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December 8, 2005

The Weekly Wrap

Putting the civilization back in wilderness

6 Questions for Haider Ajina

The Weekly Wrap

TICKERTAPE: On Monday, the hearing board of the North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District put off a decision on whether to grant the Evergreen Pulp Mill a variance that would allow the mill to continue operating while repairs to faulty equipment are pursued. The board will hear the issue again next month ... The Times-Standard reported that the parties in the 1997 pepper spray case, in which officers from the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office and the Eureka Police Department swabbed the eyes of nonviolent protestors with the noxious substance, are nearing a final resolution of the matter. In May, the eight protestors prevailed in a long-running civil rights lawsuit brought against the city and the county. According to the paper, the parties are nearing agreement on the legal bill for the plaintiffs' attorneys, which the city and county are required to pay.


Humboldt State University announced Monday that it had beat out Cal State East Bay for a $2.15 million annual federal grant to develop and manage a Small Business Development Center covering all of northwestern California, from the Monterey Bay to the Oregon border and including San Francisco and environs.

A white male adult wearing a green bandana over his face robbed a Shell station on W. Harris Avenue in Eureka early Tuesday morning. The Eureka Police Department issued a press release that helpfully informed mini-mart employees that they should be wary of patrons who wear bandanas covering their faces ... While Fortuna and Arcata don't like to think they have much in common, in recent weeks both cities have suffered from a series of incidents in which yahoos have driven their pickup trucks across city parks and schoolyards for thrills, tearing up carefully tended turf in the process.

In their guise as members of the Eureka Redevelopment Agency, members of that town's City Council were scheduled to make a final decision Tuesday night (after our deadline) on whether to award a prime bit of bayfront real estate to the Hampton Suites or the Humboldt Bay Hostel and Sustainable Living Center, aka the Eco-hostel.


ADAM AND STEVE: Good God. The testimony went on for Two Solid Hours, reaching paroxysms of homophobia parading as religiosity and eliciting tears from lesbian mothers and even from Supervisor Jill Geist. There were pastors sounding off about upholding morality and protecting kids "just like you'd protect them from pedophiles." There was incoherent babble from a woman who attempted to say that gay marriage is wrong but inadvertently revealed that her own marriage sucks. There were threats that the North Coast would become a "dangerous place" if we support gay marriage, which sent the supes chambers into waves of laughter and forced Supervisor Roger Rodoni to pound his gavel. Oh, and of course, someone had to toss in that old rhyming standby -- "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve."

But in the end, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors finally said: Gay marriage is fine by us. For all the pre-vote public uproar it created, the county's support of the resolution drafted by the county Human Rights Committee has no legal power and does not afford gay couples any rights. Basically, it says that Humboldt supports an end to legal discrimination against same-sex couples that would like to marry. The resolution is "symbolic, healing and educational," said HRC member Jamila Tharp at the Supes meeting.

Roger Rodoni, who cast the lone dissenting vote, put it another way, saying that gay people won't be able to run up to the fifth floor of the HumCo courthouse and get married just because the motion passed. Rodoni criticized the language of the resolution and said that he needed to stand by his Second District constituents, who overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 22 in 2000, which said that marriage is only between a man and a woman. Supervisors John Woolley, Geist and Bonnie Neely supported the resolution. Supervisor Jimmy Smith was at jury duty.


A TREE-SIT, A FLY-IN: On Pacific Lumber Company's website, in the News Room, the latest notice is a Dec. 5 announcement of the children's Christmas celebration in Scotia, as well as news of the twinkling lights along the streets, the company's donation of 100 turkeys to local organizations, and other pronouncements of joy typical of the season. Quoth the news release: "If you look to the east on the hillside above Scotia, you will see another PALCO holiday tradition -- the live Christmas tree that lights up the evening sky. This same redwood tree has been decorated every year since 1936 with 800 colored lights as well as the glowing star at the very top."

It sounds lovely, and perhaps it's not the image one might expect to encounter if one were paying heed to another, anti-Palco, tradition: logging protesters. Rather, you might expect to see some Scrooge-faced Palco exec shinnying up that Scotia redwood, broad daylight, to smack that star off into space.

