Mendocino County, and my wages will soon be paying for your welfare checks once Charles Hurwitz had mowed down all the remaining redwoods!” When several loggers dared Cherney to fight, he stood his ground and admonished them to go to Houston and punch Hurwitz instead. [1454] All of this was captured by the TV cameras and broadcast later on the network news stations. The lack of decorum on behalf of the counter demonstrators was blatant enough to bother even Gary Gundlach who attempted to restrain some of the howling mob he had helped create. “I didn’t want to see anybody blow up,” he said sheepishly, perhaps not understanding the danger in recruiting loose cannons to serve as fronts for corporate greed. Miraculously, nobody was arrested at the event. [1455]

Gundlach had his hands full, trying to maintain order among his own ranks, in part because there was a new and especially unruly player on his “team”, a large and overbearing woman named Candace “Candy” Boak of Eureka. If Gundlach was Roy Cohn, Boak was “Tail-gunner” Joe McCarthy. She, along with her husband John, owned a gyppo logging firm based out of McKinleyville and both had an intense, almost irrational hatred for Earth First!. Candy had monitored Earth First! closely, attending some of their educational meetings—often signing her name pseudonymously as “Georgia Pacific” and “Louise Pacific”—and, like a want-to-be J. Edgar Hoover, kept close tabs on their activities, which—in her paranoid and ultra reactionary worldview, were part of thinly veiled, massive eco-terrorist conspiracy. The counterdemonstration had been largely her idea, the beginning of a long campaign of her own to “monkeywrench the monkeywrenchers,” and while she was not busy screaming corporate timber talking points at her adversaries at the top of her lungs during the Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes, she was busy trying to determine what jobs or lack thereof (in her mind anyway) they had. Boak claimed to have been a back-to-the-lander herself until she one day “saw the light”, and whether true or not, she made it her mission to excoriate all those “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs” until they learned to straighten up and fly right. She had certainly made Earth First! take notice in any case. [1456]

The Corporate Media, including the Eureka Times-Standard (despite admitting that many of the “workers” didn’t work for PL) [1457] still dutifully framed the demonstration as a clash between environmentalists and workers. P-L public affairs manager Dave Galitz likewise framed the screaming counter protesters as workers who were “just fed up” with mill closures and THP denials, but this was clearly a superficial description. [1458] Many of the P-L workers were not only not present, they were generally not supportive of the message being relayed by TEAM and WECARE, even if they weren’t entirely supportive of the demonstrators either. [1459]

Crawdad Nelson, who had attended the rally and had written an account of the goings on there for the Anderson Valley Advertiser had interviewed one of counterdemonstrators who claimed to be an actual Pacific-Lumber employee. The worker refused to give their name, but from the responses to Nelson’s questions, it was revealed that the anonymous individual had only recently joined the company, by virtue of being one of the millworkers from the Carlotta facility which had been previously owned by L-P, but acquired by P-L after Maxxam’s takeover. Although his responses to Nelson were not entirely full of standard talking points, he nevertheless regurgitated much of the nonsense being spouted by TEAM and John Campbell. Many of the P-L employees with greater company seniority had stayed away from the counter rally, however, and there was a good reason for it. [1460]

* * * * *

It turns out that the workers in question had by now chosen to organize resistance to Maxxam, though not under the banner of the IWW, or even any union for that matter. Instead, they had chosen to pursue a substantially different course with the help of an entrepreneur named Patrick Shannon. Shannon, hailed from Willow Creek in Eastern Humboldt County. He wasn’t a logger, nor did he ever formally work in the timber industry himself, though he claimed to be from a logging family. [1461] At most, he was a wood cutter, making a living off of chopping wood on small plots of Yurok Indian land in the northeastern corner of Humboldt County. [1462] Instead of organizing a union, he proposed an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). As early as February, Pacific Lumber worker Grant Bishop contacted Patrick Shannon (who was friends with his mother) about the possibility of organizing a group of his coworkers about buying the company from Maxxam and operating it as a “worker owned” company. Bishop told Shannon that, “he was distraught over the stepped up harvesting and felt his job was becoming extinct.” [1463]

Shannon was nothing, if not charismatic. Between February and August of 1988, Shannon claimed to have met with as many as 150 P-L loggers, lumberjacks, millwrights, foresters, and cat skinners, individually or in small groups. [1464] Many of these meetings took place in the fire station of the Pete Kayes’ community of Hydesville, located just east of Fortuna, and southeast of Headwaters Forest. [1465] At one of them, attended by at least forty participants, Shannon received a standing ovation after his presentation. [1466] Kayes and Lester Reynolds were two of the main organizers of the campaign. [1467] Indeed, while Kayes may have been practical in his enthusiasm towards the campaign, to Reynolds it was his new religion. Upon hearing of the plan, the Sierra Club and others not only expressed enthusiasm, but asked how they could help the employees succeed in their efforts. [1468]

Patrick Shannon knew all about ESOPs, or at least, that’s the message he publicly conveyed. He was co-owner of a company called Sunray Cooperative Trucking, which advertised itself as specializing in ESOPs. Shannon counted as one of his biggest successes the employee takeover of the bankrupt San Francisco franchise of the Yellow Cab Company. [1469] According to Shannon, an ESOP not only provided the additional income, but gave workers the “pride of ownership that translates into greater dedication, efficiency, and profitability.” ESOPs also offered certain tax advantages not normally available in conventional corporate buyouts that no doubt appealed to the workers. First, when money is borrowed to finance the purchase of the employee’s company, the loan to the ESOP is repaid with pretax dollars. For example, in purchasing a home, interest on a home loan is deducted from personal earnings before taxes. With an ESOP, both principal and interest are deducted before taxes. Secondly, half of the interest income earned on the loan financing the ESOP is tax free thus rendering the financing of such loans at prime rate or better. On average, the interest rate on ESOP loans was about 85 percent of the market rate at the time. These advantages made repayment of any potential incurred debt in the purchase of the target company a lighter burden. In the case of P-L, this would allow for a return to the sustainable logging practices that preceded Maxxam’s takeover. [1470] An ESOP also had the advantage of pooling the risk among many, much like an insurance plan. [1471]

Beyond the initial meetings and discussion among the workers, there were several steps that had to be taken before the plan could move ahead. The next move involved the preparation of a feasibility study and an assessment of the company’s holdings. Shannon proposed that the employees facilitate these studies themselves by raising the needed funds themselves. [1472] All in all, there seemed to be much to recommend the idea financially, but would the wary P-L workers go for it, and how receptive would Maxxam be to such an offer?

* * * * *

When they finally got word of the ESOP campaign, Maxxam officials reacted very negatively. They declared that Pacific Lumber “was not for sale”, dismissed Shannon as a con-artist who lacked any real support among the workers, and questioned his business acumen. [1473] John Campbell declared, “I just hope (the workers) don’t lose (their money).” [1474] He added, “(The whole idea is) kind of strange…We’re making long-range plans and investing money. There is no intention of selling the company.” [1475] “(It’s) not feasible,” he further stated, “Why have a study when you already know it can’t work?” [1476] Public affairs manager David Galitz echoed Campbell’s sentiments, opining, “We firmly believe (the idea) is creating false hopes. I feel bad for the employees. There isn’t one who wouldn’t want to be the boss, but we have to look at this realistically. Not only is the company not for sale, the employees could never afford it.” [1477]

Shannon had anticipated “divide and conquer” tactics from Pacific Lumber’s management. He pointed out that the company had “not been for sale” either when Maxxam had acquired it, but Campbell rebutted this statement by describing the earlier instance as “a completely different situation”, noting that in 1985, P-L was publically traded and the management did not then have controlling interest in the stock, but that currently Hurwitz did under the auspices of MCO. [1478] Shannon countered this by pointing out that sufficient public pressure, perhaps from voters, politicians, labor unions or environmentalists could also induce Hurwitz to agree to a sale. [1479] If it turned out to be the case that Hurwitz had been guilty of insider trading in his takeover of PL, this revelation could serve as the catalyst to bring that pressure to bear. [1480] Failing that, even if Maxxam refused to sell the company, the workers had other means at their disposal, including a walkout. [1481] Shannon added that he would never personally advocate such a tactic, and that he hoped it never came to that. [1482] Dave Galitz dismissed such talk as empty posturing, claiming that the workers might shut down P-L for a day, but that the company received enough job applications every day to adequately replace striking workers. [1483] Campbell echoed these sentiments, declaring, “We have a tremendous number of very loyal, very responsible employees, and I don’t think they’d advocate (striking).” [1484]

As for the accusations of Shannon being a con artist, he was apparently used to such things. He explained, “Owners always suggest you’re trying to steal somebody’s money.” According to Shannon, however, none of that money would go into his pocket. “Let (those who doubt me) look deeply and get all the facts. My motives and honesty are proven.” [1485] Under the plan, each employee interested in participating in the ESOP would be required to “buy in” by contributing $500 by depositing that amount in a savings account, in the worker’s own name, at the Security Pacific Bank in downtown Eureka. Once enough workers had reached critical mass, an elected committee would begin transferring money from these accounts into a joint fund, which they would oversee at the direction of the assembly of participating workers. Shannon cautioned that this, by itself, would not guarantee success, but the pressure from lawsuits (and Earth First! led direct actions), might put enough pressure on Maxxam to agree to a deal. [1486] If a sale did occur, money for the purchase of the company would have to come from bank loans and donations from the community, including environmentalists. [1487]

* * * * *

There were other criticisms of Shannon from sources other than Maxxam, and not all of them were devoid of merit. He had claimed that at San Francisco Yellow Cab he had helped the workers establish an ESOP and turn the company around so that, by 1988, it paid out $20,000 in annual per capita dividends. [1488] Although Yellow Cab had successfully transformed itself thusly in 1977, in truth, Shannon had merely suggested the ESOP idea on San Francisco’s primary AM talk radio station, KGO and the Yellow Cab workers had made it happen. Shannon personally had an ideological aversion to labor unions, having opposed a union organizing drive there. [1489] The employees organized and borrowed money from the Teamsters anyway to eventually purchase the San Francisco franchise. James Steel, the operations manager who had provided much of the actual leadership in the campaign ruefully reflected that Shannon’s role in the entire affair was mostly talk. “Let me tell you right off: the man is a bullshit artist. He did a lot of talking, but that’s about it.” [1490]

The Corporate Press also impugned Shannon’s reputation. For example, on September 9, the San Francisco Chronicle published an exposé of Sunray, pointing out that Shannon’s own particular ESOP company had filed for bankruptcy two years previously, and showed debts of $281,089. As a result, the company had been forced to lay off two-thirds of its employees. [1491] The Chronicle also detailed Shannon’s attempts to enact a similar employee buyout plan for the San Francisco Giants in 1985 that went nowhere, because the owners refused to sell the team. [1492] John Campbell seized upon Sunray’s bankruptcy as well as a report of $3,000 in as yet unpaid parking citations as proof of Shannon’s lack of fitness to replace him—forgetting, of course, that Shannon would have no role in an ESOP at Pacific Lumber—declaring, “does that sound like a person who can run a billion dollar company?” [1493] The irony in the critics’ statements was that the Chronicle had also run an L. A. Times wire story on the same day, on the same page of its business section about the impending indictments of Drexel Burnham Lambert junk bond dealer Michael Milken who had assisted Hurwitz in taking over Pacific Lumber. [1494]

Stockbrokers also questioned the ESOP idea, generally displaying a bias towards conventional business models. Clark Bowen of Shearson Leman Brothers in Eureka, who had three years earlier accused Hurwitz of greenmail, expressed skepticism over the new proposal as well. Bowen doubted that the profit minded Hurwitz would agree to resell the company for $834 million, and this was a valid concern. Given Hurwitz’s past practices, he could ask for much more money, perhaps as much as double that amount. However, Bowen also issued some fairly dubious arguments about the ESOP concept in general saying,

“The idea has a lot of romantic appeal. Everyone thinks it’s wonderful…I think we all would love to see P-L as it was. I don’t think too many people would object to going back to a sustained cutter and an apparently locally owned company. (The ESOP promoters) think (they’ll) all have more incentive, be more profitable, more efficient. But unless you have good management in place to rally the workers and keep them in focus, you’ll have problems.” [1495]

Patrick Shannon responded to these dismissals by invoking Avis and North American Rayon as other successful ESOP attempts. [1496] The idea of a timber industry ESOP was not even especially unusual. In 1985, the workers at Omak Wood Products in Omak, Washington, successfully used an ESOP to purchase the company’s plywood mill and timberlands after Sir James Goldsmith, a corporate raider not unlike Charles Hurwitz, had acquired that company in a takeover of Crown- Zellerbach Corporation earlier that year. Closer to home, employees at Eel River Sawmills were discussing the possibility of an ESOP with the company’s management who were at least open to the suggestion. [1497]

Another anonymous local broker questioned the economies of scale, opining:

“Something like a mom and pop operation with 60 or 100 employees might work, but when you get into a giant corporation like PL, I don’t think employee ownership is viable. When you take ownership and put it in the hands of the employees, you’re removing all the top talent. If you take over in a hostile manner, top management is out. People have to run the operation and have to do the work. They don’t have the talent to do both.” [1498]

The ESOP supporters anticipated the possibility that the idea would be dismissed, perhaps even as a form of “communism”, which was a typical response to unorthodox ideas whether or not they had even the remotest connection to hose of Marx and Engels (or Rocker and Kropotkin, for that matter). [1499] For the most part, Patrick Shannon’s selling points were primarily focused on business sense and were solidly capitalistic, rather than stemming from a lofty sense of idealism. In Shannon’s mind, rank and file workers had no stake in the company unless they had a sense of ownership. Additionally, due to the increasing cost of living, workers needed a second source of income, generated by capital ownership or stock dividends to supplement their wages. [1500] Shannon wasn’t proposing the establishment of a workers cooperative. Ownership was not necessarily the same thing as management. ESOPs tended to hire management staff even though the ownership and profits were shared more horizontally than in a conventional business. In fact, there were several attempts to convince John Campbell to support the idea, perhaps in hopes that he might continue in his current management role under new ownership, but Campbell being a true believer in Maxxam, refused. [1501] Failing that, there were hints that the Murphys might also be able and willing to take control of the helm. [1502]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Michael Milken’s empire was collapsing dramatically and some of the shockwaves of that very widespread collapse were being directly felt by those left in the wake of Maxxam’s own tide of takeovers and market manipulations. The largest manifestation of Milken’s implosion was the failure of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC), which was well underway, although its course had been woven in the woof. As he had with the timber industry and so many others, President Reagan had deregulated the savings and loans industry. The resulting availability of easily accessible unregulated but federally insured capital drew speculators such as Milken like flies to lemonade. The junk bond dealer was able to convince a number of speculators to invest in an entire network of S&Ls, including the one owned by Hurwitz, USAT. When the speculators had done their damage and the vultures had picked the corpses clean in what amounted to a government sponsored shell game, the investors were left holding the bag and American taxpayers responsible for bailing out billions of dollars. Maxxam’s takeover of Pacific Lumber had been deeply intertwined in this much greater scandal. [1503]

