Jackson Protestors Push Back on Calfire’s Hired Goons – Nonviolently

Willits CA— At 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 12, in a show of nonviolent resistance to the threats and intimidation tactics used by CalFire and its subcontractors last week under the guise of “safety”, dozens of activists blocked two logging entrances to the Soda Gulch timber harvest plan (THP) 1-20-00041 MEN in Jackson State Demonstration Forest (JDSF), just off highway 20 in Mendocino County. Critics contend the plan is a poster child for poor management in this publicly owned, 50,000 acre mixed-use forest affectionately known as “The Jackson”. 

Two fully loaded log trucks descending the steep one-way road slowed to a halt at the sight of protestors in their headlights. Several people were locked together in front of the closed gate, to publicize the devastation taking place in the forest. A CHP officer appeared briefly but left without arresting anyone. At noon, activists voluntarily disbanded the blockade. Polly Girvin was present as a legal observer and representative of the Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians, on whose ancestral lands Jackson is located. 

Before leaving, Girvin told the log truck drivers that “The Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians wants you to know that they are not anti-workers in the woods. They are not protesting you but rather the forest managers here at Jackson Demonstration State Forest, both at the State and local levels. In the hard times when the Tribe was illegally terminated, their elders provided for tribal members by stacking lumber in the local mill. They are fighting the State of California and its decision makers, not the workers.”

Activists are calling for a moratorium until an extremely outdated management plan, based on a 2007 EIR that fails to consider climate change and lacks protection for Indigenous sites can be replaced with a Forest Reserve under Tribal co-management. 

Calfire has declined to arrest any protestors in JDSF during six months of continuous protests. Against its own legal advice, Calfire has allowed its subcontractors to hire Lear Asset Management, a company that provides private security services to police, businesses and large property owners. CalFire’s chief counsel, Bruce A. Crane, wrote to James King, esq, and Myles Anderson of Anderson Logging, in a letter dated July 2, 2021, in response to Anderson Logging’s threat to hire their own security on the Caspar 500 plan, as follows:

    “Cal Fire cannot cede control of activities on JDSF, for law enforcement and security purposes, to any person or entity at any time, as JDSF is required by Public Resources Code Section 4656.2 to always be under the direction and control of Cal Fire personnel. Moreover, Cal Fires has legal authority under 14 CCR 1439 to close JDSF to certain groups or classes of individuals. The current JDSF forest closure order prohibits any private security, armed or unarmed, from entering JDSF. This will be clearly detailed in a revised forest closure order that Cal Fire will republish.” [italics added]. However, in a memo dated June 9th to staff attorney Bryan Kimura at the Office of Legal Services, Calfire declared an “Emergency” due to “PUBLIC PROTESTORS IN THE STATE FOREST” and retroactively requested funds in the amount of $960,120.00 for security services from June 7 to Oct. 15, 2021.

Mendocino Redwood Company buys timber from the Soda Gulch logging plan. In an Oct. 11 press release, MRC falsely claimed that “At some point recently, trespassers approached a timber faller unannounced while he was working his saw. Furthermore, while trying to alert his co-worker to the unsafe presence of trespassers he was injured. The details of his injury are under investigation.” This is offered as their rational for hiring security.

Activists called this story “cock and bull”. Veteran protestor of Albion, Anna Marie Stenberg, one of those risking arrest, said: “Videos will show we do everything possible to make our presence known. We use very loud air horns, bullhorns, whistles, and wear bright safety vests. These so-called ‘Safety Specialists’ are baloney. They are Goons plain and simple. They wear no hard hats or have other safety equipment. They don’t alert the loggers that forest defenders are present. They stick phones in our faces and attempt to intimidate us in every way possible.” Activists are trained in nonviolence and pledge to be “open, honest and friendly” and not to damage property.

The Environmental Protection and Information Center (EPIC), responded to MRC’s undated and undocumented claims with a sharply worded letter to Secretary Wade Crowfoot of the California Natural Resources Agency, on Oct. 14, urging “…the State of California move to immediately calm tensions in the Jackson Demonstration State Forest”… and citing “…multiple threats directed at forest activists and the presence of private paramilitary security within the Jackson Demonstration State Forest. Cal Fire is aware of these incidents but its inaction to address these matters has encouraged further escalation. You need to act to restore peace.” EPIC Attorney Matt Simmons concluded with a warning to Calfire. “By not halting logging when protesters are present, Cal Fire is creating a dangerous environment for protestors and fallers alike. As managers of this forest, Cal Fire has a responsibility to ensure that logging operations are being conducted safely. However, by contracting with private timber companies who make their own decisions regarding whether it’s safe to log when protesters are present, Cal Fire is inviting disaster.”

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