See, there's been a stink lately over a timber harvest Palco commenced on Nov. 11 in the Nanning Creek Grove area. Activists -- a few of whom did shinny up old redwoods to stage a tree-sit in the grove once the logging began -- say the harvest, though given the go-ahead by the required agencies, threatens protected species such as the marbled murrelet, which relies on old growth trees for nesting. "Nanning is a grove of ancient redwoods containing trees up to 15 feet in diameter and comprising the largest chunk of intact unprotected habitat for the federally listed marbled murrelet," a Dec. 6 news release from the Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters and the Environmental Protection Information Center reads. Other activists locked themselves to trucks (and were arrested), filed court challenges to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's permitting of the harvest plan, and on Tuesday "flew in" to Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office in San Francisco dressed as marbled murrelets and were joined by giant redwood tree puppets. The activists blame Feinstein and others instrumental in the 1999 Headwaters Deal for neglecting to protect endangered species. "The deal was based on politics -- not the law or science," said Cecelia Lanman, former program director for EPIC. The activists say that subsequent legal victories "have invalidated permits to kill endangered species granted under the Headwaters Deal."

Palco's News Room has no news release on the tree-sits or fly-ins.


WWWDRS BACK ON: Meanwhile, a visiting judge from Lassen County ruled Tuesday that the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board may proceed with developing watershed-wide waste discharge requirements for the Freshwater Creek and Elk River Watersheds, against the wishes of Pacific Lumber, the majority landholder in both areas. The WWWDRs, when finally passed, would approximately half the amount of logging that Palco is able to do in the two watersheds. The company has opposed them at water quality hearings and in the courts, winning a temporary restraining order stopping them on the eve of NCRWQCB hearings in Ferndale earlier this year.

The restraining order is now lifted, and the board can resume its hearings as early as next month. "Judge Letton has rightly recognized that the court does not have jurisdiction to pre-empt a properly-functioning regulatory process, based upon speculation as to the outcome," said Humboldt Watershed Council's Mark Lovelace in a press release. "Hopefully now the Water Board can get back to the business of trying to provide some relief from flooding for the residents of Freshwater and Elk River."


JENNIFER WHALEN DD: As in drunk driving. News Channel 3's bibulous anchor was caught twice doing it in Humboldt County, once Sept. 9, 2005 and again on Sept. 23. She lost her job as a result. Deputy District Attorney Shane Haushchild was all over the Whalen beat, dashing off a somewhat self-congratulatory press release on Dec. 1. The document reads: "Initially, both incidents were charged as misdemeanors, however, it was discovered by this Office that Whalen had three prior driving under the influence convictions in the State of Missouri, all of which occurred within a relatively short period of time. Under California law, a driving under the influence charge with three or more priors within the past ten years can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony."

In other words, you can't get hammered on the spirits of the North Coast and get away with it forever, and Whalen found out the hard way. She pled guilty to two felonies on Nov. 30. The press release goes on to detail her plea agreement: She won't go to the slammer right away, but she'll be on "supervised felony probation for up to five years." But the 25-year-old will still have to serve up to 180 days in the Humboldt County jail, her license will be revoked for four years and she won't be able to own a gun.

Hauschild brings it home with a big old reprimanding pull quote: "Someone with five driving under the influence convictions within the past two and a half years needs treatment, but also needs to face the criminal consequences of her actions and this plea agreement accomplishes both. While the defendant may be ill and have a serious alcohol problem, it is no excuse to put the lives of the public at risk ... hopefully the gravity of having two felony convictions, and three years and eight months in state prison hanging over her should she violate any term of her probation will be a wake-up call and motivate her to get the help she needs."

Sure Whalen's been bad -- really bad, and all over the country, but you have to wonder if this tar-and-feather treatment might have something to do with the fact that Whalen is -- or was -- a local celebrity. How often do DUI arrests make headlines?

Putting the civilization back in wilderness
Greg King now persuades the willing in his bid to save the wildlands


A civilization which destroys what little remains of the wild, the spare, the original, is cutting itself off from its origins and betraying the principle of civilization itself. -- EDWARD ABBEY

It isn't just romantic nonsense, perpetuated by rabble-rousers, poets and wilderness lovers, this notion that there is a vital connection between civilization and wilderness -- or, as the oft-quoted Henry David Thoreau put it, that " wildness is the preservation of the world." Where aesthetic arguments fail to move a hardened soul, practical ones may succeed -- namely, the production of clean air and clean water. But it works both ways: In civilization lie the means for preservation of the wild.

Which is why Greg King, director of the nonprofit Siskiyou Land Conservancy, has relocated his organization's office to Arcata: to make the most of the local civilization's keen interest in preserving the wildlands of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion, among other things. There's an office-warming party this Friday evening, during Arts! Arcata, at the conservancy's new office, 1160 G Street (inside the Bryan Gaynor office building, next to the Presbyterian Church).

King, his wife (singer songwriter Joanne Rand) and daughter (who will be attending HSU soon), have been living in Orleans the past several years, on a ranch, immersed in the wilds and the rich local life of the tiny town (with no copy machine). Over the past year King's latest endeavor -- the land conservancy -- has taken off. In less than a year, the new conservancy has secured the preservation of 388 acres of wild lands: 160 acres of donated mixed-forest land along McCoy Creek, which feeds into the Wild and Scenic South Fork Eel River; a conservation easement for 148-acres along the Wild and Scenic South Fork Smith River in Del Norte County; and the Stony Creek parcel, 80 acres of ancient forest harboring rare plants and salmon along the Wild and Scenic North Fork Salmon River, purchased with money bequeathed to the conservancy.

