Protesters Halt Logging In Friendly Standoff; 13 Arrested
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ An unusually friendly standoff between environmentalists and loggers in a national forest resulted in 13 arrests Sunday, including that of a man who buried himself neck-deep in a rock barricade.
The demonstrators at the Willamette National Forest were charged with disorderly conduct for blocking a road into the controversial North Roaring Devil timber sale site, according to a Marion County sheriff’s dispatcher.
About 30 protesters had camped on a bridge over the Breitenbush River and were there to greet Bugaboo Timber Co. workers when they arrived for a third day of logging in the disputed area.
The U.S. Forest Service has sold timber rights in the North Roaring Devil site for $1.6 million. Logging began Friday at the 33-acre area, located on a remote ridge about 60 miles southeast of Portland.
About 20 loggers gathered around the protesters’ bonfire when they were unable to proceed into the cutting area, and the two sides spent several hours peacefully discussing their opposing views on old-growth logging.
The protesters argued that the timber site is forested with old-growth trees that are hundreds of years old and is a nesting ground for spotted owls, which they say are endangered.
″I feel real sympathetic towards the loggers,″ said Leslie Hemstreet, a protester from Portland. ″I know they have to make a living and they have to feed their kids, but we need to come up with an alternative for them instead of cutting these trees down.″
The timber cutters stressed that their livelihoods are at stake and argued that the stand of timber at issue is comprised of second-growth trees, not the ancient old-growth trees.
″People need to sit down and talk things out,″ said Bugaboo Timber contractor Dennis Nielsen. ″Something needs to be done.″
″As far as I’m concerned, these people are protesting the wrong people,″ Nielsen added. ″They should be protesting the U.S. Forest Service, not us.″
The timber sale already is the focus of a environmental lawsuit challenging Forest Service timber management practices in the Willamette National Forest.
Sunday’s arrests were made after the loggers left and sheriff’s deputies arrived, accompanied by Forest Service workers. The banner-carrying protesters obeyed an order to move off the bridge, but proceeded further along the logging road, refusing to clear the way.
Authorities arrested the protesters at a 3-foot rock wall that had been built across the road, apparently overnight. A member of the radical environmental group Earth First 3/8 was buried up to his neck in the barricade.