Between 1985-88, Under the auspices of USAT, Maxxam purchased $1.8 billion in junk bonds from DBL, $400 million of which were used to purchase Pacific Lumber in October 1985. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), both federal banking regulatory agencies, informed the UFG, yet another Maxxam holding company, that it and its officers were liable for breach of fiduciary duty for wrongfully failing to maintain the net worth of the failed savings and loan. The FDIC additionally alleged, in that exchange for financial assistance from DBL, Hurwitz used USAT to aid Milken’s schemes to manipulate the junk bond market. The FDIC also accused UFG of wrongfully causing USAT to pay dividends to UFG. [1504]

According to Maxxam, “USAT’s decline (could) be attributed to a decline in the Texas real estate market,” but in all likelihood the actual cause of the savings and loan’s failure had everything to do with Maxxam’s involvement in Michael Milken’s junk bond schemes. The failure of the savings and loan company cost the taxpayers $1.6 billion, making it the third most expensive such bailout in history, but Hurwitz paid not one dime of that sum. [1505] At the time of USAT’s failure, Maxxam owned approximately 22 percent of USAT and 28 percent of United Financial Group (UFG), the thrift’s holding company. Meanwhile, DBL controlled approximately 10 percent. Unfortunately, since the FSLIC laws stipulated that the minimum threshold required to hold any party financially responsible for the financial cost of a bailout was 25 percent, Hurwitz and DBL had weaseled out of yet another dragnet in the complex world of finance capital. Tracing the actual route of the money was nearly impossible, and it was especially galling that a roughly similar amount of USAT “capital” had been used in Maxxam’s takeover of Kaiser. [1506]

Campbell, who was so quick to dismiss Patrick Shannon as a con man, had no comment about Hurwitz’s business acumen, however. Indeed, in the wake of the FDIC’s and OTS’s failure to secure a conviction of the Maxxam CEO, Campbell declared:

“Absolutely (cleared) Mr. Hurwitz of any wrongdoing in connection with possible irregularities surrounding stock ownership at the time of the takeover, eliminating the possibility that Hurwitz might be inclined to sell…They’ve done the investigations at the Congressional hearings, they found no wrongdoing (by Hurwitz)—only (Drexel Burnham Lambert, Inc) was implicated.” [1507]

Shannon was not silent about his supposed failings, however. He explained that Sunray’s bankruptcy filing had been under Chapter 11, as opposed to Chapter 7, the latter of which actually meant that the company could not pay its creditors. He further explained that the filing was necessitated by the company’s lender’s malfeasance, not their own. Delta Pacific Bank and its parent, Central Bank, had loaned the ESOP the money but was later closed down by government regulators after the financial institution had unexpectedly demanded loan repayments from various clients including Sunray. Shannon accused both banks of racketeering and fraud. As for the citations, these had resulted from overweight truckload tickets (which were common among freight truckers), not parking violations. [1508]

There were legitimate economic questions and doubts raised by those inclined to support the ESOP. Even if the employees successfully managed to purchase Pacific Lumber, they could not expect to maintain the accelerated pace of work, including 60-hour workweeks, and existing expanded workforce of approximately 1300 regular employees. Sooner or later, there would have to be a return to shorter workweeks and layoffs. [1509] Shannon acknowledged that this was a problem and—echoing earlier suggestions made by Kent Driesbock and John Maurer—proposed diversification of the company’s economic activities. [1510] For instance, the employees of Pacific Lumber could invest some money and resources into enterprises that generated revenue without reliance on the current accelerated timber production schedule. One of these ideas was a logging museum geared to tourists. [1511] Another idea—that had also been suggested by Maurer—was the creation of a P-L furniture company, to handle finished wood products. John Campbell, however, belittled this idea as well, arguing that freight costs in Humboldt County would rule out such a possibility—citing no substantive figures or carefully conducted studies to prove it, of course. [1512]

* * * * *

At first glance, it seemed that many Pacific Lumber workers opposed the ESOP concept, or at least Maxxam wanted people to believe this. On September 9, the Eureka Times-Standard ran a full-page advertisement complete with a graphic which read,

“To the people and business community of Humboldt County: We thought you would want to know, we are tired of the radicals and the flakes.

“We Do Not Need (sic) Earth First - (sic) to help us!

“We Do Not need (sic) the Sierra Club- (sic) to help us!

“We Do Not Need (sic) Patrick Shannon and Bill Bertain - (sic) to help us!

“We need to be left alone to do our jobs and enjoy this wonderful county.

“Paid for by the Local Employees of the Pacific Lumber Company.”

While the ESOP campaign earned the cautious support of the Sierra Club and even a handful of Earth First!ers, such as Darryl Cherney, it was certainly not organized by them, let alone Bill Bertain. Evidently there was somebody other than a group of P-L employees behind the advertisement and it showed. Supporters of the ESOP campaign saw the ad as yet another attempt by Maxxam, WECARE, TEAM, and other Corporate Timber interests to quell dissent. [1513] One anonymous ESOP supporter, very likely one of the P-L workers, created their own version of the advertisement with the word “enjoy” crossed off and replaced with “destroy” and the words “Local Employees” replaced with “The Owners”, which was a logical deduction of the advertisement’s true source. Nevertheless, John Campbell declared, “I’m hearing that the majority of the employees are against (the ESOP).” [1514]

It was difficult to gauge just how much support the idea had. One worker, speaking anonymously to Eureka Times-Standard reporter Marie Gravelle declared, “people I have talked to aren’t too enthused and would be real hesitant to put money into it…the plan sounds good on paper, but in reality it wouldn’t ever take place,” though he cited his personal reason for not supporting the plan as not having the money for it. Yet, Patrick Shannon claimed that that anywhere from 40 to 50 P-L employees attended the subsequent weekly meetings in Hydesville. [1515] He also claimed that 115 P-L employees had signed up to be organizers for the campaign and would likely convince a greater number to attend an upcoming meeting at the Eureka Inn to be held on September 28, 1988. [1516] He also noted that as many as 80 had already established $500 savings accounts. [1517]

Part of the mystery stemmed from the very real fear among the supporters that they might be open to retaliation should they openly reveal themselves, though they were not hesitant to speak anonymously, which was an indication that the idea did have support. “It’s the talk of the town,” said one unnamed employee. Another, a millworker, declared, “I can’t stop thinking about it. We sit around the living room and talk about buying the Pacific Lumber Company,” he refused to give his name, however. The motivations to buy the company included ecological concerns, even if those expressing them weren’t about to join Earth First!. “We’re raping our forests. What kind of heritage do we leave our children?” asked an unidentified woman who worked for the company. Still one more unnamed millworker stated, “I don’t agree with the trees spiking or anything (that radical environmentalists condone), but without the trees there are no jobs.” [1518] John Campbell had said that the employees were free to do what they wanted on their own time, “provided that it (didn’t) interfere with what (they were) expected to do.” [1519] The anonymous workers evidently felt that Campbell was lying, however, and for the time being remained incognito.

Pete Kayes was one exception to this group of anonymous workers. He explained, “Some are afraid to even come to the meetings,” but added that he was unafraid to speak out because he believed Shannon was sincere and that the urgency of the long term situation on a large scale overruled any potential short term personal consequences. Kayes agreed that PL’s current harvesting and production rates were unsustainable, stating, “It’s incredible the amount of wood that’s being cut. They’re selling logs for export; they’re selling logs to other mills. It’s gluttony.” [1520] Lester Reynolds explained his support saying:

“I have worked for P-L for over 30 years. Over those years I have been proud to talk to anyone about PL, but this changed three years ago. I find myself more negative than positive when discussing the company. There are so many questions left unanswered…

“If Maxxam has sold everything except the sawmills, the town (Scotia), and the timberland, how much of that money was spent on the debt? I don’t like what I am hearing from the loggers about the vast amount of trees being cut and the many logs that are being sold. In addition to the finished lumber being sold from the three mills, how much of this money is being paid toward the principle of the takeover debt? Or is it just paying the huge interest payments and the rest being set aside to take over Kaiser?…

“By now I think everyone has heard about the ESOP program. Most of the employees are interested Some are against it. Some are just riding the storm out. And there are those that are discouraging it. I attended the first two ESOP meetings with Patrick Shannon. I like the ESOP program. I opened my savings account. But don’t take my word for it—or anyone else’s. Attend a meeting and decide for yourself.” [1521]

John Maurer also signaled his support for the campaign, stating:

“…There is an excellent chance that we can reverse the takeover and repair the damage done to the company. Due to lawsuits and ongoing federal investigations, Mr. Hurwitz will feel growing pressure to sell Pacific Lumber. I hope that he will follow the example of Sir James Goldsmith and look favorably on the employees’ purchase offer…” [1522]

Supporters in the activist community were initially skeptical that the campaign could mobilize enough workers, partially because the sheer workload being experienced by P-L employees at the time, 60-hours per week on average, left little time for extracurricular activity. To expect more than ten percent of the workers to participate other than on paper seemed optimistic. [1523] That this many workers from a company that had never had a union contract were willing to speak at all was in itself a significant development. [1524] Pete Kayes offered, “It doesn’t matter whether it works or not. The attempt is what matters.” [1525]

The ESOP campaign got a huge boost when Warren Murphy publically declared his support for it. Upon hearing of the efforts, he stated, “I think it’s a great idea. I think it would be the only remaining way to get the company back in the hands of people that would really care.” He noted that he and his siblings had considered an ESOP when they attempted their own ill-fated leveraged buyout three years previously but lacked sufficient knowledge to make it happen. Murphy also sounded a note of caution, however, declaring:

“The question now is with what Hurwitz and Maxxam has done, can the ESOP take it and support the debt and at the same time return it to the original sustained yield harvest level? It makes no sense to finance a takeover [yourself] if you realize you have to keep on cutting three times the former level. We will cut our own throat.” [1526]

Warren Murphy also declined to join in the campaign until he was certain that the financial figures demonstrated the viability of the idea, but he did pledge to attend the upcoming meeting at the Eureka Inn. In response, Shannon declared, “He was very popular at P-L. I’m very pleased to have the endorsement, but I’m not satisfied until I see him coming home to be an employee of the new P-L.” [1527]

Anticipation for the meeting in Eureka grew as the date of the event drew near. Around the Pacific Lumber mills in Scotia, Carlotta, Fortuna, and elsewhere, workers supportive of the campaign began sporting green baseball caps with “ESOP” embossed on them in white letters, while diamond shaped signs began appearing in the windows of the homes and businesses of supporters. Demonstrating that the ESOP organizers more or less supported the unnamed broker’s concept of “top talent”, Patrick Shannon scheduled meetings with former P-L executives in hopes they might endorse the plan. [1528] He also met with retired company executives, wealthy financiers, bankers, lawyers, lawmakers, and environmentalists sympathetic to the idea. [1529]

On September 14, the wife of a P-L employee even contacted John Campbell by phone, anonymously, requesting that the executive attend a meeting with Patrick Shannon on September 21. Campbell reiterated that the company “was not for sale” and steadfastly refused the invitation, explaining to the Humboldt Beacon and Fortuna Advance who reported the attempted contact, “I don’t respond to anonymous phone calls.” He also claimed that one week was too short notice for him in any event. The unidentified woman explained that her attempt was genuine in hopes that she could convince Campbell to change his position on the matter adding, “We will try a petition to let him know that we’re really interested in talking to him. We’re for slowed down (timber production). We need the money Hurwitz puts outside the state in Humboldt County…you know they’d spend it here if they got the dividends.” Despite Campbell’s refusal to attend, Patrick Shannon indicated that he felt the tide was turning in favor of the ESOP. [1530] Indeed, it seemed to be, enough to prompt Charles Hurwitz to write a letter to the employees (dated September 15) opposing the campaign. In it he stated, “We trust that our employees will not be misled into investing their money and or time in an endeavor which has no merit and cannot succeed.” [1531]

* * * * *

Shannon’s faith was justified. On September 28, 1988, over 400 people many of them wearing ESOP hats, filled the banquet room at the Eureka Inn to support and participate in the campaign. [1532] There were many community supporters present as well, including Darryl Cherney, at the blessing of the campaign’s organizers. [1533] Although he did not actually attend the meeting, John Campbell dismissively claimed that “a lot of the participants at the meeting were just curiosity seekers, not employees…there are some employees for it, but a great deal are against it…I hope they don’t get misled.” [1534] According to the Eureka Times-Standard, however, most of the assembled crowd were employees and their families, perhaps as many as one quarter of the entire 1,300 strong P-L workforce in Humboldt County, and many of them, including particularly Steve Bishop and Dave Victorine, were not afraid to declare their support in front of TV cameras and reporters either. Wendy Dokweiler, the wife of another worker declared, “This is something we’ve needed since the takeover. Sure we’re getting a paycheck now, but when does it stop? The people in Texas don’t give a damn about our children. We want to be able to call the shots.” The workers present indicated that they were either concerned about their own long term futures, that of the forest’s or both. Warren Murphy also attended and now sounded much more encouraging tones—after having talked to many still current employees about the idea—declaring, “A lot of them are interested. They’ve got a tough road to hoe, but I think it’s possible.” [1535] Certainly Campbell’s dismissive assessment did not reflect the actual mood in the hall. [1536]

Shannon convened the meeting with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, demonstrating that the assembled group was not a just a fantasy concocted by “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs”. Emphasizing the point Shannon reminded everyone that the campaign was anything but a game. He repeated the selling points as well as the responsibilities of an ESOP, including pride in ownership, return on their investment, as well as various financial and tax incentives. Even though Maxxam continued to insist that the company wasn’t for sale, Shannon told the workers that they had a right to at least make an offer and that the time had come to do so because of the still existing legal scrutiny over Maxxam. Assisting Shannon was an attorney named Bruce Shine, general counsel for the United Textile Workers of America. [1537] In the past, Shine had helped that union to become the first ever to participate in an ESOP. [1538] At one point, the lawyer declared, “It’s not a sugar-fairy tale—you have to work, and care about Scotia and Humboldt County more than any other company.” [1539] Shannon added, “When the timber’s gone and your job is gone, it’ll also destroy the local economy. The only people who really care about P-L are you people.” [1540]

Although these were cautious notes, the crowd was still inspired and proceeded to nominate an ESOP coordinating committee. Shannon indicated that P-L employees Mitch Wagner and Bill Hunsaker had already volunteered to serve. The floor was then opened up for additional nominations, wherein fourteen more were chosen, consisting of Pete Kayes, Jack Thomspon, Larry Barrotte, Ken Dokweiler, Ron E. Smith, Dave Victorine, Joe Timmerman, Kevin Morris, Lester Reynolds, Guy Lamb, Bob Younger, Grant Bishop, John Hamilton, and Kelly Bettiga. [1541] Many of them—though not all—had been among the 500 who had signed the original advertisement opposing the Maxxam takeover in the first place. [1542] Workers’ dissent was very much still evident at Pacific Lumber.