"The move to Arcata became essential, because we were dealing with land managers and people in this area," says King. "There's a very strong interest here in our work. And we kind of exploded out of the gates this year. All three of the [preserved] parcels are very significant biologically and culturally. And people started contacting us." The conservancy's rapid success also has induced a need to accelerate fundraising -- something better achieved in a bigger population center. But even though he's moving the conservancy's office to the city, King says the focus will remain, as ever, on the land. The land, after all, has been at the heart of everything he's done, the result of that wilderness-civilization connection that for King may very well be innate.

"I grew up in the redwoods," he says. As a child, King played in a remnant grove of old redwoods near his family's home in Guerneville, Sonoma County. But the connection goes even farther back. Between the 1860s and 1880s, four King brothers moved into Sonoma County, following in the footsteps of an uncle who had settled in Mendocino County (the King Range is named for him). "So it's kind of a genetic thing," says King. "I have this connection to the ecosystem."

That connection led him out of Guerneville -- thought to have once been, long before King's arrival, home of the thickest grove of trees in the world -- to a major in politics from U.C. Santa Cruz, and then a job as an investigative journalist, focusing often on the timber industry, for The Paper in Sonoma County (now called The Bohemian). He received his first death threat there, after exposing forest practice rules violations by timber harvester Louisiana-Pacific (which he'd begun investigating when it began logging ancient redwoods not far from where he'd grown up). During the Spring Equinox of 1986, King was investigating Georgia-Pacific Corp's harvest in Sally Bell Grove when he met Darryl Cherney, who was headed out to stage a protest in the grove. They went together -- Cherney needed King's ride -- and from there, King made an impassioned leap into hands-on activism, becoming deeply involved in the fight to preserve old-growth redwoods in Humboldt County following Maxxam's takeover of Pacific Lumber and increased timber harvests. For the next four years, King did much of the ground-truthing the activists used to create maps of Maxxam's timber holdings, including land they dubbed the Headwaters Forest, and "to detail the California Department of Forestry's complicity with Maxxam." It was the height of his experience as an adversarial activist, a time during which he received more death threats, was assaulted a number of times, and saw his friends Cherney and Judi Bari wounded by a car bomb in Oakland.

"We were the most infiltrated group, after the American Indian Movement, by the FBI," he says.

King returned to journalism in 1990, but eventually was pulled back into the direct-action fray. He had fallen in love with Rand, she had introduced him to the Smith River, and he had learned of the rampant pesticide use on the lily fields in that watershed. He founded the Smith River Project in 2001, and the Kings lived on a ranch they'd bought near Orleans. "[The lily fields fight] got to be hugely controversial," he says. "My face was all over the paper." So when a windfall of money befell the Project, King started the Siskiyou Land Conservancy and his career took another turn -- this time into a less confrontational arena.

The conservancy's focus is on helping create sustainable communities, he says, and preserving wildlands through purchases -- often of private inholdings surrounded by national or state forests -- or negotiating conservation easements with landowners. He says the conservancy work represents an evolution within himself, away from the adversarial brand of activism. "Our goal is to only work with people who want to work with us," he says. Actually, he amends, the main goal is to protect the wildlands -- through friendly means, if possible. One of the parcels along the S. Fork Smith River for which the conservancy negotiated a conservation easement is a good example.

"We found a buyer in Eureka" who was amenable to a conservation easement, he says. "They could build a house. There'd be no new roads, no logging, no mining. But they can farm and have a garden. And they love it, and they love the idea of protecting it."

King suspects the conservancy will thrive in Arcata. The Klamath-Siskiyou ecoregion will remain its focus -- as one of two areas in the continent (the other is the Appalachians) that escaped glaciation, it is one of the oldest ecosystems around. "There's one place, between the Trinity Wilderness and the Marble Mountains Wilderness, where within one square mile there are 17 species of conifers," King says. "So it's a seed bank."

That said, King is already turning some of his focus toward more immediate backyard activism -- namely, the "Q Street development" in Arcata, which he sees as less-than-green. But more on that later. For now, there's the party to attend to. It's this Friday, at 1160 G Street, and there will be food cooked by Klamath River Cuisine of Orleans, music by Salmon River flamenco guitar maestro Rex Richardson, organic wine from Orleans vintners Cabot Vinyards and a showing of paintings by Arcata artist Alan Sanborn.



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