Last tree-sitters come down from California redwoods
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Environmentalists are cautiously optimistic that the company will do as it promises. So for weeks, the tree-sitters at the Nanning Creek and Fern Gully groves have been clearing out their encampments, removing their platforms and figuring out what to do with the rest of their lives.Skip to next paragraph
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“At this point, I’d like to focus on growing a garden,” said an activist who goes by the nom de guerre Rudi Bega, as in “rutabaga.” The 28-year-old Idahoan is an 11-year veteran of the timber wars who helped recruit, train, and organize tree-sitters.
Since tree-sitting as a long-range protest began here in the late 1980s, hundreds of protesters have converged on this rugged corner of the state to take turns squatting in the redwoods, and hundreds of “bottom liners,” or support crew members, have helped them from the ground.
They have lugged in food, water and other supplies, emptied waste buckets, and provided company.
Blockades of logging trucks, sit-ins at company offices, lawsuits by environmental groups and rallies attended by tens of thousands of protesters were part of the mix.
Several battles made international headlines. They included the 1990 car bomb blast that nearly killed Earth First! Leaders Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney; the pepper spray swabbing of protesters’ eyes by Humboldt County deputies in 1997; the 1998 death of an activist, killed by a tree cut down by an enraged logger; the marathon two-year tree-sit by Julia “Butterfly” Hill that ended in 1999; and the buying of 10,000 acres of the Headwaters Forest from Pacific Lumber by the state and federal government in 1999.
The car bombing put the timber wars on the map. Cherney and Bari were driving in Oakland, recruiting volunteers for protests they dubbed Redwood Summer, when a bomb exploded under the front seat of their car.
Twelve years later, in 2002, the pair won $4.4 million in a lawsuit; a jury ruled that their civil rights had been violated and their names defamed by the local and federal authorities who arrested them.
“This has been a long-term campaign with a tremendous amount of high-water marks,” Mr. Cherney said of the timber wars. As for the end of the fight with Pacific Lumber, he said: “I have a healthy dose of skepticism. But it does feel like a great weight has been lifted from the shoulders of southern Humboldt County to have Maxxam gone.”