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Tree-Sitters Vow to Keep Their Perches

At least 18 defy court orders to leave Pacific Lumber Co. redwoods in Humboldt County.

March 17, 2003|Emily Gurnon | Special to the Times

FRESHWATER, Calif. — A group of tree-sitting protesters ordered off Pacific Lumber Co. land last week vowed to defy a court order and remain in their small platform perches in a forest of redwoods.

Pacific Lumber Co. served at least 18 of the anti-logging demonstrators with a temporary restraining order Wednesday, giving them 24 hours to come down from their platforms near this Humboldt County community. But the sitters refused to budge.

Pacific Lumber Co. spokesman Jim Branham said the company was "evaluating all of our options," including forcibly removing the demonstrators. But he wouldn't say when or if the company planned to evict the sitters who continued their protest Sunday.

"We're continuing to hope that they come down from the trees voluntarily," Branham said Friday. "We're having some nasty weather up here so it's extremely unsafe."

The protesters were determined to stand their ground.

"We're staying here," said a 22-year-old tree-sitter from Iowa who calls himself Oak. "Obviously they're not going to compromise, so neither are we."

Yelling from his perch 90 feet up a redwood tree, Oak said the protesters were demanding that the company abandon the use of herbicides and stop clear-cutting trees and logging on steep slopes.

The activist said he expects the company will soon use tree-climbers to evict the protesters.

"We're pretty well prepared for them," he said. Some tree-sitters planned to lock their hands to the tops of the redwoods, he said, adding that the sitters had a cadre of volunteers, from college students to grandmothers, to offer food, supplies and encouragement.

The tree-sitters in the Freshwater area, six miles southeast of Eureka, have been a growing problem for the timber company. In the last year, the number of people occupying trees has grown to about 40 full-time and part-time protesters.

Branham said there were more protesters in the trees now than at any time in the past.

"This particular area has become some kind of a magnet for this activity."

Pacific Lumber, which owns about 200,000 acres of forestland, has an approved 142-acre timber-harvest plan in the Freshwater area in which the tree-sitters are concentrated.

The company plans to complete the tree-cutting in the next few months, Branham said, during which time protesters will "become an impediment."

Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp said he had talked with company officials about the possibility of sheriff's deputies making arrests if the protesters, once they are removed from the trees, refuse to leave the area. He knew of no imminent plans to remove them, he said.

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