Jane Lapiner, David Simpson, Michael Evenson and Ellen Taylor. [All photos provided by the Lost Coast League]
Early this morning a judge dismissed charges against four septuagenarians stemming from protests against logging on Rainbow Ridge. In June of 2019, four local elders and residents of the Mattole area – Jane Lapiner, David Simpson, Ellen Taylor and Michael Evenson – were arrested and charged after they planned to stop timber fallers for Humboldt Redwoods Company (HRC) from entering land they claim is “the last, most ecologically significant, intact forest in the north Mattole headwaters”
“They arrested us before we could do something illegal,” Ellen Taylor said when reached for comment this morning. Lear Asset Management Team which was working for HRC stopped the four early on June 10 at Monument Gates.
At first, Taylor said, the team was a little rough but after they saw they were dealing with elders, they became “quite gentle and quite kind.”
She added, “That wasn’t how it was with younger forest defenders who were arrested [in other actions that year.] Some of them got roughed up. Those cases are still ongoing.”
Michael Evenson contended that “the action the company’s security took to arrest us … there was really no basis for it. Eventually, they wasted the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Deputies’ and Court’s time because there was no basis for arresting us.”
Their attorney Omar Figueroa said that Lear Asset Management was “infamous” adding that “if the reports are true that they were repelling down from helicopters and cutting people’s [marijuana] crops without a court order, then they were acting like domestic terrorists.”
Spokesperson for the Lost Coast League which the four elders belong to, Attorney Nate Madsen, issued a statement saying,
It is an atrocious state of affairs when our elders (all over 70) are forced into a position where they feel compelled by rampant logging in never before logged forests, forests that are managed under a certificate of sustainability from the Forest Stuardship Council (FSC), to take a stands like this! Sustainable forestry operations should be happening in previously impacted regions, not the last remnants of unspoiled landscapes in California. The dismissal of all charges today is appropriate under the circumstances and a long overdue result for the principled act taken by these four dedicated elders who have spent decades working to protect these very forest stands. Their actions should be commended not prosecuted and that is the result we reached today.
When reached for an interview, John Andersen, Director of Humboldt Redwood Company, said they are reviewing the case and are not yet ready to comment.
Evenson said that protestors had hoped to be able to work smoothly with Humboldt Redwoods. “We thought we finished with that because Humboldt Redwood Company had committed to preserving the old forest. But what they did instead was redefine old growth as a way of protecting individual trees and not the value of the forest as wild places.”
Evenson wanted to make clear that Rainbow Ridge is an important area in need of conservation. He said that the Northern Spotted Owl was found in the Rainbow Ridge area. He argued, “Rainbow Ridge contains vast acreage of thriving old growth habitat for the Northern Spotted Owl which today has slipped from endangered to threatened status.”
We feel that this is such a valuable spot in the county, in the region, and even on the planet, because there are so few regions that have not been touched by industrial extraction. We need to preserve them to recover the great forests of Humboldt County. We’ve had 170 years of exploitation. [And] just like a burn victim needs patches of healthy skin to grow back, our region needs these last patches of intact forests [to heal].
He noted, “The charges were dismissed. This says [these were] baseless charges …We did nothing illegal in speaking up for our public trust resources."
Evenson then added, “We have been protecting these resources since 1990. We haven’t wavered. We’re hoping the Humboldt Redwood Company will come to some kind of accommodation … to change the management goals for Rainbow Ridge and then we can work together.”
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