* * * * *

In many ways the ESOP campaign resembled a traditional union organizing drive, with a similar effort to secure pledges of support for the campaign from a majority of the workers at PL, as well as the usual hesitations that come with the territory. The largest of these was the fear by the workers of management repression, thus explaining why originally many of them had refused to give their name in spite of their support for the idea. As ESOP committee co-chair Pete Kayes put it, “The vast majority of the employees support the concept of the ESOP. Of course there hasn’t been an employee organization at P-L for forty years, so we’re breaking new ground.” [1543] Warren Murphy had hinted at this, declaring,

“It’s a hard one. I know there are management techniques to discourage them. Those people could not only lose their jobs, but their home and everything. At this point you can’t ask them to risk it. They’ve been through a lot. Everybody’s had dreams that there could be some way to conquer Hurwitz, but it hasn’t happened.” [1544]

The ESOP campaign apparently received the expected boost when, on October 23, 1988, Bill Bertain filled yet another class action lawsuit on behalf of eight P-L employees and shareholders against Charles Hurwitz, Maxxam, MCO, pacific Lumber, DBL, Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Boyd Jefferies, Saloman Brothers, and many others involved in the merger. The plaintiffs included a few who served on the ESOP’s executive committee, such as Kelly Bettiga. [1545] The suit was filed in both state and federal court, seeking over $2.25 billion in damages, plus rescission and invalidation of the 1985 merger agreement. Bertain had forged an impressive litigation legal team of experts in securities law including Sachnoff Weaver & Rubenstein, Ltd., based in Chicago; Corinbilt & Seltzer, based in Los Angeles; Davis Barnhill & Galland and Lafollette & Sinyikin, both based in Madison, Wisconsin. [1546]

The suit, called the largest securities fraud case ever by the SEC, alleged a complex illegal scheme, orchestrated by Hurwitz from the get-go involving stock parking and various other fraudulent activities designed to acquire P-L. [1547] It charged that thousands of former P-L public stockholders were misled and defrauded when the directors agreed to sell the company fort 50 percent less than they knew it was worth. [1548] The suit also brought to light Milken’s “hedging” his bets on the takeover by instructing Ivan Boesky to purchase additional stock. [1549] Bertain charged that shares of PL’s stock held by Boesky and DBL should have actually been attributed to Hurwitz, which would have put him over the 5 percent ownership threshold, and would have required that he disclose his intent to the shareholders of the company thus triggering a vote. [1550]

The case picked up the thread of a suit filed by another Pacific Lumber shareholder, Elmo Omicini, in February 1986, the day after Rio Dell had voted against invoking Article 10 of PL’s Articles of Incorporation. Omicini had noted a small glaring detail that just about everybody else had missed in the final sale agreement. By agreeing to cede control over the employees’ $60 million pension fund in exchange for raising the purchase price from $38.5 to $40 per share, Hurwitz had actually benefitted financially earning an additional $30 million. [1551] The suit also noted the fact that, in 1987 reports surfaced that Executive Life had been statutorily insolvent at least once that year. [1552] “Hurwitz knew or should have known what was going on,” declared Bertain upon the filing of his latest suit. [1553]

State Senator Barry Keene cited the suit as clear evidence that Maxxam’s claims that it had Humboldt County’s best interests at heart declared:

“(These revelations) make nonsense of Maxxam’s insistence that the takeover deal proceeded on a rational and responsible basis, with the maintenance of our timber resources in mind…The price Maxxam was forced to pay—costing them perhaps an additional $100 million—ballooned their debt beyond the already recklessly excessive levels contemplated in the original deal. Their only way out of the squeeze was to turn trees into cash and intensify overcutting of virgin redwoods.

“What it boils down to is jobs now, but now jobs later. Is this the heritage we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren? How can we allow that to happen and maintain our self respect?” [1554]

Yet, in spite of the lawsuits, there was enough pressure from Maxxam to keep just enough P-L workers in fear so that Shannon had difficulty convincing a majority of the workers to join the campaign. In an effort to win them over, on October 25, Patrick Shannon mailed a letter to the 1,300 P-L employees that included the following statements:

“Too many P-L employees are sitting on the fence. They think they are playing it safe. They say they will go with ESOP as soon as Maxxam agrees to sell. It doesn’t work that way; that’s killing our chances…Bosses, your participation in ESOP planning and creation is part of your job. You owe it to P-L and you owe it to yourself. Any boss who is unwilling to work for ESOP and sustained yield is not worth his salt…

“To the extent that you hold back, we will work with environmentalists, other major timber companies, and other timber company employees. ESOP is your baby, but if you don’t care for it, the baby is up for adoption.” [1555]

In response to this letter, on November 1, an anonymous individual or group of individuals dumped a ton of unpackaged rock salt at the doorstep of the ESOP campaign office in Fortuna. Patrick Shannon feigned being unfazed however, and declared that the committee would respond by packaging the salt and selling it for several hundred dollars to raise funds for their continued efforts. Meanwhile, John Campbell issued a hasty public response distancing Pacific Lumber from the unknown perpetrators:

“It’s regrettable that Mr. Shannon’s recent desperate letter to our employees precipitated the actions of last night’s incident of the dumping of a quantity of salt on the doorstep of Shannon’s headquarters. We have said that his scheme is creating discord and is a disservice to all of Pacific’s people. We do not condone these actions and hope there will be no further incidents of this type… [1556]

Yet, Campbell spared no opportunity to get in a cheap shot of his own, deliberately trying to associate the ESOP campaign leaders with Earth First!, and others Campbell pegged as being of like mind:

“I have had it with Earth First!, the Sierra Club, EPIC, and now Patrick Shannon. I would remind you, we as employees (sic) did not ask for their help. These ‘outside’ people chose to force their will on our company. They want a divided P-L family. They want discontent. They want employee against employee, friend against friend. That will help them achieve their goals…

“Here is a group (whose members) claim they want to represent the employees, yet threaten to break up the company by selling it to the radical or other companies unless everyone goes along with their dream, (but) this is no dream! This is a scheme and a shameful one at that. I seem to remember that this is America where an individual still has the right to choose his or her destiny, not to be threatened or coerced into something he or she may not wish to do.” [1557]

At this point, however, many of the workers involved in the ESOP campaign were frustrated enough with Maxxam that they were willing to overlook any of the supposed differences they had with Earth First!. In fact, it was the ESOP committee that had suggested that Earth First! organize the rally which Cherney transformed into the Day of the Living Dead Hurwitzes in the first place! [1558]

Shannon and the ESOP committee continued to mobilize community and financial support for the campaign. Over the course of the next few months, they organized several highly successful fundraisers and met with representatives of the General Electric Capital Corporation to form a potential partnership bid to purchase Pacific Lumber. [1559] Shannon also hinted that Louis Kelso, an investment banker who had written the seminal book on ESOPs, Democracy and Economic Power, might also be amenable to a loan, but wished to keep silent on the matter publically. [1560] “We hope to have our purchase offer on Maxxam’s desk in sixty days,” declared Shannon. [1561] For a group of workers not familiar with such a business model, they were proving that they did indeed have the “talent” it took to at least spark interest and line up support.

The campaign was bolstered further in December by a pair of unrelated, but significant developments. mso-bidi-font-size:10.0pt;On December 19, Judge William Ferroggiaro declared, in ruling that would prove to have much greater significance a year later, in a 33 page decision, that the CDF had failed to properly consider measures proposed by the Department of Fish & Game to lessen the effect of wildlife of P-L’s logging and that under business as usual, the agency’s THP process had resulted in a “race to the chainsaw, the barricades, and the courthouse.[1562] It is no way to conduct the public’s business, nor is it a way to ensure economic stability, or certainty, to the owner-operator, and the business of timber production.”[1563] Then, on the Winter Solstice, Drexel Burnham Lambert pled guilty to six felony counts of securities law violations and agreed to pay $650 in fines and penalties. They also consented to sacrificing their chief architect, Michael Milken. [1564]

All of this would seem to have bolstered the ESOP campaign, but there was a fundamental problem. Shannon’s and Shine’s knowledge of labor law was limited, and his argument that workers of P-L organizing an ESOP was akin to their discussing wages, working conditions, and employee benefits was a largely untested theory. [1565] For better or worse, Pete Kayes discovered much to his consternation that he was to set the precedent. Shortly after the anonymous salt deposit, Kayes’s section boss instructed his fellow maintenance workers not to discuss the ESOP campaign with the dissident blacksmith any further. A handful of them in defiance of this directive dialoged with Kayes anyway, and informed him that they would not be cowed into silence, but after that moment, the number of fellow P-L workers that had been in regular communication with him began to dwindle over the course of the month. Following that, P-L ceased granting Kayes the periodic automatic cost of living increases typically given to all of the company employees that Hurwitz had pledged not to alter upon his takeover of the company. Firmly believing that this constituted retaliation against his leadership in the campaign, Kayes filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the NLRB. [1566] Bob Younger, who had a similar experience, soon joined him. Had they known what they were up against, they might have had second thoughts.



13. They’re Closing Down the Mill in Potter Valley

“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) [1567] 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.” [1568]

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.

“It hurt,” said Ray Smith, “There’s no mill like Potter Valley. Everyone was close there. We were like a family. It was like when you graduate and boom…all your friends are just gone.” [1569]

The company offered the workers scheduled to be laid off jobs in their other facilities, but did not guarantee they’d actually be hired. Nevertheless, Shep Tucker, L-P’s spokesman for Humboldt County, opined, “With five months to go before the closure, it’s a definite advantage for the workers.” The workers themselves and the residents of Potter Valley, many of whom worked for or owned small businesses that economically depended on the existence of the mill, were not so optimistic. They agreed that a lucky few might be able to secure positions in nearby L-P facilities, such as in Cloverdale or Willits, but many who sought continued employment with the company would have to move away from the North Coast or even out of the state. [1570] Even if they were fortunate enough to remain in the area, they would have to start at the bottom of the ladder again. “It’s depressing to go from a day job to a night job making $2 hour less,” declared Ray Smith. [1571] The owners of the dependent businesses faced an even worse plight. The economic impact on Mendocino County would include a $5 million payroll loss and an estimated loss of $145,000 in property taxes besides. None of these figures boded well for the already financially strapped timber dependent county. [1572]

L-P quickly identified a convenient scapegoat for the closings: unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs (as usual). The company spokespeople blamed the closings on a dwindling log supply, US Forest Service timber cutting regulations, and environmentalist inspired lawsuits involving fire salvage operations. [1573] Additionally, L-P spokeswoman Glennys Simmons blamed set asides for spotted owls, citing her erroneous belief that spotted owl protections required 2,600 acres of forestland for each pair of owls, but in fact, the actual amount required was 1,000. These charges were echoed and played up in the media by Doug Bosco, who stated, “When we can’t even salvage fire damaged timber, then I feel the environmentalists do have to take some of the responsibility for the 132 people who will be out of work in Potter Valley.” [1574] Congressman Bosco had also resurrected the oft repeated (but false) argument that most of the old growth timber was protected in parks and protected wilderness areas. [1575]

Local media jumped into the fray and excoriated the environmental movement for its insensitivity to timber workers’ livelihoods. [1576]

As if these statements weren’t bad enough, the right wing majority on the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors practically had an orgy of fascistic daydreaming at the environmentalists expense. On December 6, 1988, at their monthly meeting, Jim Eddie proposed converting the soon-to-be shuttered mill into a work camp for prisoners in the overcrowded Mendocino County Jail. In one of his last acts before the expiration of his term, John Cimolino proposed sending the county’s welfare recipients there. Marilyn Butcher pulled no punches by stating, “ [1577] Norm DeVall, the lone member of the board not solidly aligned with Corporate Timber sounded the voice of reason, reminding the others that he, and many environmentalists had offered to clean up and replant after forest fires the previous year, but their offers had been denied, but were still open. This seemed to calm the others down, at least, and they decided to refer L-P’s announcement to the county’s Private Industry Council. [1578]

The environmentalists countered that L-P was lying and they provided substantial evidence that proved it. Earth First!ers Betty Ball and Don Morris quickly debunked L-P’s claim on lawsuits, pointing out that only three lawsuits had been filed challenging the company’s salvage logging plans, and none of them had held up the bidding process. The total number of challenges to the approximately 400,000 acre total included in all L-P logging plans for the county affected a mere 800 acres of timberland. Sierra Club forest practices taskforce chair Gail Lucas buoyed Ball’s and Morris’s figures and added:

“The problems the timber companies are facing now are not caused by environmentalists, or the U.S. Forest Service, or anyone else, but their own overcutting in the past…U.S, Forest Service policies in the national forests do not allow cutting beyond a sustained yield level…The timber companies are looking at a declining timber supply now as a result of twenty years of overcutting in the 1950s and ‘60s, when the average annual cut on private lands in Mendocino County was double the average growth.” [1579]

These statements were backed up by the staff of the Mendocino National Forest who confirmed that there were no lawsuits pending, and that all appeals filed by environmentalists had been denied, though they also stated that the information being circulated by environmentalists was prompting them to reconsider their thinking. [1580] L-P, however, had very little old growth left to speak of, and a lawsuit against fire sales or salvage logging in the current context simply made no sense. Just as P-L had done earlier in the year, in response to CDF director Jerry Partain blocking a mere three THPs out of 530, L-P was crying “wolf!”

