Construction crane used for environmental protest - Activists
arrested while enviro group spokesperson says this is just the beginning
KING5.com Staff and Wire Reports
The banner read: "Wake up Weyerhaeuser. Protect Forests Now."
In a press release, the group said the action marks a campaign to "transform the barbaric environmental practices of Washington-based logging giant Weyerhaeuser, the number one destroyer of old-growth forests in North America."
“We are asking Weyerhaeuser to be an environmentally ethical business in all of the 44 states and 18 countries in which it operates, not just those where local public pressure has forced them to the table,” said Jennifer Krill, director of Rainforest Action Network’s Old Growth Campaign. If left to companies like Weyerhaeuser, every last ancient tree will get turned into two-by-fours and grocery bags.”
They say the campaign follows the group's recent victory with Boise Cascade Corp. that resulted in the company’s withdrawal from old-growth forests in the United States, and adoption of a plan to exit endangered forests worldwide.
Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal said the company does log some old-growth areas in Canada, but said all such activity is in cooperation with the government and indigenous people.
Protestors who scaled a construction crane to unfurl a banner blaming
Weyerhaeuser for harmful forest practices were arrested Thursday after
they came down.
Police arrested four demonstrators and the five that scaled the crane when they came down. About 75 workers at the Belltown construction site were told to go home.
A spokesman for the Rainforest Action Network said the protest was just the beginning of its campaign against Weyerhaeuser.
Old-growth activists target Weyerhaeuser; 5 arrested
Protesters climb onto a construction crane yesterday in the Belltown
area of Seattle to unfurl a giant banner criticizing Weyerhaeuser.
The Rainforest Action Network and the Forest Action Network claimed
responsibility for the action. Five women were arrested.
Citing a breakdown in talks with the Federal Way timber giant over its forest practices — primarily in Canada — a group of environmental activists climbed a construction crane in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood for five hours yesterday, hanging a 50-by-50-foot banner that read: "Wake up Weyerhaeuser, Protect Forests Now."
The Rainforest Action Network, based in San Francisco, and the Forest Action Network, based in Canada, claimed responsibility for the spectacle, which led to the arrests of the five women on suspicion of reckless endangerment and criminal trespass, both misdemeanors, police said.
The environmental groups have been in talks with Weyerhaeuser since September, trying to persuade the company to stop cutting down trees in parts of Canada that never have been logged. The move is the first in a campaign that, based on earlier crusades, could include boycotts of Weyerhaeuser customers.
"They haven't moved off the dime — they're talking to us as if it were still the mid-1980s and they didn't have to respond, but the reality is the market has changed," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Rainforest group. "In the public consciousness, old-growth forests are now as fundamental as baseball, apple pie and Derek Jeter. Areas that have escaped industrial logging to date should remain off-limits."
But Weyerhaeuser officials, who were caught off-guard by the display, said they've been working with environmental groups across Canada to set aside sensitive lands there. They said negotiating operational changes takes time. Company officials also said they're proud of their environmental track record.
"We were surprised today by their aggressive actions in light of our recent discussions," said Weyerhaeuser spokesman Frank Mendizabal. "We're not going to be intimidated by groups making erroneous claims about our practices. Actions like today do not help in establishing trust."
Weyerhaeuser holds logging rights on lands in Canada nearly the size of New York. Worldwide, it has operations in 18 countries, and buys and sells many wood products from trees it doesn't cut down itself.
Greg Higgs, of the Forest Action Network, said Weyerhaeuser is logging vast tracts of old-growth forest every year, much of it in Canada. "We all have a vested interest in the world's forests," Higgs said.
The Rainforest Action Network is behind a wave of environmental activism
that combines civil disobedience and protest with aggressive free-market
campaigns to try to force changes in the forest-products industry.
They hang banners and disrupt business, while conducting behind-the-scenes
negotiations, urging companies — including financiers such as Citigroup
— to only do business with companies that follow guidelines for environmentally
friendly forest practices.
Last fall, Boise Cascade became the first large U.S. timber company to accede to some of the Rainforest Action Network's requests, agreeing to work to protect forests in Chile, Indonesia and elsewhere, and no longer log old-growth timber on public lands in the United States.
Yesterday, in a letter to Weyerhaeuser's chief executive officer, Brune applauded the company's work to help protect 2.4 million acres in the Great Bear Rainforest, along the north and central coast of British Columbia.
He expressed regret that the company still logs in otherwise untouched areas of Canada and imports products from around the world from areas it considers "endangered." It called for a complete and immediate moratorium on logging in so-called first-growth forests, forestland that has never been commercially logged.
Mendizabal, however, said Brune's group was misinterpreting the company's record, and said no such moratorium would take place.
Weyerhaeuser has worked with environmentalists and the B.C. government on agreements to make wildlife habitat and acres of old-growth off-limits to logging, while continuing to log first-growth trees.
Its forestry practices are certified under an independent auditing system favored by the timber industry, but the company is working to build international certification standards. The company also said it supports some conservation measures in Canada's northern and inland forests. It is also working on a long-term initiative, but that takes time, Mendizabal said.
"We're working on these things," Mendizabal said. "We were hopeful that we were on a path to help (the Rainforest Action Network) understand our environmental stewardship. Now we have to decide if we're willing to continue those discussions with this group."
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