Alaskan Loggers Confront Greenpeace During Community Meeting

Town meeting goes from outburst and arrest to frank discussion.

Alaskan Loggers Confront Greenpeace During Community Meeting

Town Meeting Goes From Outburst and Arrest to Frank Discussion

CRAIG, Alaska - A town meeting held by Greenpeace in Craig, Alaska got off to a rocky start last night, as police had to come in and arrest one of the attendees following an angry outburst. The police led the unidentified logger out of the Craig Community Center while he yelled out, "It's my way or the (expletive) highway." After the arrest, however, the crowd of more than 100 people, including native Alaskans, loggers, fishermen and U.S. Forest Service employees, sat down together for the first time to engage in a frank discussion with Greenpeace about logging in Southeast Alaska and the environmental group's work in the region.

"I'd like to apologize on behalf of all Southeast Alaskan loggers," said one logger in attendance. "We don't carry his views, we're here to listen."ÝÝGreenpeace activists then opened the meeting by stating that they were on a fact-finding mission and that they wanted to clear up the misconception that they are against all logging and want to close down jobs in Southeast Alaska.

"We want to hear your concerns and make informed decisions about our future work here to protect the Tongass " said Jeremy Paster, Greenpeace Forest Campaigner. "But we have to be clear that the Tongass is a national forest that belongs to Alaskans and all Americans, and Greenpeace is against industrial clearcutting of old growth forest, which damages the ecosystem."

Many in the crowd however took issue with Greenpeace's stance againstÝclearcutting, claiming that clearcutting is necessary to revive a dying economy in Southeast Alaska. In addition some people questioned the amount of forest destruction in the area and the percentage of the Tongass that would be at risk if it is no longer protected by the Roadless Rule.

Arriving in early August, the Greenpeace ship M.V. Esperanza has been travelling throughout Southeast Alaska, working with local communities to document and stop the destruction of the Tongass, part of the largest coastal temperate rainforest in North America, as part of its "Endangered Forests, Endangered Freedoms," ship tour.

Since arriving in Southeast Alaska, Greenpeace has met some hostility, particularly in the towns of Ketchikan and Craig. ÝEarlier reports indicated that the U.S. Forest Service and local authorities had been behind heavy-handed tactics to block the tour. Those tactics included warning local residents not to do business with the international environmental group, telling port authorities to deny the Esperanza docking space, and sending armed guards from the Department of Homeland Security to follow the group.

"Southeast Alaska has been exploited across the board by various industries, and the Bush Administration is now attempting to exploit our forests at an unprecedented rate," continued Paster. "These town meetings allow us to interface with the local communities about how to protect our ancient forests while sustaining a healthy economy."

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