For their part, Earth First!ers were quite prepared to fight to keep the mill from closing, knowing full well that the closure of one mill wouldn’t even put a dent in L-P’s continued rapacious destruction. Darryl Cherney publically reached out to the affected mill workers, stating:

“I just took a part-time job working for a logging outfit so that I could understand the timber industry better. The mere fact that that L-P has to close its mills proves that it is not operating on a sustained yield basis, which is just as much anti-labor as it is anti-environment. I would encourage workers to walk L-P’s timberlands to see where their jobs have gone. Earth First!ers are as affected by the economy as L-P workers; and we’re extremely concerned about it. Who isn’t?” [1581]

LP hadn’t dropped their final bombshell however. On December 10, 1988, L-P announced the closure of another mill in Red Bluff (Tehama County), which employed nearly 100. [1582] Joe Wheeler promised that this mill would not be dismantled and could be reopened at some future date. [1583] Shep Tucker publically agreed that there were no more North Coast mill closures “on the horizon”, but, considering the permanent closure of the mill in Potter Valley, these were not particularly reassuring announcements. [1584]

Once again, the company blamed environmentalists. [1585] This time, however, the workers didn’t buy it. The Red Bluff mill was one of the few remaining L-P mills that was still unionized, and Fred Emory, President of the United Independent Box and Lumber Workers suggested that, in this case at least, the company’s actual motivations were union busting, stating:

“(The mill closure could be an) attempt on the part of L-P to disrupt the membership of the union due to the timing and manner in which L-P (announced) the closure...LP has used odd work schedules and extended shut downs in the past that have made it increasingly difficult for unions to conduct business.” [1586]

An anonymous worker made it clear that they didn’t believe L-P’s rhetoric about the mill closures being due to the actions of the local environmental activists stating, “We’ve always known that L-P is over cutting, and a lot of us have had our bags packed for the deep, south for a long time now…I guess (the environmentalists) overdo it sometimes, but I’ve got more in common with them than I do with Merlo.” [1587] Even Ray Smith didn’t believe the official company line, suggesting that L-P had made “economic decisions…behind closed doors.” [1588]

Obviously, L-P had an agenda that they weren’t completely revealing to the public. Earth First!er Don Morris speculated that L-P was attempting to secure more timber from the Mendocino National Forest. [1589] Evidence later showed that L-P’s claims, echoed by Doug Bosco, of insufficient logs available due to lawsuits were indeed a lie, as the Mendocino National Forest’s annual timber Sale Report for Fiscal Year 1988 revealed that over 135 million board feet (mbf) was harvested from 10,000 acres of the forest, and 94 mbf were logged as “fire salvage timber,” all of which could have been bid on by L-P, but weren’t. [1590] Don Morris also noted that L-P had already contracted that year to log 42 mbf of fire damaged and ‘incidental’ green timber—enough to run the Potter Valley Mill for an entire year—on 6,000 acres of the forest, and that 32 mbf of this total had been obtained for as little as $20 dollars per thousand bf, which was far below its actual worth, and that the average bid on such timber was between $71-$135 per thousand. Additionally, much of the wood secured by other company’s bids generally wound up being milled by L-P in Potter Valley anyway! [1591] Bruce Anderson on the other hand, speculated that the actual reason for the closure of the mill was motivated by the company’s desire to avoid cleaning up years of toxic discharges caused by their careless milling operations. [1592]

Earth First!er Larry Evans blamed automation and exports. Earth First! could not do much of anything to challenge automation, but they could campaign against log exports. While everything else had been going on, the log export issue had not died down. In 1984, further following the logic of supply side economics, the US Government introduced federal subsidies for private log exports—under rules pertaining to a wide variety of export commodities—which allowed multinational corporations to obtain tax exemptions of 15 to 30 percent of their export income. [1593] Despite the supposed restrictions on exporting logs from federal lands, exports had increased by one billion board feet between 1984 and 1988. [1594] In 1987, three bbf of logs were exported from ports on the Pacific Coast of the United States to the Pacific Rim, and almost 70 percent of those were sent exclusively to Japan. On the west coast of the United States, a total of 4.6 bbf of raw logs were exported in 1988, resulting in loss of nearly 14,000 mill workers’ jobs. [1595] Accurate figures showed that log exports by far dwarfed any environmentalist impacts when it came to job losses by timber workers. [1596]

With that in mind, Evans announced a multipronged, comprehensive campaign by Earth First! and the IWW to combat the practice. His call encouraged mill workers, loggers, and truckers, stating that they should work together with the environmentalists on this particular issue:

“It’s obvious to us that the timber industries’ whining about environmentalist-caused mill closures is just another scam to obscure the truth.

“The market for overseas log exports is booming with a 22% increase in volume shipped in 1988 over 1987. This has fueled accelerated liquidation of the forest ecosystems of the American Pacific Northwest.

“The myth that Earth First! and other environmental groups are out to deliberately create an economic depression in the Pacific Northwest is total nonsense…We all suffer the social disruptions caused by large scale layoffs. That’s why our beef is with the economic system which encourages forest liquidation for profits and greed instead of reasonable need. If this be free trade, we need free trade like we need a hole in the head. [1597]

“We as environmentalists, workers, and union members are pursuing this campaign as the first step towards the attainment of a truly sustainable economy emphasizing the long term health of the land and its ecosystems, as well as maintaining employment for timber workers and their children and their children’s children. We do not see these goals as contradictory, but rather as complimentary. Careful land use practices which emphasize the design of nature are labor intensive.” [1598]

Evans announced that the campaign would include letter writing drives; public outreach and education through bumper stickers, press releases, literature tables, brochures, and more; research; and, of course, direct action (carefully chosen at the appropriate targets). Evans admonished workers and environmentalists to share information, send anonymous tips, and set up their own, independent campaigns. [1599]

Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney went a step beyond that and directly called L-P’s bluff. They challenged L-P to open up their books and reveal exactly what their actual timber holdings were. [1600] Stating that they were tired of being blamed in the corporate and local media for the loss of timber workers’ jobs, they issued a press release stating that they would call on the local environmental activists to withdraw all of the alleged (nonexistent) lawsuits and all spotted owl set asides if Louisiana-Pacific would agree to permanently keep open both of the mills scheduled for closure and guarantee that all of the workers slated for layoffs working in perpetuity, arguing that sustained yield equals sustained employment. This move was supported by a wide assortment of timber workers, former timber workers, environmentalists, residents, and local labor union officials (including the IWA’s Don Nelson). Faced with a P. R. debacle, Glennys Simmons made token gestures of approval, but she was overruled by her superiors. [1601] Shep Tucker dismissed the Earth First!’ers charges by stating, “They can say industry is the bad guy, but they don’t know anything about meeting payroll…there’s nothing that hurts more than seeing the faces of those guys when you tell them they’re not going to have jobs.” [1602]

Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari knew that the campaigns to outreach to the timber workers held much potential, and eventually, they penned their first song together, Potter Valley Mill, which not only was written from the perspective of the affected millworkers, it paraphrased actual quotes from some of them, and Judi Bari designed the cover showing a graphic representation of a lumber mill. [1603] Potter Valley Mill became one of the most requested songs on Country Music station KUKI in Ukiah, where it was often plaid at least twice daily, and was a favorite among local timber workers. [1604] Workers reportedly sold cassette singles of the song in Potter Valley to raise awareness and hardship funds. [1605] Bari and Cherney embarked on a short “Musical Missed-tree Tour” around the North Coast to raise awareness about the closure as well as related issues. [1606] According to Judi Bari, “Shortly after the mill closed, (and L-P opened a chip mill in nearby Calpella which only employed 15), three men, who were, according to Judi Bari, “definitely not Earth First!ers”, tried—unsuccessfully—to torch the new chip mill with a Molotov cocktail” [1607], perhaps because the song made two cryptic references that could have been interpreted as promoting sabotage. [1608]


14. Mother Jones at the Georgia Pacific Mill

“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).[1609] 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.[1610] 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.

Timber mills, even unionized mills, are dangerous places, approaching conditions not unlike those in the meat packing plants described in Upton Sinclair’s classic, The Jungle. For years, North Coast timber, pulp, and paper mill workers had complained about dangerous conditions and toxic chemicals used in mill machinery and processing applications, and management’s lax safety standards. For example, in 1982, Michael Welch, an employee at McNamara and Peepe’s Arcata mill was instructed to work with lumber being dipped in Pentachlorophenal (PCP)—an anti-fungicidal agent used to prevent discoloration of the wood. No safety equipment was available, and when Welch questioned his supervisors, he was told, “this stuff is completely safe; you could bathe in it.” However, OSHA had already stated otherwise, because, not unlike Garlon, this chemical was closely related to Agent Orange, and its effects were similar. Welch had noticed that safety warnings specifically meant to warn workers about the dangers of this particular chemical had been removed, without any explanation. Welch refused to do the work, but he was the exception, rather than the rule, and PCP was used in hundreds of mills throughout the industry at the time.[1611]

Two years later, Simpson announced that they would be using tetrachlorophenol (TCP) at its facility in Korbel. The workers, represented by IWA Local #3-98 opposed Simpson’s plans, even threatening to strike over the issue at one point. Simpson negotiated a settlement, promising to use a failsafe device on the company’s waterlines to prevent contamination (which was never done). Less than six months later, in February 1985, these same workers were exposed to fungicide Busan 1030, a TCP substitute, which had leaked into the company’s water supply, and was detected by its odor (TCP itself is odorless). Simpson reacted by laying off the workers and refusing to pay them for lost time, arguing that “just because they promised to install a safety device and then didn’t is no reason for them to pay workers for a layoff caused by a company mistake.” The company and its hired physician argued that Busan 1030 was “relatively safe,” again in spite of well cited contrary evidence.[1612] Indeed, the use of dioxins in paper mills was a common occurrence, and each time the companies that used them insisted they were “perfectly safe”.[1613] However, surveys taken throughout the US and Canada already indicated a significant incidence of toxic and even fatal reactions to these chemicals, and in Canada, at least, unions were lobbying to ban these chemicals altogether.[1614]

Mill workers were also routinely exposed to asbestos as was the case in the Louisiana-Pacific mill at Samoa. On January 2, 1988, five workers filed suit in Humboldt County Superior Court that they had been injured when the company illegally removed asbestos, without taking proper precautions, during the week of June 22, 1987. They further charged that L-P had foreknowledge of the danger but neglected to warn the affected workers or take reasonable steps to protect them from exposure. There were at least 20 other workers not part of the suit who were similarly exposed. OSHA had already determined that there was no minimum threshold of exposure to asbestos that didn’t involve at least some risk of cancer, but L-P disregarded that information. The Corporate Press neglected to cover this news, and they also failed to note that one person who did, Arcata resident Ida Honoroff, was a staunch environmentalist.[1615] However, such an example did not conveniently fit into the stereotype of “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs,” so they ignored it.

* * * * *

The Georgia Pacific Mill cogenerated its own power with a machine known as a “hog”, which converted wood debris from the milling operations into heat for a furnace that generated steam which in turn generated electricity which powered the mill. If the hog failed, the mill would come to a halt until it was repaired.[1616] On the morning of Saturday, February 11, 1989, several workers reported the presence of oil on a pump near the hog to head millwright, Frank Murray, although other workers later reported that oil had been seen near that location for a few days previously. Murray was summoned in case the pump in question was failing. Millwrights function as triage mechanics, fixing machinery in the production oriented, profit driven mills on the fly if necessary, and Murray was proficient in this task. Accompanied by mill electrician Ron Atkinson, Murray went to investigate and found oil all over the floor near the pump.[1617]

As he was examining the device, a metal capacitor box located several feet above his head—which was the actual source of the leak—burst open, drenching him in a chemical shower. Startled by the initial drops, Murray looked up and swallowed nearly a gallon of the liquid as it cascaded down on to him. Apparently the capacitor, which was used to start the hog motor, had been leaking for some time, as much as an hour before being finally checked, and as luck would have it, burst at the exact moment when Murray stood beneath it. He began gagging, and—being a middle aged man with dentures—spit out his false teeth. Murray was temporarily blinded, but soon noticed tags near the burst housing warning of PCBs once he regained his sight.[1618]

Murray was in agony, but his anger exceeded his pain, and he confronted the on duty G-P safety director, Ron Venett, who had been called to the site of the incident, which had also been witnessed by Atkinson. Venett denied that the oil contained PCBs, and he and Murray proceeded to argue about it for several minutes. Atkinson also argued with Vennett, then hosed off Murray in one of the plant bathrooms before the latter was taken to the hospital emergency room. Murray told the emergency room staff that he was certain he had ingested PCBs, but the staff responded that the company had already reported that the chemicals were merely mineral oil. The emergency room doctors did not even pump Murray’s stomach, even though he arrived at the hospital less than 30 minutes after the accident.[1619]

Meanwhile, as the capacitor continued to leak, more and more of the oil found its way onto the area around the conveyer belt that fed the hog, the nearby machinery, and the sawdust that typically accumulates in the mill. Murray was sent back to work that night, even though he complained of an upset stomach and dry skin, and he and a crew of millwrights welded and cut around the spill for several hours afterwards. They taped a plastic bag under the burst capacitor to collect the still dripping oil. GP’s insistence that the oil didn’t contain PCBs wasn’t convincing any of the workers though, and some electricians even refused to repair the capacitor or even work in the area without protective gear. Nevertheless, at least three shifts of workers came and went and tracked some of the oil into their homes where they exposed their spouses, children, and extended family members to it.[1620]

Whether or not Venett was mistaken or deliberately lying, he went to great lengths to hide or destroy the evidence. Some of the oil was apparently cleaned up using paper towels, which were then burned in the hog furnace. Meanwhile, records of the incident, including the details that supported the conclusion that the oil contained PCBs were altered or conveniently lost. At least one worker contacted the Fort Bragg Police and reported a PCB spill. The Police then contacted the US Coast Guard and the Office of Emergency Services (OES) in Ukiah, who contacted G-P management at the mill. Vennett reported to Greg Smith of the OES that there was no PCB spill, and stated that he would report the same to the other agencies that had been notified. Smith uncritically accepted this report, and no investigators from any of the agency were dispatched to the mill to verify Venett’s claim. Plant Manager Don Whitman backed Venett’s account, which omitted the visual reports by several workers of the yellow warning label on the housing warning of PCBs.[1621]

According to G-P records, one of the plant’s electricians, John Bucholz, supervised the cleaning up of all of the remaining oil with absorbent pads, which were then stored in plastic bags, that were in turn placed in the mill’s chemical room, which is almost always locked. G-P evidently didn’t want these to be inspected, lest the claim about PCBs turned out to be true. Then, on the afternoon of February 13, 1989, according to GP’s records, Venett met with Jim Ehlers of the Mendocino County Health Department, and again claimed that the oil contained no PCBs. Ehlers took Venett at his word, and like Smith, also didn’t investigate the matter independently, and praised Venett for the cleanup job. Even then, the plastic bag and the yellow warning label were still clearly visible on the housing of the burst capacitor.[1622]

