Despite protests, logging continues at Rainbow Ridge

4 septuagenarians cited on suspicion of trespassing, sheriff's office says

A woman who calls herself “Rook” climbs a tree in Rainbow Ridge to protest the logging being done by the Humboldt Redwood Company. Despite protests, company representatives said work has continued without major delays. (Contributed)
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Despite protests by grassroots environmental organizations, the logging at Rainbow Ridge has continued without “any significant delays,” said representatives of the Humboldt Redwood Company.

According to the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office, Lost Coast League members Michael Evenson, Ellen Taylor, David Simpson and Jane Lapiner — septuagenarians all — were detained early Monday morning by private security personnel hired by the logging company after allegedly blocking loggers from entering the property. The four protesters were later cited by the sheriff’s office on suspicion of trespassing and released.

Lear Asset Management Company staff have also been camping out under a tree where a woman who identified herself as “Rook” has been protesting the logging since Saturday. She was discovered Sunday.

“I’m up here because we need intact forests more than we need forest products,” she said in a news release from grassroots organization Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters. “(Humboldt Redwood Company) wants to say their logging is sustainable but they didn’t plant the trees they’re cutting. This tree is 200 years old and they’ll invent some technicality so they can fell it to build a road and still say, ‘We don’t log old growth.’ ”

Michelle Brown, spokesperson with Earth First! Humboldt, said Rook has been in contact with the organization and has been reporting “hearing trees being felled on the ridge where the tree sit is.”

The tree-sitter was discovered by the private security company on Sunday and Brown said they suspect the security will prevent anyone from resupplying the protester. At first, the company was training lights on her and playing loud music, but Brown said the security guards weren’t harassing the sitter as much last night.

Lost Coast League members David Simpson and Michael Evenson reported a different experience with the security personnel, loggers and sheriff’s deputies they encountered at the gates Monday morning, saying everyone was very respectful. The protesters said they spent a fair amount of time talking to and praying with them.

“The people we’re dealing with — the working people, the security people, the loggers — they’re hard-working, dedicated, skilled people in their own right, who are cast in a role that put us at odds with each other,” Simpson said. “But ultimately we respect the working people of Humboldt County and, in the long run, things will work out to benefit them as well as the environment.”

Evenson said the members of the Lost Coast League didn’t protest in front of Monument Gate again on Tuesday.

John Andersen, director of forest policy and registered professional forester with the Humboldt Redwood Company, said he didn’t have the specifics about the protests, but that the company was continuing ahead with its operations as planned.

“I haven’t heard of any delays,” Andersen said. “ … If there were any significant delays, I’d be informed.”

The Lost Coast League has reached out to the Forest Stewardship Council, an international nonprofit that sets standards for sustainable forest products and certifies products that meet those standards, and expects a response from the council possibly as early as next week, Evenson said.

The organization filed complaints to the council about the logging company, which has the council’s certification of sustainability. The council found two of those complaints had merits and wrote that the company could remedy them by assessing which areas of its forests had high conservation value and creating plans to reduce its use of herbicides over time. The company uses herbicides on tanoaks that sprung up after the area was previously logged in order to make room for more Douglas firs, which are native to the area.

While Andersen said the company has made plans to reduce its use of herbicides and has addressed other elements of the complaints, members of the Lost Coast League said those plans don’t go far enough.

The tree-sitter said she decided to protest in the tree because “we’re in a climate and ecological crisis” and the Mattole watershed residents are trying to “preserve the remaining ancient forest” while Humboldt Redwood Company “is just rushing ahead anyway to convert it all into a Douglas fir plantation.”

“They’re acting in bad faith and this is one way to slow them down,” she said.

Evenson said the company said it’s not logging “old-growth” trees, which have a very specific definition, and that it was more important to use the term “high-conservation value” because it captures the entirety of the role the forest plays in the environment.

Simpson said he expects it to “be an uphill fight” but that it was important to protect Rainbow Ridge because “there’s so little like it left.”

“A wise society as a whole would be much more oriented towards protection and restoration,” he said.

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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