March 25, 1999

Beth Bosk responds to Sandy Dean's 'public relations'

Submitted by Beth Bosk

There's a pithy Southern expression which applies to Mendocino Redwood Company's CEO Sandy Dean's Forum plethora.

It goes: "Don't piss in my ear and try to tell me it's raining."

Those of us who live here and have fought for a decade to keep the coast forestlands healthy and standing risk painful arrests, spend our rent and mortgage monies to organize resistance to its destruction, max our credit cards to pay the legal bills that bring reprieve. We spend sleepless weeks amassing the ground-truthed detail that adequate response requires at the agency level and in court. Our trespassers are acted upon by CDF, result in amendments to MRC's timber harvest plans. We do this because we live here. We understand from what we've seen the simplest theorem: our fogdrip forestland needs its tall old trees. Our hydrology, our salmon runs, the birds who roost in them, the stability of our soils all depend on tall old trees and thick, uninterrupted self-protecting canopies.

Please note that Sandy Dean, a Stanford Business School graduate, does not live in Mendocino County. He has never worked in the woods. Has never been a neighbor to forestland. His commute is four hours long. His job is to come up with silky presentations like last week's "Forum". He's paid a lot for his finesse with public relations.

This is really what the Gap-linked, San Francisco Fisher family-owned Mendocino Redwood Company is up to right now.

A little local history: in 1900 Greenwood Ridge, was site of the first Breakfast First! action, the town of Elk turning out with white tablecloths and platters of breakfast food for loggers and law enforcement, a feast laid out to block the access gate to a logging plan and halt L-P from decimating the headwaters of Elk's water system. Nurses, teachers, B&B owners and staff alike, local landowners--one of them a logger--were arrested. This demonstration was to give the Greenwood Watershed Association time to get into court. They did, and eventually L-P paid their legal bills, withdrew the THP, and both sides settled for a low-impact, commercial thin, now known as the Barn Gulch THP.

It's a great story: Local activists, with humor, grace, and breakfast, prevent the ruin of Elk's crucial headwaters at the hands of L-P.

This sane compromise is now in great danger.

Nine months into the new ownership--lofty mission and all--Sandy Dean has filed an amendment to the compromise plan. This amendment would result in fifteen--count them--strips of clear cut: a plan that would zebra stripe the hillside all the way down to the watercourse, in a forest of huge old trees with thick branches parallel to the ground, perfect marbled murrelet habitat, with a stream so clear you can still drink from it and young salmon still thrive.

We have a video of the strips of huge old trees, all the trees in each swath marked for harvest--a forest practice that just begs for rivulets of winter wash water quickly turning into ravines, muddying the streams they empty into: the small silt acting as an abrasive, sanding he gills of the young coho; the large clay smothering eggs before they are even hatched, smothering the insect larvae hatched coho who spend their entire first year in such Mendocino Country watercourses exist upon.

We tried to come to a reasonable agreement with Sandy Dean, asking that he not send in loggers before the Greenwood Watershed Association has an opportunity to go before a Mendocino County judge for a Temporary Restraining Order. Anquished and well-documented protest has already delayed approval of this plan one week. Now, if granted, permission for MRC's amendment (we are told) will be given by CDF around 5p.m., Friday. What this means is that MRC can send fallers into the plan the next day, a Saturday, when Superior Courts are closed and no TRO can possibly be obtained, and the fallers can impact the forest violently enough for it to be ruined as healthy habitat before the Greenwood folk can go to court to prevent this. Because, inane as it seems, you can't go after a TRO until after the CDF has approved an amendment.

To our requests for time to address this amendment in the courts, so far, Sandy Dean has said "No." He's going to send loggers in as soon as CDF gives him permission.

Help us change his mind.

When the GAP guys bought out L-P, they spoke of august goals: How they'd be such better stewards of the land than the uncouths who came before them.

But this is exactly how L-P proceeded in Enchanted Meadow, the action that jump-started the eight-week long Albion Nation Uprising that finally resulted in a court-ordered halt to the logging there, and three years later, a California Supreme Court decision in the favor of the citizen appellants. By then one-third of the Enchanted Meadow forest was destroyed, much of it rotting on the ground.

This is exactly how Pacific-Lumber in Owl Creek on Thanksgiving weekend, propelling the occupation of every other Headwaters cathedral grove.

Sandy Dean is continuing the notorious and devious practice of beginning a contested logging operation on a day the courts and agencies are closed. This last October, Dean began a helicopter yarding operation is Kaisen Gulch during the long Columbus Day week-end. MRC got verbal permission from CDF to begin operations very late the preceding Friday afternoon, certainly after 4:30, when we called and were told that if granted, permission would not be given until the following work week. Two men from helicopter logging crew were seriously hurt in the course of choker setting this operation. The trees were never laid down in a pattern that would have allowed them to be safely lifted by air.

How is MRC different than P-L or L-P? Companies that resort to exactly this tactic, one which allows corporations to circumvent legitimate redress-- and with the collusion of CDF.

Nor has Sandy Dean been forthright. We found out about MRC's entrance into spotted owl habitat a week before Spotted Owl Hooting season because MRC trumped up a violation-of-probation charge against myself and a fellow activist, which brought us to court the same day one of his straw bosses was there on a traffic violation. The LTO, wearing the high rubber boots absolutely necessary to work the roads that day, was loudly complaining to a friend that while he was stuck in court, seven of his guys were in the woods of Tom Bell flats without radios. That's how we learned loggers had entered the slippery (and strongly contested) Clearbrook plan for a weeks-worth of work over a failed road. Not from Sandy Dean, who harps on his company's "openness" and "honesty."

In the Albion, he talks of spreading a little rock on old roads and throwing large stumps into rivers as if this is the pathway to the salvation of our forestlands. MRC is allowing a restoration crew from Fish & Game back on the banks of Big River to spend taxpayers money on the restoration of their lands as Sandy's foresters add destructive winter operations to the old plans that abut such rivers, as Sandy files THP after THP in all the watersheds MRC just acquired months ago--all the while, asking for the community's patience while they come up with an overall plan. Time and time again going after the biggest, healthiest trees in the few un-reentered forests in Mendocino County while they talk.

It is just such enormous duplicity.

I write because there are occasions--as with the off shore oil hearings, the resistance to CDF's attempt to spray 98 miles of trails of Jackson Demonstration State and Forest and Caltran's efforts to inundate the roadsides with herbicides--when it takes many, many of us to make the difference between permanent damage and a healing environment; many, many to impose a citizen restraining order while the courts or the policy makers are getting to it.

There is likelihood that people will be committing civil disobedience to hold off the falling of the trees in the Barn Gulch THP if Dean sends in fallers before a TRO can be secured. They will do this at the risk of being pepper-sprayed--for the Sheriff of Mendocino County refuses to assure us that pepper spray and compliance holds will not be used on citizens courageous in this way.

We have folks who say they will not be moved by torture. They are the true stewards of this forest, not Sandy Dean. Please, let's be there for them. Please call 937-5703 to update yourself on when you can show up to be at the gates of seven miles up Greenwood Ridge Road, and by your witness, help keep these non-violent protests safe.

Copyright 1999 Fort Bragg Advocate

MRC's Response

Elk resident Response