* * * * *

Hog tender Treva Vandenbosch, a G-P employee of eight years, whose workweek began on Mondays, noticed the plastic bag and the oil after wiping off a gage for the oil pump, however, and stood up on the Hog conveyer belt to get a closer look.[1623] There she noticed the yellow warning label, and instantly contacted the IWA Local #3-469 safety representative, and requested that he ask G-P if the capacitor did indeed contain PCBs. The company told the safety representative who reported to Vandenbosch that the warning label was incorrect, but she was skeptical, partly because her hands and face had been exposed to the oil and were now burning. During the lunch break, Vandenbosch and a fellow worker examined the burst capacitor once again, took a sample of the oil, and observed that the bag now had a hole in it through which oil was dripping onto the machinery and plant floor below once again.[1624] She then contacted fire department and OSHA, whom she had to call twice before she got an answer.[1625]

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Vandenbosch, plant manager Whitman, fearing that the situation might unravel further, had asked that Venett request that a lab test a sample of the oil himself, which he did, presumably from the locked cleanup materials. Whitman was being questioned by Frank Murray when the results finally came back, which confirmed that the oil did in fact, contain PCBs. On Tuesday, while Vandenbosch was working—with her hands and face still burning where exposed to the oil—the Fire Department arrived, taped off the hog, and instructed everybody to stay out of the area.[1626]

Vandenbosch again contacted IWA Local #3-469, this time to complain about the situation. That afternoon, she was summoned to the mill by Ron Venett for a conference and found herself in a captive meeting with five supervisors who proceeded to harass her and berate her, stating that the spill had been contained and that she was beating a dead horse. They drew her a diagram of the spill that was nothing close to the actual situation. Vandenbosch responded by asking them why they hadn’t told her and her fellow workers that the oil contained PCBs, why the company had not followed OSHA procedures, and also asked why she alone, among the workers exposed to the oil, was being questioned, to which they responded that they would also question the others later (but never did).[1627]

Two days after that, acting on information from her fellow workers, Vandenbosch attempted to meet with Don Mobely, a G-P executive who was in town for a meeting to get to the bottom of the situation, but was denied. Refusing to back down, Vandenbosch singlehandedly picketed GP’s main offices in Fort Bragg, until the company acquiesced and granted her an audience with Mobely. G-P then contacted ENSCO Environmental Service, a private toxics first responder company based in Fremont, California, who arrived at the mill late Tuesday evening, February 14. ENSCO worked until 6:30 PM the next day. Thursday morning, G-P informed Randy Leach of the Mendocino County Health Department that the cleanup was complete, and Leach declared the area safe to enter. ENSCO then contacted G-P announcing that their initial report that their work was done had been in error. The area was then again closed, ENSCO worked until Friday, and this time removed the wooden floor surrounding the affected area, and shipped it to Arkansas to be incinerated. The horse had been anything but dead.[1628]

In spite of the growing body of evidence that something was seriously wrong, G-P management continued to paint Vandenbosch as a loose cannon, and soon many of her fellow workers stopped associating with her. Management accused her of “faking” her aliments, responding, “we’re all going to die (eventually) of one form of cancer or another anyway,” according to Ron Atkinson. Vandenbosch was not satisfied with this response and sought medical attention. She went to the Georgia-Pacific nurse, who referred her to the medical care of her choice, a nurse practitioner, Georgia McClusky, who was a medical professional Vandenbosch had known and trusted for some time.[1629] This time her trust would be betrayed.

McClusky had recently gone to work for Dr. Berenson of the town of Mendocino, who—it turns out—was loyal to Georgia Pacific. McClusky brushed off Vandenbosch’s concerns, responding, “we’ll what did you expect? You’re playing hardball.” Then McClusky suggested that Vandenbosch quit G-P, and although company referrals automatically start workers compensation claims, even if the claim is ultimately determined not to be the company’s responsibility, McClusky requested that Vandenbosch pay for the doctor’s visit. Still not satisfied, she consulted McClusky a second time, expressing anxiety, but McClusky wrote a report stating that Vandenbosch was not worried about PCB contamination in complete contradiction of the latter’s actual emotional state! Upon returning to work, Vandenbosch’s coworkers shunned her; one accused her of trying to shut the mill down completely. She received hang-up calls late at night, and after much frustration and anxiety, ultimately took McClusky’s advice and resigned, and, after several months and numerous appeals, she finally received workers compensation, but no assurances that she wasn’t still in danger from exposure to PCB’s.[1630]

* * * * *

To the local media, the spill was a nonissue. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat[1631] and Fort Bragg Advocate-News[1632] covered it initially, and the reporting was woefully inadequate. The mainstream news would only report that G-P public relations spokesman Don Perry described the incident as “unfortunate,” and added, “According to our records there was no way we could have known PCBs were at that site.” It also reported that IWA Local #3-469 Union Representative Don Nelson believed that the company had made a “real effort” to phase out PCB-laden equipment in the mill.[1633] Nelson even went so far as to downplay the entire affair on his radio show on KMFB, which angered Murray, Atkinson, and VandenBosch, who singled him out among the union’s leadership as “pathetic” and not doing “jack shit”.[1634]

The issue might have remained unknown if it weren’t due to a bit of good fortune. A local Fort Bragg resident, Anna Marie Stenberg, who ran a daycare center out of her residence in sight of the mill, and happened to care for Ron Atkinson’s then three-year-old son, Jason, noticed that Ron was visibly upset one day when he came to retrieve the boy. Stenberg knew Atkinson and his wife to be people of solid integrity. When questioned, Atkinson explained to Stenberg the gravity of the situation, including his failed attempts to contact the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, the area’s most major daily periodical, to cover the issue in depth. When told about the burning of the cleanup materials in the hog furnace, Stenberg informed Atkinson that the issue was even larger than anyone had realized, because PCBs have to be taken to a special incinerator in order to be properly discarded. The hog wasn’t hot enough to do that, and under insufficient heat, burning PCBs turn into Dioxin. In their effort to hide or even destroy the evidence, G-P had risked the health and safety of the entire city of Fort Bragg.[1635]

Atkinson was now livid, and was determined to see justice done. Stenberg agreed to help, suggesting that Ron talk to her then husband, Mike Koepf, who was a freelance writer and submitted articles periodically to the Anderson Valley Advertiser, which had a small circulation, but one large enough to at least get some notice. Atkinson, who was part Pomo Indian, was used to fighting the powers that be, and this time was no exception.[1636] Koepf interviewed Atkinson (who initially requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal), Murray, and VandenBosch, whose stories all corroborated one another’s, and his article was published in the Anderson Valley Advertiser just over one month after the PCB spill.[1637] He also interviewed Don Nelson, but chose not to include any of the quotes from the maligned union official, which irked the latter, who in turn wrote an angry letter to the editor (where he again underplayed the seriousness of the accident).[1638] Both Bruce Anderson and Mike Koepf responded, equally angrily, pointing out that the reason why none of Nelson’s statements had been printed was because they matched those of Georgia-Pacific word-for-word, and had dismissed the workers’ concerns as trivial.[1639] PCBs and dioxin were no trivial matter, however. Mike Koepf had also reported:

“The Environmental Protection Agency banned the disposal of PCBs in 1975 after tumors and reproductive disorders showed up in laboratory animals. Trout have been killed by exposure of 8 parts per billion, shrimp by 1 part per billion. PCB is a suspected carcinogen. Early studies of PCB contamination concentrated on respiratory exposure, but recent studies are looking at other areas of the body. A long-term study of workers exposed to PCB printed in the Archives of Environmental Health in December, 1987, is focusing on the rectum, liver, gall bladder, and the biliary tract. The American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal in March, 1987, cites “evidence for dermal (skin) absorption as the major route of body entry.” Yet the EPA still officially measures exposure strictly by respiratory standards.

“Increasing public awareness, however, is forcing state governments to look to more current methods of approaching PCB exposure. Last year (1988) California voters passed Proposition 65, and to contaminate water with more than .045 parts per billion PCBs is now a reportable offense in this state. The lab samples taken from the site of this spill were over 1,000 times more potent than this standard.[1640]

Stenberg, meanwhile, volunteered perhaps as many as 40-hours per week, phoning the EPA, OSHA, and the Attorney General’s Office; she then retained a lawyer, Karl Sigurd Leipnik of Healdsburg, for the injured workers.[1641] Since few of the millworkers read Anderson’s muckraking Boonville based periodical, Stenberg made copies of the article and had the families who used her daycare services recopy and distribute the bulletin throughout Fort Bragg. She also contacted Mendocino County District 5 Supervisor, Norm DeVall—not even fully aware of who he was—and described the incident in graphic detail on the air on the latter’s community access radio show on KMFB. DeVall suggested that Stenberg contact Fort Bragg City Council member Andre Schade who was one official not completely in GP’s pocket (or somebody who had once held a position in G-P management).[1642] Schade agreed to place the issue on the agenda of the April 10, 1989 meeting.[1643]

Meanwhile, after hearing of the incident, at the March 28, 1989 Board of Supervisor’s meeting, Dr. Craig McMillan, head of the Mendocino County’s public health program was grilled in front of the Mendocino County supervisors by angry residents. Two issues angered them in particular. The first was a less than stellar report by the California Air Quality Control Board concerning Mendocino County’s Air Pollution Control District, judging McMillan’s Pollution Control District to be a failure.[1644] The report declared that local violators were routinely excused by telephone calls, fines were left uncollected, and enforcement positions were routinely unfilled. The report also judged the standards by which tests were conducted as woefully inadequate, citing for example, an instance where the air quality test done at the G-P mill had been conducted “visually”. David Drell (who had participated in the coalition that had opposed L-P’s aerial deployment of Garlon four years previously) accused McMillan of adopting policies that accepted the reports of local corporate polluters at face value.[1645] McMillan denied the allegations, making some rather incredulous rationalizations essentially comparing apples (rural pollution control standards) to oranges (urban pollution control standards). These excuses were endorsed in a rather comical utterance by Marilyn Butcher, who complained about regulations prohibiting her from lighting two smudge pots in her fruit orchard during cold weather.[1646]

Mike Koepf questioned McMillan on the PCB spill, reporting that when he had contacted his office for a report on the incident, they had simply forwarded Georgia-Pacific’s official account on the spill (which was known to be full of omissions and falsehoods) as if that statement were the Health Department’s official report. Koepf stated that the account included none of the statements made by Murray, Atkinson, or Vandenbosch, and that in fact, none of the workers had even been contacted. Koepf reported that he had confirmed this by interviewing individuals from the County Health Department by telephone. McMillan then lost his composure, accusing the assembled critics of badmouthing his underlings, stating that this “really ticked (him) off”. He then presented a Health Department “Fact Sheet”, dated March 27, unsigned and typed entirely in capital letters, not on official department stationary (which went against standard practice). The fact sheet, however, was so badly garbled, and included statements that suggested the Health Department declared the scene safe “AT G-P’s REQUEST”. While the statement may have been hastily assembled by McMillan and his staff in order to deflect attention away from their almost certain collaboration with G-P, they had actually painted themselves into a corner, because G-P used this very same “fact sheet” to convince OSHA that the area was indeed safe.[1647]

Now the truth was out completely. Angry residents who had read Koepf’s first two articles showed up to confront the management of the de facto company town at the April 10, 1989 Fort Bragg city council meeting, and the powers that be were equally evasive and dismissive.[1648] During the first twenty minutes of the Monday night meeting, various representatives of county and city public safety committees denied that their jurisdiction covered Georgia-Pacific’s private property, which made an already upset audience—which included many G-P workers, some of them on their lunch breaks—even angrier. During the public comment period that followed, speaker after speaker excoriated the public officials and G-P for their irresponsible behavior.[1649]

Mayor Alden Thurman, sensing that the peasants were about to get out of hand, tried to adjourn the meeting, exclaiming, “We’ve heard enough.” The audience ignored the mayor and began speaking from the floor. Anna Marie Stenberg again pointed out, this time to the assembled audience and public officials, that the PCBs burned in the hog could have potentially transformed into dioxin and rained down upon the residents of Fort Bragg. Ron Atkinson, who was one of the workers appearing in the council chambers during his lunch break on the swing shift, declared, “If it turns out that my son or my wife has any kind of problem from this, I’ll kill the people responsible!” Vandenbosch reiterated her concerns as well to which the mayor responded, “It might not be as bad as you think. Don’t we all have little accidents around the house and think they are bigger than they are?”[1650]

The workers and residents weren’t buying it. At least one resident vowed to run against the mayor in the next election, saying, “We’re here to talk about a large catastrophe with unknown effects and here’s the Mayor chuckling about stubbed toes.” [1651] Lotte Moise, a Fort Bragg resident and environmental activist presented evidence that G-P had knowingly lied about the presence of PCBs and their foreknowledge of their danger, citing EPA studies taken two years previously. She asked why if G-P had known about this, they hadn’t already removed the capacitors already.[1652] Don Perry reassured the crowd that the company was taking the matter very seriously, including studying ways to safely remove the four other capacitors in the mill that used PCBs, but revealed that the company’s bottom line came first, because so far each of the viable methods they had explored required shutting down the mill until the job was done.[1653]

Mendocino County air quality monitor Philip Towle then revealed that G-P had, for years, used the hog as an all purpose incinerator, not just as a cogeneration facility using wood debris as fuel, and that this was a violation of existing laws, but he added that he believed that the company had been unaware of their violations. Towle also stated, however, that he couldn’t consistently enforce the policy, as he was one official (based in Ukiah, which is somewhat distant from the remote and rocky coast) with no staff and an entire, mostly rural county to police. Ultimately, the City Council agreed to convene a public safety meeting and announce the date in the local press. An ad hoc committee of concerned Fort Bragg residents promised to investigate the matter further and submit expert testimony regarding PCBs and dioxins.[1654] While this action barely scratched the surface of the problem, their movement all spoke to the seriousness of the situation in the virtual company town of Fort Bragg.

