Greenpeace Blockade In Alaskan Rainforest Ends

Activists Vow to Continue to Act in Defense of Endangered Forests

Feature story - August 3, 2004
More than 48 hours after stopping roadbuilding and timber operations near the Finger Point Timber Sale on Kupreanof Island, the last group of seven activists, six of whom are Alaskans, were removed by authorities from a peaceful protest in the Alaskan rainforest. Over the course of two days, a total of 22 Greenpeace volunteers were charged with misdemeanors for taking part in the blockade. However, all of them remain steadfast in their commitment to ending industrial logging in the Tongass National Forest and in other public forests across the country.

Greenpeace activists and local residents stop roadbuilding and timber operations in an area of the Alaskan rainforest where clearcutting is taking place.

"Our campaign to protect this nation's ancient forests does not end with this protest," said Jeremy Paster, a Greenpeace Forest Campaigner and a participant in the protest. "Greenpeace will continue to expose the Forest Service's mismanagement of national treasures like the Tongass. We will continue to speak out against the Bush administration's abuse of taxpayer money to line the pockets of the timber industry, and we hope our actions will continue to inspire people around the world to defend our last remaining forests."

The activists began their protest at dawn on Tuesday by setting up a "Forest Rescue Station" high in the trees, blocking logging roads with specially designed A-frames, and chaining themselves to roadbuilding equipment. Fourteen of the protesters were forced to leave the site Wednesday evening when authorities brought in machinery to remove them that compromised their safety.

On Thursday, Forest Service law enforcement officers cut the chains that five of the remaining protesters had used to lock themselves to the road building equipment. The five, along with two support persons, were arrested and taken to Wrangell, where they were held overnight to await arraignment before a federal magistrate on Friday morning.

The activists arrested on Thursday include Alaskans who were chained to roadbuilding equipment: Marian Allen, 58; Woody Litman, 19; Don Muller, 57; Larry Trani, 58; and Roland Wirth, 43, all of Sitka. Another Sitkan, Jack Ozment, 74, had been chained with the others, but had to leave the protest in the early morning for health reasons. Also arrested were Larry Edwards, 55, of Sitka, a Greenpeace Forest Campaigner and a spokesperson for the group, and Lawrence "Butch" Turk, 44, of Missoula, Mont., who was acting as their safety coordinator.

"I am proud of what we have done here," said Edwards. "It is an outrage that taxpayer dollars are being used to decimate the Tongass and other national forests. Speaking out against such waste is our right and our duty as Alaskans and as Americans."

Pointing the Finger at Forest Service Mismanagement

The Finger Point timber sale is a prime example of the Forest Service's fiscal mismanagement of public lands in the United States. The U.S. Forest Service has promised to spend $681,000 to build roads into the area to make the Finger Point more attractive to potential bidders. On July 20, 2004 Viking Timber submitted the winning bid of $70,000 to clearcut the area. The sale will result in a loss of more than $600,000 to U.S. taxpayers.

This is not an isolated incident. In 2002 alone, the government took in $1.2 million on the Tongass timber program after spending $36 million -- a loss of $34.8 million. It has been well documented that the Forest Service's Timber Sale Program consistently loses money across the nation, however the Tongass is the biggest money loser in the national system. Since 1982, $750 million in net government subsidies has been wasted on logging in the Alaskan rainforest.

Beyond the Finger

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise has been touring Southeast Alaska since early July as part of our national campaign to protect America's public forests. The Tongass, however, is just one of the many endangered national forests across the United States that has been opened up to future large-scale industrial logging by the Bush administration, despite overwhelming public opposition and previous promises to the contrary.

In late 2003 the Bush administration exempted the Tongass National Forest and the Chugach National Forest from the protections of the popular Roadless Area Conservation Rule, paving the way for 50 new timber sales in areas of the Tongass rainforest that were previously prohibited.

In mid-July, the Bush administration moved to eliminate the Roadless Rule nationwide, a proposal that threatens the entire 58.5 million acres of this country's pristine roadless areas in our national forests. The administration will require state governors to petition the federal government on a case-by-case basis if they want the Roadless Rule to remain intact in their states. The administration retains the right to veto any request.

As a candidate, President Bush promised to be an environmental president and uphold the Roadless Rule. However, since taking office he has proven to be the worst environmental president in U.S. history and has broken his promise on the Roadless Rule.

Stop the Sales

Greenpeace is calling for an immediate national moratorium on large-scale commercial logging and road construction on federal forests that are under the administration of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. The moratorium should remain in effect until the mismanagement of these forests has been thoroughly investigated and resolved.