Forest activists plan 'boot camp'-Week of environmentalist training scheduled in Bitterroot by Greenpeace, National Forest Protection Alliance

By SHERRY DEVLIN of the Missoulian


Missoula, Montana - Veteran environmental activists will train 80 novice ruckus raisers during a weeklong encampment in the Bitterroot National Forest at the end of June, who then will take their tactics to forests nationwide.

Sponsored by Greenpeace and the National Forest Protection Alliance, the training camp will include instruction in nonviolent civil disobedience, backcountry orienteering, forest monitoring and media relations.

The intent, Forest Protection Alliance spokesman Jake Kreilick said Friday, is "to train a whole new generation of citizens and forest activists, folks who have an interest in or inclination toward forest protection issues."

Forty veteran activists - including founders of Earth First!, the Ruckus Society, Rainforest Action Network and the National Forest Protection Alliance - will lead the encampment in a drainage off the West Fork of the Bitterroot.

Kreilick said the training camp is an extension of a report issued this week by his group and Greenpeace, naming the 10 most endangered national forests. The list included Montana's Bitterroot and Kootenai forests, and took aim at a litany of forest policy changes enacted by the Bush administration.

"Now the fight is moving into the field," Kreilick said. "This camp is designed to get us ready. We should probably refer to it as a forest activist boot camp; it's a week of intensive study, training and role playing. We want to give people a grasp of the issues and an idea of how to apply themselves to those issues."

One focus will be nonviolent civil disobedience - the road blockades, tree sitting, bridge rappelling and other showy protests used by some environmentalists to draw attention to their causes. Another will be "media work," Kreilick said. "How to conduct yourself when you're organizing a campaign."

"The Bush administration has put us in this position where we feel like public oversight is being removed and direct action is going to be necessary," he said. "The most important thing this camp can provide is a real strong sense of when it is appropriate to use civil disobedience - when it is appropriate to confront the agency by bearing witness and when it is appropriate to occupy an office.

"We want to confront the agency, but we also want to highlight to the American public that many, many citizens are getting more organized and more assertive about how they'll participate in this debate."

Greenpeace hasn't trained activists for a number of years, said spokeswoman Carol Gregory. "But this is an urgent call to action. This forest protection movement is reigniting - sparking - our involvement. Greenpeace intends to be part of a very big movement."

Kreilick, whose group is headquartered in Missoula, said the Bitterroot forest was selected as the training site because of the national attention it has received since the 2000 wildfire season. (Organizers have a permit allowing an encampment from June 22-28.)

"Aside from maybe the Tongass National Forest (in Alaska), the Bitterroot's received a tremendous amount of local, state, regional and national coverage over the past three years," he said. "It felt like a good place for us to do this training; it presented a real opportunity."

The Bitterroot will almost certainly be the target of some of the newly trained activists, Kreilick added. "I cannot say what the campaign will look like this summer, but there will be an increasing amount of scrutiny of the Bitterroot. We will continue to work on monitoring post-fire logging and restoration and will continue to scrutinize the Forest Service's actions."

"This camp will be a springboard toward future campaign work on the Bitterroot," he said.

And because he was so pointed in his response to this week's endangered forests report - calling it "patently false" - Bitterroot forest supervisor Dave Bull can expect to be the target of at least some of that activism, Kreilick said.

"You can expect that we will be getting in his face," he said.



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