After having been exposed as having lied to the public, Georgia-Pacific publically (though half-heartedly) admitted, the following day, that they had indeed covered up the affair. Don Perry declared, “Admittedly mistakes were made,” though when asked to explain why, he offered “faulty record keeping from past efforts to rid the mill of hazardous material.” This explanation did not sit well with Treva Vandenbosch, who angrily retorted, “I’m so furious. This whole thing was botched from day one. We were lied to. If the workers hadn’t made such a fit, nothing would ever have been done. Production came before the workers; it’s as simple as that.” Newly elected Mendocino County supervisor Liz Henry agreed, declaring, “The people directly involved in this believed they had been affected, but they could not get anyone to listen.”[1655]

The people of Fort Bragg and affected workers refused to remain silent, however. On May 10, 1989, attorney Karl Sigurd Leipnik served notice on behalf of the affected workers and residents of Fort Bragg with California State Attorney General, John Van De Kamp; Mendocino County District Attorney, Susan Massini; and Fort Bragg City Attorney Tom Lonergan of GP’s violations of numerous sections of the California Health and Safety Code. The violations included Section 25249.6 (knowing and intentional exposure of workers and residents to toxic substances), Section 25180.7 (the illegal improper disposal of toxic waste and the failure to obtain permits for toxic waste disposal), and others.[1656]

Five days later, the EPA made a surprise visit to G-P headquarters in Fort Bragg, apparently because the agency was less than satisfied with the company’s documentation of events. Mendocino Commentary coeditor Harold Blythe waited a week and then contacted Don Perry who initially denied the visit, but quickly and defensively admitted that this did indeed take place, but that there would be no press release discussing the matter. Blythe sensed that Perry was under strict orders to keep the matter quiet.[1657] The matter was finally referred to California OSHA who fined G-P $14,000 for “willfully exposing” workers to PCBs during and after the incident on February 11, 1989.[1658] The community’s assumptions had been anything but “unfounded” as suggested by IWA representative Don Nelson.[1659]

Meanwhile, the Ukiah Daily Journal, (and other publications) who had been quick to condemn Earth First! for the tree spiking (which they didn’t commit) that nearly killed George Alexander had nothing whatsoever to say about the incident. In a virtual company town, held hostage by the threat of “job blackmail” by Corporate Timber, the people evidently had to face the possibility of death in order for their lives to matter. To the Corporate Media, however, the issue was evidently only newsworthy if it could be blamed on “unwashed-out-of-town-jobless-hippies-on-drugs.”



15. Hang Down Your Head John Campbell

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. [1660]

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. [1661] It no doubt appealed to Hurwitz that under Campbell’s watch, P-L’s operating income had increased to approximately $54 million in 1988. [1662] 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. [1663]

At least there was some semblance of independent thought in Humboldt County. TEAM cofounder Gary Gundlach had, on February 7, approached the Rio Dell City Council at its meeting on that night at the invitation of the town’s mayor, Patricia Moranda. Gundlach gave a presentation on his organization’s work so far (serving as a front group for Corporate Timber, particularly Maxxam), regurgitated the standard talking points about “unwashed-out-of-town- jobless-hippies-on-drugs” fifth columnists, and outlined TEAM’s plans to expand their propaganda and phony “grassroots” campaign to target audiences in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles. Gundlach evidently expected universal approval and was shocked to discover that he didn’t get it. Although Rio Dell was anything but sympathetic to Earth First!, councilman Wayne Mayhall repudiated Gundlach and TEAM, declaring that Rio Dell was not a member of it, that he objected to sentences in one of TEAM’s form letters suggesting otherwise, that the timber tax revenue received by Rio Dell was negligible, and that as a governing body, the it was not the town’s council’s place to express opinions on such matters. Mayhall concluded by recommending that the council note the presentation and take no action, which is how the matter ended. [1664]

It may well have been the ESOP campaign that had created the political room for Mayhall to speak out, but the campaign was beginning to falter. Back in December of 1988, just before the Christmas holiday, Shannon and a group of ESOP supporters had appeared unannounced at the monthly Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting to request a formal hearing on the matter of P-L’s overcutting, warning them if left unchecked, Maxxam would cut it all down and by extension eliminate all of the timber workers’ jobs. The board responded by asking the ESOP committee to request in writing that the matter be placed on the agenda of their January meeting, which was done. Unbeknownst to the P-L employees, Shannon wrote a letter to Hurwitz requesting that the two meet to discuss a mutually beneficial arrangement. He declared:

“There have been grave misunderstandings regarding our proposal to purchase Pacific Lumber. (P-L) has responded emotionally and lacks the perspective to analyze the overall social, political, and economic ramifications of an ESOP buyout. Let us not be enemies. Our ESOP proposal benefits everyone concerned, including Maxxam and yourself by perhaps the greatest measure of all—economic profitability.” [1665]

This would prove to be a tactical mistake. Hurwitz did not respond directly to Shannon, but the latter would soon get an answer.

On January 10, Lester Reynolds, Patrick Shannon, Jim Steeves, and at least two other organizers appeared before the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors requesting hearings on Pacific Lumber’s recent practices under the new regime, hoping to prove that the accelerated timber harvests would ultimately doom the local environment and economy. Steeves, a thirty year P-L employee who was concerned about his son and son-in-law who were also both employees declared, “I’m hoping they have their jobs until they can retire.” Reynolds’s added, “We as the labor force of Pacific Lumber and Humboldt County are caught in the middle between the corporate raider who wants to cut all the trees down for the big bucks and the environmentalists who want to save all the trees.” [1666]

The ESOP committee was hopelessly outnumbered, however. Three representatives of P-L’s subcontractors spoke out against the request for an investigation of P-L. An official of one of them, Joe Costa Trucking, argued that such a hearing might discourage other businesses from relocating to Humboldt County—though in all likelihood the company’s actual motivation was to retain accelerated harvesting rates which benefitted the piece-work oriented gyppos. The majority of the board, including Harold Pritchard and Anna Sparks expressed “sympathy” for the workers, but all declared that the board was not the proper place for such a discussion. Only Wesley Chesbro sounded a dissenting note arguing that P-L’s current practices were dividing the community. The fifth supervisor, Bonnie Neeley, was not present. Patrick Shannon protested the Supervisors’ refusal arguing, “You have a responsibility to watch the tax base and job base for planning our future,” but the board was unmoved. [1667]

Anna Sparks then made it quite clear that the majority was unapologetically in league with Hurwitz. The supervisor, who was in her second term, claimed to be an environmentalist, and she served as vice chair of the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. [1668] She also claimed to know Shannon’s mother. [1669] When she had signaled her intent to run for a second term in 1986, she declared, “I want to promote this area in a sound environmental way but in a way that will bring jobs to the area.” She was, however, no more an environmentalist than TEAM was an employee organization. Her idea of bringing jobs to the region was supporting offshore oil and gas development, a widely unpopular idea that even many local conservatives opposed at the time. [1670] In response to the ESOP she expressed no ambiguity whatsoever, opining, “I don’t feel this board is the place to dissect industries,” and proclaimed that the real enemy of the P-L workers was not Hurwitz, but the environmentalists who were worried more about birds than people’s jobs. If WECARE hadn’t scripted her response, it may as well have, because this was one of the industry’s standard talking points. [1671] Leaving no ambiguity, she declared that Humboldt County was lucky to have a man like Hurwitz, who owned lots of companies and a savings and loan, investing in it. [1672]

However that wasn’t to be the worst of it. Astonishingly, Sparks announced that she had received Hurwitz’s answer to Shannon’s letter. Proving that she wasn’t bluffing, the supervisor read aloud from the communiqué on Maxxam letterhead which declared:

“Dear Mr. Shannon…I am in receipt of your letter of January 3…I am concerned about the misinformation and the blatant falsehoods surrounding the Pacific Lumber Company which appear to be circulating in Humboldt County. I believe that you and the so-called ‘ESOP’ group are partially responsible. Pacific Lumber does not intend to reply each time some irresponsible person starts a rumor. On this occasion, however, I wish to make unmistakably clear to the Board of Supervisors, the employees of the Pacific Lumber Company, and the citizens of Humboldt County, that, contrary to the rumors apparently started by your ‘ESOP’ group: THE PACIFIC LUMBER COMPANY IS NOT FOR SALE…

The Board of Supervisors, the employees of Pacific Lumber, and the citizens of Humboldt County have my best wishes for a happy and prosperous 1989, [But] Mr. Shannon, we have no interest in meeting or carrying on a dialog with you.” [1673]

This was a devastating revelation. Already Pacific Lumber management had been cracking down on the ESOP activity from within. The supportive workers had counted on outside help, but they certainly weren’t going to get it from their local government.

Patrick Shannon had pointed out that few P-L workers had attended to Board of Supervisors’ meeting, because the company had cancelled the time off of many other supporters at the last minute. David Galitz publically rebutted this charge in a phone interview with Eureka Times-Standard reporter Mark Rathjen, stating, “We don’t play games like that.” [1674] These statements were not consistent with Pete Kayes’ experiences, however, and at the time his ULP was still pending with the NLRB. [1675] All of the naysayers against Shannon the ESOP campaign were strangely silent about the formation of an ESOP at Eel River Sawmills, however. The fact that the owners, Mel and Grace McLean supported the idea, that ERS was a strong supporter of TEAM and WECARE, and that they mostly specialized in young growth redwoods were probably the strongest factors in the inconsistent opinions expressed by the supporters of Corporate Timber. [1676] It wasn’t ESOPs that they opposed, but rather any possible challenge to the economic status quo.

* * * * *

At least William Bertain was having better luck. On January 22, he announced that legal counsel from several expert security law firms, including Charles Barnhill of Davis, Barnhill, and Gailard of Wisconsin; Lafollette and Sinkyin, also of Madison, Wisconsin; Sachoff, Weaver, and Rubenstein of Chicago; and Cornbilt & Seltzer of Los Angeles had joined him and filed still one more shareholder lawsuit against Maxxam in federal district court in New York. All of the firms had agreed to take the case on a contingency basis, which meant that the plaintiffs would only be charged should their suit prove victorious and damages awarded, but Bertain maintained that they would not have signed on had they not thought the case winnable. The suit alleged that the shareholders would have reacted differently to Hurwitz’s tender offer had they been aware of the apparent stock parking by Drexel Burnham Lambert, Michael Milken, Boyd Jefferies, and Ivan Boesky. Both this and the suit filed the previous October sought to void the Maxxam takeover of P-L. [1677] The timing was fortuitous, because that same week, DBL fired Michael Milken who had been accused of plotting several takeovers and reaping illegal benefits of these activities with Ivan Boesky who was now serving a (low security) prison sentence. [1678]

One week later, Assemblyman Byron Sher decided to reintroduce a bill, AB 390, restricting clearcutting he had pulled eight months earlier (then labeled AB3601) in favor of supporting Dan Hauser’s “compromise”. As before, the bill proposed a ban on clearcutting old growth redwoods in groves larger than 40 acres where the trees were 175 or more years old. The Assemblyman was motivated to do so because, in his opinion, Pacific Lumber had failed to live up to the provisions of bill he cosponsored with Dan Hauser. Further, he declared that P-L had stonewalled his efforts to organize a tour of the company’s land for representatives of the Trust for Public Lands as well as the Nature Conservancy to explore the possibility of purchasing some of them for a park.[1679] In response, John Campbell suggested that Sher’s actual motivation was for the state to seize “a certain 3,000 acre property”, namely Headwaters Forest. [1680] He added that the company had “fully honored it’s agreement” with Hauser and Sher, that it had modified its THPs changing proposed clearcuts to “select cuts”, and that the CDF had made first hand inspections of the THPs and approved them.[1681]

This was simply rhetoric, however. Campbell neglected to mention that the so called “agreement” between himself, Hauser, and Pacific Lumber had little actual teeth and that the “select cuts” proposed in them amounted to de facto clearcuts, because only one old growth tree per acre was required by its terms. [1682] Sher countered Campbell by stating that he had evidence, provided by Cecilia Gregori and Lynn Ryan, from their foray onto P-L land on October 26 the previous year, that P-L had not, in fact returned to the selective harvesting they practiced before the Maxxam takeover as promised. [1683] “(P-L is) filing new THPs at a much faster rate, including many more aimed at the heart of the old-growth ‘islands’ considered for negotiation,” Sher declared. [1684]

In the case of two contested P-L THPs, Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Buffington seemed to agree with EPIC. Shortly after Sher introduced AB 390, Buffington issued a TRO on the THPs that proposed logging in the Lawrence Creek and Shaw Creek watersheds, ordering the California State BOF to determine what mitigation measures proposed by the DFG to offset cumulative effects on wildlife should be implemented, and whether adverse environmental impacts were being trumped by economic considerations. These were the same THPs that had been initially rejected by Jerry Partain the previous May (which subsequently inspired P-L to facilitate the formation of TEAM), and were later approved by the BOF when it overrode Partain’s sudden willingness to enforce the spirit of Z’berg Nejedly. The judge accused the agencies involved with “playing Russian roulette with the state’s resources and environment”. [1685] In his decision, Buffington declared that the ultimate answers to the questions being brought to his court needed to be addressed by the California State legislature, which brought further attention to Byron Sher’s proposed bill. [1686]

* * * * *

With all that was happening, there seemed to be no shortage of attempts by P-L management to cover up evidence of Maxxam’s malfeasance. In February, photocopies of an anonymous letter were distributed all over Scotia claiming that when Maxxam took over P-L, it cut corners in the construction of its new cogeneration plant, and compromised the plant’s safety in the process. Part of the letter read:

“…Now it ended up the plant don’t work. We have had turbines ‘blow up’. We didn’t put the proper vibrators in the silo and the steel got twisted up pretty good when it got hot. The welds on the high pressure steam lines don’t look all too good. The plant can’t run at full power and keeps breaking down.” [1687]

Although OSHA had reportedly already conducted a preliminary inspection of the plant and had found no substantial safety violations, the letter went on to urge residents to contact OSHA or state and federal legislatures, express their concerns, and request another inspection. Violations or no, at least one resident, Leona Bishop—whose husband, Grant, had made the initial contact with Patrick Shannon, and whose daughter was enrolled in the sixth grade at the local school—was alarmed at the possibility that the plant, which was located near the school, could be a hazard. She therefore requested that the local school board take up the issue on its agenda at its monthly meeting on February 21, 1989. The board agreed, in spite of the reservations by Board President Brian Schapper (who was also a project leader and senior analyst for Pacific Lumber, which was not uncommon in a company town such as Scotia) that the body wasn’t the appropriate forum for the issue. [1688]

The meeting proved to be yet another case where public comment was stifled in the service of Corporate Timber. This time, however, local TV media covered the event. On camera, plant superintendent Rich Sweet, who appeared at the meeting at the request of the school’s staff, asserted that OSHA had found only minor deficiencies.

“The turbine had an electrical problem inside the turbine generator—a short to a ground in the field. It’s a figure of speech to say ‘it blew up’ like you’d say you ‘blew a fuse’ at your house, but it doesn’t mean your house blew up. We did have a fire in the dust collector hopper, but these things happen and are easily put out.” [1689]

Sweet did concede, however, that the plant was only running at two-thirds capacity due to a mechanical problem, but argued that it was General Electric’s responsibility to fix it. [1690]

The plant manager’s response did not sit well with Plumbers and Steamfitters Local #471 Business Manager, Gary Haberman, a local builder and member of the Yurok Indian tribe, who was in attendance and requested a chance to rebut Sweet, which was granted. The union official indicated that there were many residents who were legitimately concerned about the plant’s safety, or lack thereof, but were afraid to speak out for fear of retaliation. He then asked four questions: (1) did they scatter their turbine? (2) Did drain lines melt when steam was drained out of them? (3) Did the chip silo blow?, and (4) Why isn’t the plant putting out full power? He concluded by declaring that the plant should have been thoroughly investigated and that some of the employees who had worked inside of the plant and had expressed dismay to him about the inferior materials used in its construction. He pointed out that had P-L used a union crew, this would not have happened, and the plant would now be operating at full capacity. [1691]

At this point, Sweet interrupted Haberman and suggested that the latter’s complaints were not relevant to the issues involving the school. Schapper agreed, stating, “We are concerned with educating children. If there is evidence that there is a problem, bring it forward. The letter is not even signed,” (as if that bit of information was relevant). Schapper then gaveled the issue closed and moved onto the next item. This seemed to satisfy most of the small audience of about 20. Haberman, however, was livid and told the press that he was merely relaying what the workers had told him, and that because the OSHA inspectors were not engineers their determination wasn’t necessarily sufficient. “If these people are satisfied by the rhetoric of a company town, they have to live with whatever consequences there are.” Bishop was equally unsatisfied, declaring that the only way she and her fellow Scotians would receive peace of mind was for OSHA to conduct a follow up inspection. “There’s been too many comments made on the negative side for it to all be rumors,” she said. Brian Schapper, however dismissed their concerns simply stating, “I feel it’s safe; I’ve been on a tour,” as if the visual record of one school board official, evidently a Maxxam supporter at that, was somehow more compelling than that of a trained plumber and steamfitter. [1692]

Haberman’s confirmation of the anonymous letter’s contents was not simply a case of a union official trying to protect his union’s jurisdiction, however. According to another anonymous worker—distinct from the unnamed letter writer—San Rafael based Factory Mutual Engineering, the insurance company originally contracted to underwrite the plant had cancelled their coverage of it in 1986 after their boiler inspector found inferior materials holding vital safety equipment together. The second unnamed source had questioned the inspector at length and the latter had confirmed that, in his opinion, the boiler was unsafe due to faulty parts and shoddy workmanship. Anderson Valley Advertiser editor and publisher Bruce Anderson reportedly contacted Factory Mutual Engineering and was informed that the insurance company had indeed cancelled their coverage, but elected not to reveal the reason why. There was certainly smoke, and it suggested a fire. [1693]

* * * * *

The legal battles over Shaw and Lawrence Creek heated up again in March. The Board of Forestry who had been ordered by Judge John Buffington to reexamine the two THPs after he had been “frustrated by a lack of data on wildlife protections and torn between the economic and environmental issues of the case,” which had been brought to his court by EPIC the previous year. The BOF reapproved the THPs declaring that they could find “no significant adverse impact on the environment,” according to executive officer Dean Cromwell. The official did also stipulate that they cited property rights and land-use goals of property zoned for timber management. In response to the Department of Fish and Game’s recommendation that wilderness “corridors” be preserved, the John Campbell argued that such would be “far too costly and not proper management for the long haul,” and that the company was including wildlife mitigations “anyway,” but didn’t specify exactly what. EPIC attorney Tom Lippe again insisted that the BOF was not following the spirit of Z’berg Nejdley and CEQA, and questioned exactly whose long haul Campbell was considering, indicating that it was evidently not that of the earth’s biosphere. “It’s more likely that old growth dependent wildlife will become extinct,” if the BOF’s ruling was allowed to stand said Lippe. [1694]

Further evidence of Maxxam’s and DBL’s collusion surfaced that same month. Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation, Bill Bertain revealed that he had agreed (at the subcommittee’s request) to secretly tape a conversation he had held with attorney John Gibbons on December 19, 1987. Gibbons was a former federal prosecutor who had gone on to work for Kroll Associates, a national investigative agency whose clients included none other than DBL. In the taped conversation, Gibbons implied he was conducting an investigation on behalf of the subcommittee, though “not directly.” According to Bertain, he had four times previously suggested as much, but in actual fact the subcommittee had no knowledge of this, and in all likelihood Gibbons was ferreting out information to try and use to build a defense against the subcommittee. Gibbons refused to testify, arguing that Bertain had recorded the conversation without his knowledge, which was against the law in California. However, since Bertain was assisting the subcommittee in conducting an investigation, federal law, including subcommittee investigations allowing such activity superseded. [1695] These facts didn’t stop TEAM spokesman Michael J. Eglin from invoking (yet another) witch hunt, demanding that Bertain—whom he accused of being the source behind the ESOP campaign and every other anti-Maxxam effort under the sun—be disbarred. Evidently Eglin had no problem with insider trading and violations of securities laws. [1696]

While Congress and the representatives of Corporate Timber debated over the letter of the law with regards to tape recording conversations, a judge in Oakland dismissed the Sierra Club lawsuit against Pacific Lumber’s proposed Owl Creek THP. Declaring that Sierra Club attorney Joe Brecher had neglected to file his suit within the 90 day comment period allowed under CEQA, visiting Judge Eugene C. Langhauser “reluctantly” dismissed the case in Humboldt County Superior Court. P-L lawyer Jared Carter had expected a dispute over the technicality, but declared, “that’s their problem, not mine right now.” Brecher declined to explain the reason for his initial delay, and appealed the dismissal, which—for the time—protected the grove from cutting for the time being. P-L Forestry manager Robert Stephens declared that the company would begin a “modified selective cut” on the THP as soon as the stay was lifted, and indicated that the company was doing the environmentalists a favor because they had “agreed to leave trees (they) didn’t have to leave,” which in this case was 20 percent of the newer growth trees, while the old growth would be cut. Cecilia Gregori didn’t find the forester’s declaration particularly charitable, arguing that the planned logging would devastate critical habitat for the spotted owl, marbled murrelet, and other old growth dependent wildlife.” [1697]

Pacific Lumber had won a legal victory on a technicality. They would win another just two weeks later due to the same Sierra Club attorney’s inability to meet the filing deadline on another THP, this time involving Headwaters Forest. On April 21, Judge William F. Ferroggiaro struck down the lawsuit in Humboldt County Superior Court. Speaking for EPIC, Robert Sutherland lamented, “These are two of our most significant suits, and I’m sorry to lose them, if in fact that’s what’s going to happen, but the significant issues don’t go away just because an attorney made a mistake.” Cecilia Gregori added that the judge retained the ability to overlook the time limits at his discretion, adding, “We feel that a simple mistake of law shouldn’t overrule a case involving the last remaining irreplaceable virgin redwoods.” John Campbell, on the other hand, grumbled that the suits had not been dismissed quickly enough, stating that “timber harvesting has been prevented by court orders for almost six months…the company needs this timber to maintain operations at its mills and jobs for its employees,” never once conceding that none of this would have been necessary had Maxxam not taken over. Brecher filed a motion for reconsideration and indicated that should the motion be denied, the Sierra Club and EPIC would appeal. [1698] In July, Humboldt County Judge William Ferroggiaro upheld Langhauser’s dismissal. [1699]

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Patrick Shannon and the leaders in the ESOP campaign struggled desperately to prevent the air from flowing out of their popped balloon. Attendance at committee meetings had begun to wane. Finally Shannon decided that another big impact gathering like the one that had really launched the campaign the previous September was needed. He called for a meeting to take place in early April at the Fortuna High School Auditorium which, being larger than the banquet room at the Eureka Inn, symbolized his hopes that more than 700 would attend. Shannon also convinced Dr. Louis Kelso to attend and address the crowd as the keynote speaker for inspiration. [1700] Shannon declared, “I’m so tired of reading about the emotional debate between the timber industry and environmentalists. This meeting is an attempt to bring the debate into the intellectual arena.” [1701]

However, the event was a debacle. Only 150, including Darryl Cherney, bothered to show. [1702] Kelso was less than inspiring. Indeed, he nearly bored the audience to sleep. Patrick Shannon jolted them out of their virtual slumber, suggesting that since Maxxam would not sell the company, the ESOP campaign should attempt a partnership with Hurwitz, buying perhaps 30 percent of the company at first with the hopes of someday achieving a 51 percent majority. He also indicated that General Electric had been brought into the “partnership” as well. [1703] To the 150 assembled workers and their allies, including his truest believers, Pete Kayes and Lester Reynolds, Shannon’s idea was utter folly. [1704] To begin with, they’d need to acquire 80 percent of the company according to its articles of incorporation, a fact that Shannon had apparently forgotten. [1705] More to the point, the intrepid workers who had risked their jobs to run the campaign considered the option making a deal with the very devil they hoped to defeat. One retiree declared that it would be “a snowy day in hell before he’d ever make a deal with Charles Hurwitz”. [1706] The crowd erupted in thunderous applause at which point Patrick Shannon lost his composure and called the workers “useless” and “incapable.” The meeting was over, and Hurwitz had won again, but this time he’d barely even fired a proverbial shot. [1707]



16. I Like Spotted Owls…Fried

“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. [1708] 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. [1709] 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. [1710] 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. [1711] 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. [1712] 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.” [1713] That, for Bill Bailey was a huge problem.

What had happened, apparently, was that one of Sam Bailey’s schoolmates had brought a Darryl Cherney tape to class one day, and because it was raining and recess had been cancelled, the teacher allowed the schoolmate to play one, and only one song from the tape. [1714] Later, however, it was also discovered that Sam had been influenced by a teacher’s reading of the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax. [1715] The book was, in fact, already eighteen years old by this time, and it featured a colorful villain known as “The Once-ler”, who cuts down all of the “Truffula” trees in order to obtain the materials necessary to produce “Thneeds”. The “Lorax” is the representative of all of the creatures in the Truffula forest whose homes are being destroyed by the Once-ler’s greed, but the Once-ler is unrepentant and he destroys the forest. In the end, the Once-ler having realized the consequences of his actions and learning that the Lorax was correct, urges everyone else to heed the Lorax’s warning. [1716] The book, published in 1971 (and made into a movie by Universal Pictures in 2012), almost ten years before the founding of Earth First!, and certainly well before Sam Bailey was even born, turned out to be quite prescient, and The Once-ler bore more than a passing resemblance to Bill Bailey. [1717] Indeed, the “Once-ler of Laytonville” had a problem, and he was determined to do something about it.

Rather than consider the possibility that there just might have been a lot of wisdom in that children’s book, Bill Bailey decided to fight back against those who would “unfairly” paint him as a living, breathing Once-ler. First, following the path set by TEAM and WECARE, he and the Harwoods took out full-page paid advertisements in the Mendocino County Observer and other local publications to proclaim the virtues of “timber harvesting” and the “wood products industry”. Harwood’s full page ad was titled, “An Open Letter to [Laytonville School Superintendent] Brian Buckley”, and was signed by 300 Harwood employees. It stated “We request the Laytonville Schools start showing respect to the community and the forest products industry that we deserve.” [1718]

The Harwoods’ alignment with Bailey was somewhat surprising, given the fact that they were one of the more worker friendly, ecologically sustainable employers in the area, but they were related by marriage to Bailey, and Bailey almost literally ran Laytonville as his own fiefdom. His method of choice was philanthropy, but when he couldn’t buy respect, he would bully his way into getting what he wanted. Bailey’s own advertisements were much more blunt; they made backhanded criticisms of Brian Buckley; they declared that Earth First! (which had no direct connection to The Lorax whatsoever) was “a terrorist organization”; and they also proclaimed in screaming bold type, “SOME OF OUR TEACHERS NEED GUIDENCE, NOW![1719] Frank Sanderson, Harwood company spokesperson attempted to give a presentation on the virtues of the local timber industry in the school, (at the school’s invitation), the students found his presentation to be less than inspiring. This only made Bill Bailey angrier. [1720]

So Bailey escalated his attacks on his perceived enemies. He devised a symbol, called the “Woodsman Coat of Arms”, which depicted a crossed saw and axes, two muscular arms surrounding a baby fir tree, adorned with the slogans “People in Unison with Nature” and “Reforesting – Professionalism – Harvesting.” The symbol was intended to “help unify those who are “resisting the radical preservationists.” Several observers noted, however, that the symbol bore an uncomfortable resemblance to a Nazi swastika, and most Laytonville residents scoffed at Bailey’s attempt to use symbolism to divide and conquer. [1721] One anonymous satirist responded by creating a knockoff of the symbol, “Woodsman’s Cut Off Arms”, which depicted the tree lying on its side after having been cut, and blood on the axes and saw. [1722]

Bailey was not at all amused, but, being as influential as he was, he was able to convince the nominally progressive Mendocino Coast Observer to feature a regular, weekly “guest editorial”, written by him. In it Bailey excoriated the Observer’s own “bored or the unemployed or unemployable” who “call themselves writers” and denounced those who didn’t share his views as not being “real Laytonvillians”. He attempted to sway opinions by sending every resident in the small, northern Mendocino County town a personal form letter “from Bill and Judith”, printed on Bailey company stationary, complete with the Coat of Arms, denouncing “radical preservationists” and “professional protesters”. Also enclosed were two copies of a petition instructing the BLM to approve timber sales (such as those in the Cahto Wilderness Area) without delay, and a self-addressed stamped envelope. Most residents declined to return the petition, and residents joked about sending Bailey drug tests, roadkill, or simply reusing the envelopes for their own needs. [1723] Evidently there just weren’t enough “real Laytonvillians” willing to kowtow to Corporate Timber’s thought control.

* * * * *

The controversy was much wider and deeper than Bill Bailey’s ego, however; it was a microcosm of the growing battle over the status of the Northern Spotted Owl. The two pound bird was already managed as a “sensitive” (one step below “threatened”) species by the United States Forest Service (USFS), but environmentalists had argued for years that it should be listed as “endangered”. [1724] By 1988, only 1,500 pairs of the bird were said to exist and it was determined that it depended on the existence of the old growth forest habitat for its survival—habitat that was disappearing fast at a rate of 60,000 acres annually. A mere 3,000,000 acres of such habitat had been estimated to still exist—according to USFS reports at any rate—but according to environmentalists, even those numbers were likely overoptimistic. [1725]

Efforts by environmentalists to convince the federal government to merely list the owl as a threatened species had been complex and often frustrating. In 1984, National Wildlife Federation appealed the Forest Service Regional Guide for Region 6 (the Pacific Northwest) over the status of the owl. The appeal went all the way to then Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Douglas McCleary, a Reagan appointee who (as was to be expected) had very close ties with Corporate Timber. McCleary decided that the agency would have to do an environmental impact statement on the Spotted Owl, but that all other points in the appeal would be dropped. Then, in 1987, the US Fish and Wildlife Service refused to list the Spotted Owl as Threatened or Endangered. [1726]

In response, two things happened independently of each other. First, the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund (SCLDF) filed suit against the FWS on behalf of at least 25 environmental groups. [1727] These included the Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and the Oregon Natural Resources Council (ONRC) as well as numerous local environmental groups, including the North Coast Environmental Center. The plaintiffs charged that the FWS had buckled under to pressure from Corporate Timber. [1728] Adding weight to their contentions, a leading spotted owl researcher declared, “All the evidence points to the fact that the species is at least threatened, if not endangered.” [1729] Even an unreleased Bureau of Land Management report supported this conclusion. [1730]

Meanwhile, Congress’s General Accounting Office, at the request of a House committee, opened an investigation of the agency. Evidently the FWS’s negligence on the issue was so blatant that in November of 1988, Judge Thomas Zilly, a Reagan appointee to the Seattle Circuit Court, ruled that the FWS had been ‘arbitrary and capricious’ in their decision to not list the species. No biologist—including the agency’s own experts—had agreed with the decision to not list.[1731] According to Zilly’s ruling, the FWS had 90 days to either list the owl as endangered or provide sufficient cause for not listing it as such. [1732] One month later, the USFS Chief finally signed a Record of Decision on the Spotted Owl EIS and claimed that it was changing its position. [1733] In a news release, Marvin L Plenert, director of the FWS region headquarters in Portland, Oregon declared:

“In light of our analysis of the new data that we have reviewed since the first status review was performed, we believe a threatened classification for the northern spotted owl is the most accurate judgment that currently can be made about the species and the threats that it faces.” [1734]

However, examination of the USFS’s apparent reversal revealed that even this was still mostly just smoke and mirrors designed to deflect the fact that the agency was still very much marching to the beat of Corporate Timber’s drum. What the agency was actually agreeing to protect amounted to a mere nine percent of the spotted owl’s rapidly disappearing habitat in Oregon and Washington. [1735] The agency had adopted a strategy of maintaining the owl’s “minimum viable population” (an obvious attempt to place the economic needs of capital ahead of the long term viability of the species). The environmental groups appealed the decision submitting numerous scientific studies, including affidavits from some of the world’s premier conservation biologists (with degrees from Cornell, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and the University of California at Berkeley) arguing that the USFS’s strategy was based on junk science and that any further significant reductions in the owl’s population could cause the entire species’ population to crash. [1736]

One month later, US District Judge William Dwyer ruled in favor of the environmentalists halting almost 20 percent of the timber sales in 13 National Forests in Oregon and Washington until May 15, 1989. [1737] The following week, fellow US District Judge Helen Frye ruled that, “destruction of owl habitat without compliance with the law is a significant and irreparable injury…Old-growth forests are lost for generations and no amount of monetary compensation can replace the loss.” Finally, then-President Bush’s Secretary of the Interior, Manuel Lujan announced that he would support the decision to protect the owl, though he gave no specifics on how he would do so. [1738] The decision temporarily halted timber sales on public land in an area covering at least 100,000 acres in northwestern California, including Klamath, Mendocino, Shasta-Trinity, and Six Rivers National Forests, as well as Redwood and Point Reyes National Parks. Additionally, some 8,000 acres of privately owned forestland in California was likewise affected. [1739] The temporary halt issued on behalf of the Spotted Owl gave far more weight to the possibility that environmentalists might file even more lawsuits.

Corporate Timber’s reaction to the decision was, naturally, one of consternation. They cried “foul”, declared that the USFWS reversal on the status of the owl was “politically motivated” (in spite of the fact that the courts had ruled that the agency’s initial contrary decision not to list it as threatened or endangered had been). [1740] They then regurgitated the same talking points trotted out the previous year when Jerry Partain had denied the three THPs contested by EPIC and Judge Buffington had granted the environmentalists a TRO against Maxxam’s attempts to log All Species Grove.

They claimed that the environmental studies underestimated the number of owls. They would often cite, as proof, anecdotal account after anecdotal account that other studies (usually carried out by the industry itself, in a very short span of two months or less), found hundreds, if not thousands of pairs of owls living in second growth forests. For example, in a paid advertisement, Pacific Lumber management argued that they had conducted their own study of spotted owl populations in its young growth timberlands, and that they had found that a large number of owls were capable of living and reproducing there, in contrast with the environmentalists’ supposed argument that such birds could only live and reproduce in old growth forests. [1741] Pacific Lumber also made a video trying to create the visual impression of this phenomena as well. [1742] Shep Tucker indicated that Louisiana Pacific had hired a wildlife biologist to conduct a similar survey. [1743] Indeed, this argument was repeated ad nauseum, but it was quite distant from the truth. [1744]

To begin with, the timber industry’s own studies could not be taken as scientific, because there was an inherent conflict of interest in policing oneself. The results of many of their “studies” proved to be heavily biased in favor of maintaining the same level of timber harvesting, if not increasing it, and were based on extremely flawed methodology. The technique used for determining the presence of the owls consisted of listening to responses from (unseen) live owls responding to recorded owl calls. [1745] This approach, described as “self-serving pseudoscience” by ONRC member Andy Kerr, vastly overestimated the industry’s findings. [1746] Corporate Timber’s assertion that owls were found in “managed forests” was spotty itself. For example, in the case of Pacific Lumber’s claims of finding owls among its second growth woods, there was old growth nearby, albeit increasingly smaller and smaller patches. Furthermore, it was assumed that P-L’s second growth continued much residual old growth. [1747] Even if spotted owl pairs were actually being found in second growth groves, it was more an indicator of their immediate adaptation to increasingly adverse conditions—primarily the loss of old growth habitat—than the long term viability of their species. Either way, without immediate action, the owl’s population would almost certainly crash.

Corporate Timber (once again) predicted the loss of 10,000s of jobs ultimately leading to the economic collapse of the entire Pacific Northwest. USFS chief Dale Robertson identified the decision on the owl as the reason for blocking 1.5 bbf of timber sales, approximately one seventh of its annual sale volume at the time. [1748] James Gessinger of the Northwest Forestry Association argued that the timing of the injunction would create a “very, very ugly fall and winter” for the timber dependent communities within his region. [1749] Speaking for Pacific Lumber, David Galitz opined:

“We’re managing our land for the lumber production, while giving consideration to wildlife. The courts seem confused. It is having a dramatic impact on those of us operating on private land. (Environmental) groups are going into court. The court’s saying, ‘We don’t know, so let’s hold (the sales) up.’ What they’re doing is delaying the process. That means jobs. In order to protect those jobs, we’re going on lands we preferred not to go on this soon.” [1750]

Speaking for Louisiana Pacific, which relied on timber harvested from federal land for approximately ten percent of its revenue, Shep Tucker declared:

“It’s really put the national forests on hold. Everybody’s afraid to do anything. (There is a) fear of lawsuits and a lack of information (regarding the spotted owl). This adds to the cost of purchasing timber. In the worst-case scenario when things get tight, you start to lay off shifts.” [1751]

P-L’s David Galitz offered similarly gloomy projections, stating,

“We have no projection for a decrease (in harvesting). But we have concerns that may eventually happen—that’s going to mean jobs. It (could) have negative impacts on timber supply, and that would mean higher priced timber and homes, and it usually means jobs. I question whether (those who would limit old growth harvesting) realize the significance and the havoc it would have here on the North Coast. It (would) mean very substantial job losses throughout the industry. We’ve only got one young-growth mill, the one in Fortuna.” [1752]

Related to this concern was the potential for the number of set asides for spotted owls to increase as more owls were discovered. P-L representative and TEAM spokesperson Dennis Wood declared that because of this uncertainty, the impact of a moratorium could be far worse than the expansion of Redwood National Park. [1753] What Wood had failed to admit, however, is that the job losses due to RNP’s expansion—if any—were negligible, in spite of Corporate Timber’s warnings that economic Armageddon would result. [1754] There was no reason to think that the same held true if the spotted owl was declared endangered, and thus far, no peer reviewed studies had been conducted one way or the other.

A related talking point was that the listing of the owl as threatened would result in increased cutting, because if public timber was declared off-limits to logging, there would be more pressure to log on private land, although this was more of a threat than a warning. For example, Don Nolan Sr., declared, “If the old growth is removed from harvesting, private companies may have to turn to cutting forests intended to be managed on a sustained-yield basis. The cuts will be too soon.” [1755]

Representing Eel Rivers Sawmills, which depended upon timber logged from federal lands for forty percent of its income, vice-president Dennis Scott pessimistically opined:

“We’re not disputing that the habitat (of the spotted owl) will be disturbed, but you’ve got to cut the tree to replant the tree. I don’t think you can go back to the clearcut days either. I think this will end with a compromise, but that takes time in the system…The question is, ‘Will there be any mills left?’ It would be very difficult if the volume (of timber) was shut down.” [1756]

Left unspoken was the fact that such increases were only necessary to meet the demands of the Corporate Timber bottom line which could have been eliminated by a whole scale reprioritization of timber harvesting priorities towards need rather than profit. In spite of these dire forecasts, throughout the industry, timber corporations were recording record profits to their stockholders. [1757] All of the alleged job losses that might actually occur from logging limitations imposed to protect the owl could easily be offset by curtailing raw log exports. [1758]

At the same time, Corporate Timber was, as usual, declaring that there was plenty of old growth forests protected (or “locked away” in their more candid expressions of their prevailing opinions on the subject) in parks, and other public lands. [1759] There were numerous problems with that argument, however, not the least of which was that environmentalists and not too few biologists disputed the appropriateness of the adjective “plenty”. With less than five percent of the ancient forests still remaining, “plenty” was a rather dubious description. However, even within the context of what remained, it wasn’t entirely clear that the actual standing timber matched the known figures. In discussing the controversy over the spotted owl, Earth First!er Mitch Friedman explained:

“‘Old growth’ is a troublesome term. Rarely is it clear to what people are referring when they say ‘old growth,’ or worse, and more recently, ‘ancient forest.’ The FS set up an ‘old growth definition task force’ to finally define it. The task force published its findings in 1986, yet the FS, even in forest plans released after that year, failed to use its definition. The FS instead left each National Forest to provide its own meaning, generally based on timber inventory data, such as ‘largesaw timber’ (greater than 21 inch diameter at breast height [dbh]). Moreover, there has been no formal effort to define ‘old growth’ for forests in the eastern two-thirds of Washington and Oregon.

“This isn’t just a matter of semantics. It’s the difference between millions of acres of natural growth (never logged, though perhaps otherwise disturbed), and about 350,000 acres of classic old growth (contains several trees over 40’ dbh per acre). A recent report published by The Wilderness Society found that the FS had, through inconsistent definitions and old data (disregarding recent logging), overestimated existing old growth by as much as 125 percent. Furthermore, most of what’s left is high elevation and/or heavily fragmented. The Wilderness Society report estimated a total of 1.2 million acres of old growth on the six National Forests in the Pacific Northwest that contain the bulk of the remaining stands. Most of this is fragmented beyond usefulness as old growth habitat.

“In a 1988 appropriations bill, Congress instructed the Forest Service to find its old growth. But we won’t have the benefit of that information for a couple years, and our protection efforts must happen now. To maintain a viable ancient forest ecosystem will require more than just saving the majestic big trees; we must save all unfragmemted mature stands, and restore those degraded, to achieve a matrix of habitat capable of supporting populations of old growth dependent species in perpetuity. This will be difficult, not knowing where the forest stands are.”[1760]

Management of public forestlands in California didn’t exactly inspire confidence among the environmentalists in any case. The state’s region of the USFS was required to maintain a “viable population” of spotted owls by establishing networks of Spotted Owl Habitat Areas (SOHAs) for each pair of owls throughout its forestlands. Each SOHA was to be approximately 1,000 acres in size (though many environmentalists considered that number too small for the sustainability of the owl), and each was required to include a 3,000 acre old growth “core area” and at least 650 acres of suitable replacement habitat within 1.5 miles of the nest. According to the Marble Mountain Audubon Society, a review of the SOHA network in the Klamath National Forest revealed that out of 83 such SOHAs in that forest’s 92-territory “interim network,” all but one had no management plan in place at all, and the one that did needed substantial revision. So, in other words, the USFS wasn’t even meeting its own established standards, such as they were, for maintaining the owl to begin with. [1761]

Contradicting all of the facts, Corporate Timber continued to assert that the environmentalists cared about the fate of the lowly owl more than they did about the supposedly threatened timber workers’ jobs and by extension the rural “way of life.” [1762] This was due to the misunderstood status of the Northern Spotted Owl as an “indicator species.” Indicator Species were specific animals or plants found in a given habitat which gave an easily accessible and fairly accurate reading on the viability of populations of other interrelated flora and fauna of a given ecosystem. If the owls were flourishing in their native habitat (meaning old growth conifer forests in California, Oregon, and Washington), then their native habitat was viable and well protected. On the other hand, if the owl was threatened, or if much of its population was seeking surroundings other than its native habitat—which it certainly seemed to be, given the insistence by Corporate Timber that owls were plentiful in second growth forests, then that was an indicator that other species also found in the owl’s native habitat were likewise endangered, and quite possibly the habitat itself was endangered. [1763] Wendell Wood, of the ONRC elaborated, “The northern spotted owl is like a canary in a coal mine. The fact that it is in danger of extinction tells us that something is seriously wrong with the management of our forests.” [1764] Most ironically of all, it was the USFS itself that had chosen the owl to be the indicator species in the first place. [1765]

In no case did environmentalists or scientists wax gleeful about the potential loss of timber jobs. For example, on the matter of balance between economic and environmental concerns Humboldt State University wildlife management professor Rocky Gutierrez declared:

“I am concerned about the livelihood of people. The timber industry may be affected (But) we (scientists) are trying to do what is objective—that is the essence of science. The spotted owl represents the integrity of the ecosystem. If they (become) extinct, that repres